Securing Your Tax Advantage: The Ins and Outs of Like-Kind Exchanges

QTA Consultants, Ltd./Renata Bliumaite

Securing Your Tax Advantage: The Ins and Outs of Like-Kind Exchanges

With the Biden administration eyeing changes to the long-standing federal income tax break for like-kind exchanges of real estate, it's essential to take action swiftly to benefit from this tax-saving strategy while it's still available.

Strategic Approach: Act Now on Like-Kind Real Estate Exchanges

There's no specified deadline yet, but considering the administration's stance, initiating a like-kind exchange sooner rather than later is prudent. The current administration has proposed eliminating this tax break, making it a critical time to explore opportunities for real estate swaps.

Recent Developments: Tax Implications of Like-Kind Exchanges

In late 2017, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) curtailed like-kind exchanges for all exchanges except real estate, effective from 2018 onward. This move retained the tax break for real estate swaps, providing a saving grace for many taxpayers.

Understanding Section 1031 of the IRS Code:

Under Section 1031, you can defer federal income tax on gains from exchanging like-kind real estate properties, except when you receive cash or other non-like-kind property ("boot") in the transaction. Taxes are deferred until you eventually sell the new property acquired through the exchange.

To qualify for tax-deferred treatment under Section 1031:

  • Both the property you relinquish and the replacement property must be for investment or business purposes.

  • Personal-use properties do not qualify for like-kind exchanges.

Key Points to Note:

  • Definition of "Like-Kind":

    The term refers to the nature or character of the property rather than its quality or grade. The IRS provides a broad interpretation, allowing exchanges between different types of real estate.

  • Role of Qualified Intermediaries:

    Most high-value exchanges involve multiple parties. Utilizing a qualified intermediary is essential to ensure compliance with Section 1031 rules.

  • Handling Boot:

    When properties of unequal value are exchanged, one party might need to add boot (cash or dissimilar property) to balance the transaction. Receiving boot triggers immediate tax liability, making it advantageous to be the party paying boot rather than receiving it.

Timing and Deadlines:

  • Identification Period:

    Within 45 days of transferring ownership of the relinquished property, you must identify potential replacement properties.

  • Completion Period:

    The replacement property's title must be transferred within 180 days after transferring the relinquished property's title, or by the tax return due date (including extensions) for the year of the transfer, whichever comes first.

Practical Tip:

  • Filing Extensions:

    If necessary, file for an automatic tax return due date extension to ensure you have adequate time to complete the exchange within the IRS's deadlines.


While the future of like-kind exchanges remains uncertain, now is an opportune moment to explore this tax-saving strategy for real estate transactions. Taking proactive steps and consulting with tax professionals can help you navigate the complexities and potential changes in tax law, ensuring you maximize your benefits under current regulations.