Old time 1031 Exchange gurus use the term "napkin test" to describe the basic rule that all cash proceeds from the sale of the Relinquished Property must be “reinvested” in the Replacement Property to avoid recognized taxable gain from the exchange. If you trade up, and all the cash is “reinvested”, no taxable boot. But if you trade down, and all the cash is not “reinvested”, the net cash back to you is treated as cash boot received and recognized as taxable gain.
However, there is an adjustment to cash boot received not realized by many when the exchange is originated and in the planning stages. Selling expenses paid in connection with a §1031 exchange are treated as cash boot paid and offsets any boot received. Selling expenses include brokerage commissions and other closing costs such as title policy fees, escrow fees, and recording fees. This means you can trade down by the amount of your selling expenses paid and still have no recognized gain. Here is an example of this vital tax-planning tool.
You sell your Relinquished Property and the cash proceeds total $135,000. Your selling expenses total $32,000 of which you paid $10,000 outside of escrow. The balance of the selling expenses or $22,000 was paid through escrow and the net proceeds of $113,000 are paid into your QI’s trust account. At this point, your net cash boot received is $103,000 and this is the amount you need to “reinvest” to avoid net boot received and taxable income.
Selling Expenses are all expenses directly related to the sale of the Relinquished Property and is the amount used by IRS to deduct from the Selling Price to figure the Adjusted Sales Price. Selling expenses do not include interest, points, taxes, fixing up expenses, repairs, insurance, operating expenses of the property, personal bills or impound account adjustments. Occasionally selling expenses are paid outside of escrow. For example, a consulting fee paid in connection with the transaction may qualify as a selling expense. Be sure to check with your tax professional if you have any questions regarding your particular selling expenses. See Chapter Four for more discussion of this important topic.
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