Five Ways to Ruin Your 1031 Exchange


Some people are surprised at how many grey areas there are when structuring an exchange.  There are some important rules, which are generally clear, however it’s important to pay attention because a mistake can ruin your exchange.  Here’s what not to do:


1.   Miss the 45-Day Identification Deadline


Once you close on your relinquished property, you have 45 days to identify in writing what you intend to acquire in the exchange.  The only exception to this rule is that no identification is needed if you acquire the replacement property before the end of the 45-day period. 


The rule states that property that is not identified will not be “like kind” to the relinquished property; therefore, you are only able to acquire replacement property that you identified.  If you do not identify or acquire the replacement property within the 45 days, you are not able to complete a valid exchange.


2.   Fail to Clearly Identify What You Are Going to Buy


In addition to making sure you identify replacement property within 45 days, you must identify it unambiguously.  That generally means using a legal description or street address.  If you are going to acquire a tenancy-in-common interest in the property, you should try to identify as closely as possible the percentage interest you will be acquiring.  If you are acquiring a condominium, you need to also identify the unit number.  Moreover, if improvements will be constructed on the replacement property between the date you identify it and the date you acquire it, you must identify what will be constructed on the property in addition to the legal description or address.  You should provide as much detail about the improvements as is “practicable.” 


3.   Miss the 180-Day Deadline


Another crucial deadline is the 180-day exchange period.  This rule states that you must acquire (close, or transfer) all replacement property(ies) by the 180th day.  If the relinquished property closes escrow towards end of a tax year such that the 180th day falls after your tax filing date of the following year, you’ll need to complete your 1031 Exchange before filing your income tax return, or request an extension. The Exchange timelines begin from the date the relinquished property closes escrow, and includes weekends and holidays. Should your 180th day fall on Saturday or Sunday,  the last day to acquire the replacement property(ies) will fall on the previous business day.  For purposes of both the 45-day and 180-day periods, if there are two or more relinquished properties in the same exchange, the deadlines are measured from the date of the first relinquished property closing. 


4.   Close Before You Sign Exchange Documents


Initially, exchanges could only be accomplished by two people simultaneously swapping properties.  Eventually, the deferred exchange rules permitted taxpayers to use a qualified intermediary, such as First American Exchange Company, to act as an accommodator. The rules convert what looks like a sale followed by a purchase into an exchange.  A basic requirement of this process is that an Exchange Agreement and Assignment Agreement must be signed by the taxpayer before the date the relinquished property closes escrow.  In addition, the taxpayer must notify the buyer the contract has been assigned to a qualified Intermediary. The qualified intermediary will also be assigned into the replacement property contract, thus allowing the funds to be transferred within the “safe harbors”.


5.   Take Possession of Your Exchange Funds


Another important rule for a successful 1031 Exchange states that the taxpayer cannot have possession, or control, of the proceeds from the sale of the relinquished property. Upon closing of the relinquished property, the escrow holder will transfer the funds directly to First American Exchange Company, thus keeping the taxpayer from having receipt of the funds.  One of the reasons it is so important to choose an intermediary wisely is that they hold the proceeds of your sale until you are ready to acquire the replacement property.  First American holds these funds only in FDIC-insured bank accounts, and we never invest them in securities. Furthermore, funds are invested in a segregated account specific to the taxpayer’s tax ID number.



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