Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Option Payments & Earnest Money Deposits

Our Exchange clients frequently ask us about how to avoid taxable boot on an Exchange where option payments under an option contract or earnest money deposits have been received prior to the closing on the sale of their Relinquished Property. Option payments may have been received by the taxpayer months or even years in advance of a closing on the sale of the property. Earnest money deposits are commonly received when a contract to sell real property is executed and are under the same tax rules as option payments received by a taxpayer.

Money received in advance of a sale of real estate is not taxed until the sale is closed and possession of the real property is transferred to the buyer. If the option is forfeited and retained by the taxpayer payments received under the option contract are taxable as ordinary income in the year of the forfeiture. If the option is exercised and the property is sold, payments received under the option contract are taxable as part of the proceeds of sale of the property. For this reason, payments from option contracts or earnest money deposits are not reported before the sale is closed and possession is transferred to the buyer or the option or deposit is forfeited and retained by the taxpayer, whichever occurs first.
If a taxpayer wants to enter into an exchange under Section 1031 of the Internal Revenue Code and shelter the option payments received from income tax as well as the proceeds of sale of the property, this can be done at the sale/exchange closing.

To be included in the 1031 Exchange, the option money received by the taxpayer prior to the closing has to be brought to the closing table where it becomes part of the sale proceeds which are remitted to the Exchange Facilitator (Qualified Intermediary). It is unnecessary for the Exchange Facilitator to receive or hold the option money from the taxpayer prior to the closing on the sale of the real estate. It is also unnecessary for the taxpayer to bank the money in an escrow account or otherwise. It doesn’t matter where the taxpayer gets the money as long as cash is remitted to the closing in an amount equal to the payments previously received.

Give us a call at 888-367-1031 or email us at
1031@1031cpas.com if we can help with questions about how a 1031 Exchange can help you. See our Exchange Manual and visit us at www.1031cpas.com for additional information on how 1031 exchanges can help you save taxes.

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