Be sure to check out Small Business Webcast for a full transcript of Jessica Chisholm’s webcast on Real Estate topics.
It is generally best not to have your corporation purchase real estate. If your company is a C corporation, your company will pay tax when the building is sold. In order to get those profits in your hands, you will have to pay yourself a dividend. This dividend is taxed again. So you are paying taxes twice on the gain from the building sale.
If the building generates a tax loss, which many buildings do because of depreciation, this tax loss will offset your corporate income. Corporate income, however, is sometimes taxed at lower rates than individual rates. Therefore, the tax benefit from the building would be less when held in a C corporation.
If the building generates a tax gain, this gain will be taxed as part of corporate profits and taxed again as a dividend when the cash is distributed to the owners. Often, real estate will generate more cash than taxable income. In C corporation form, getting that cash to the owners will involve extra income tax that would not be paid if held individually.
The same principals apply to contributing your rental property to your corporation. You will be taxed twice when you finally sell the property. Any tax benefit provided by the property may be less when corporate rates are less. Taxable income from the property will be taxed twice.
The analysis is different if you have an S corporation rather than a C corporation. However, it is still not a good idea to own real estate in your S corporation. If you change your mind in the future and you want to pull your real estate out of the S corporation, you will immediately subject yourself to tax based on the fair market value of the property. For example, suppose you want to contribute the property to a partnership to develop the property or for other reasons. You will not be able to get the property out of the S Corporation without paying income tax. Additionally, you may not want to subject such a large appreciating asset to potential liabilities that can arise in your corporation.
Buying the building personally is also not a good idea. Your personal assets would then be at risk to satisfy any potential liability that arises from operation of the building. For this reason, many people use a limited liability company to own real estate. You should still have liability insurance. Make sure to discuss liability issues with your attorney.
In addition to liability protection, a limited liability company (LLC) provides maximum flexibility and maximum tax savings for ownership of business or rental real estate.
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