Lower Your Capital Gains Taxes

Capital gains taxes are the bane of investors everywhere.

There's no wonder they stoke a little resentment among real estate investors: Uncle Sam likely had little to do with the profitability of your property. But you’ve still got to pay up.

And of course you should, but not without knowing a few of the ways you can lower your capital gains taxes or make their payments more manageable. Here are some of our top practical tips you can really use to handle cap gains taxes.

Can You Get Rid of Capital Gains Taxes?

Not entirely, at least not usually. But that doesn’t mean that they cannot be managed. What we can absolutely do is look at creative ways to lower our tax rates, ways to pay our taxes that will work out to our advantage, and any circumstance that could cut us a break. So that’s exactly what we intend to do.

The following are a selection of the tactics investors like you can use to make capital gains taxes more manageable. You may find one, several, or even a completely alternative method works best for you. Think of these techniques like tools in an arsenal that you can get out at will. In some cases you may find you’re able to get your costs so low as to be almost negligible. At the very least, you should be able to cushion the blow. Let’s talk about deferment first, then move on to some methods for reducing your overall costs.

Deferring Your Capital Gains Taxes - How To

Since we can’t simply abandon our capital gains tax obligations, we have to approach the problem with a bit more nuance and creativity. While we can’t make the taxes disappear, we can absolutely put off paying them by employing various tactics. Let’s talk about some fan favorite techniques for deferring these payments.

The Clever 1031 Tax Maneuver: Drop and Swap

You can also use a 1031 Exchange to delay the problem of capital gains taxes. Now, if you go about using this method, you’ll want to bone up on the requirements for 1031 exchanges. Essentially, the idea is that as long as you’re willing to sell your property and use the proceeds to purchase a similar one, you can defer paying the taxes for as long as you have the second property. Where you go from there is totally up to you. In theory, you can drop, swap, and swap again until the end of time if you can meet the basic 1031 rules. You usually have 180 days from closing to reinvest, for instance. Properties must also meet certain legal requirements. Learn more about using the 1031 exchange for real estate success now.

Pour Your Capital Gains into Opportunity Zone Investments

The U.S. designated certain economically depressed areas ‘Opportunity Zones’ in 2017. To attract investors like us, capital gains reinvested into opportunity zones get a few preferential perks:

  • Provided profits are reinvested and held in an Opportunity Zone, deferment of capital gains taxes for up to eight years.
  • Overall decreases in tax amounts. After five years, you get a 10% reduction and a 15% reduction after holding the property for seven years.
  • You can also get a full exemption from taxes on all future capital gains on the investment itself once you’ve held it for at least 10 years. So on top of reducing your original capital gains payment, you’re preventing a future one from developing and accruing.

Some creative and hands-off investors take advantage of funds known as Opportunity Zone Funds, which are usually collections of properties pre-selected by a firm, fund, or financial institution. This method may appeal to someone wishing to take advantage of these tax opportunities but lacking the time or ability to do thorough due diligence alone. It’s also a way to test the waters on this strategy if you’re considering incorporating it into your long term plan.

Methods for Reducing Capital Gains Taxes Entirely

While we can defer capital gains with many tools, there are ways to also simply lower the number. But you’re definitely not going to like all of them. Yet you may find lower capital gains taxes as a silver lining in a less-than-desireable financial situation or as an unexpected result of your circumstances. Here are some ways to reduce the overall tax burden easily.

Sell When Your Income is Relatively Low

If you’ve had a “low income year,” that’s actually a good thing for your capital gains tax rate. After all, it’s directly linked to your tax bracket and therefore your income. If you’ve had a year where you’ve only earned passively or simply not earned for any reason, this can be an ideal time to sell your property. You’ll pay less in taxes than if you sell when you’re in a better position overall.

Know What Expenses to Track For Primary Residences

If you’re in the position of selling your primary home, you may be able to deduct certain expenses from your cap gains taxable income. Chief among these are any costs you pay to improve or renovate the property and any expenses associated with the sale of the property. Such expenses might include fees paid for professionals, appraisals, inspections, and of course, any upgrade--no matter how small--is worth documenting. As long as you document the expense, you can later use it to your advantage.

Let Your Asset Protection Entity Ride to the Rescue

We’ve talked before about the critical role your entity plays in your asset protection plan And while asset protection is a completely valid reason to set up these types of business structures, you can also enjoy tax benefits on top of your peace of mind.

Which tax benefits, of course, will depend on the type of entity, whether you’ve made certain choices regarding how the entity is taxed during formation, and of course, the rules we all have to play by to keep our friends at the IRS nice and happy. But let’s take a look at an example, shall we?

Edmund Green is a Texas-based investor who uses a Traditional LLC shell company and asset holding company to defend his real estate assets and other valuables. He’d heard through the grapevine that asset protection entities could be used for equity stripping. Never one to just take anyone’s word for matters affecting his finances, Edmund decided to bounce the idea off of his CPA and was able to save himself far more than if he’d continued operating as a sole proprietor. With the help of his attorney, he has established his asset protection plan and it essentially hums along in the background while he lives his life and runs his business. The last time we talked to Edmund, he didn’t have any complaints. And his strategies can work for others, too. That said, it’s crucial that you ensure your asset protection plan is tailored to your personal needs and goals.

If you’d like to follow Edmund’s example, you easily can. Take a look at the structures you’re considering using for asset protection and do a bit of very basic research. More importantly, make notes of any questions you come up with as you read and learn for your own experts.

Bottom Line: Capital Gains Can Be Managed, and Often With the Same Tools Protecting Your Assets

When you establish entities, trusts, and other asset protection structures, you almost always have a tax opportunity. Do all investors take advantage of all of their opportunities? Certainly not. But some will go further for you than others. However you choose to handle your capital gains taxes, simply being aware of the opportunities at your disposal puts you a cut ahead of the clueless investor waiting to be blindsided by the problem. As usual, proactivity will place you in a better position than procrastination.

Last Updated: 
June 3, 2019

Scott Royal Smith is an asset protection attorney and long-time real estate investor. He's on a mission to help fellow investors free their time, protect their assets, and create lasting wealth.

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