As commercial property owners and operators reposition and retrofit properties, including upgrades to HVAC, lighting, and mechanical systems, as well as the building envelope, funding plays a pivotal role. Owners must either come up with the required capital or continue to absorb ever-increasing operating costs. For many the initial cost of becoming more energy efficient can be prohibitive.
A growing number of owners are not funding energy efficiency from their operating account (drawing down cash reserves, tapping equity, or using outside funding). Savvy business owners use a strategy that all but eliminates a lengthy payback cycle – in fact many are cash flow positive from day one.
To begin with, every taxpayer who owns, constructs, acquires, renovates or improves a commercial property stands to benefit from having a complementary asset valuation analysis performed. Lying within the tax code for more than a decade, cost segregation studies, inclusive of the recently published “Repair Regs” (The 2012 Tangible Property Regulations), have become two of the most valuable tax strategies available to commercial property owners.
Cost Segregation. Cost segregation is a viable means of increasing cash flow through the accelerated depreciation of building costs. An engineering-based cost segregation study allows owners to write off their building (new & existing) in the shortest time permissible under tax law.
There are 4 elements to property: land, land improvements, building, and personal property. The IRS directs qualifying items of land improvements and personal property to be “segregated from the building structure” for tax purposes. Useful tax lives on qualifying items can be depreciated over 5 and 7 years for personal property, 15 years for land improvements instead of the common 39-year flat line depreciation on commercial property (27.5-yr residential income property).
Front end loading depreciation produces $50,000 – $100,000 of after tax cash (refund and or tax credit) for every $1M in cash basis (minus land). Cost Seg studies increase and accelerate ROI & NOI, plus provide higher cap rates in the critical early years of ownership. ROI averages 15-20:1, reaching 50:1 or better based on property specifics. After-tax cash flow typically improves by 25 to 35%. The result of segregating many types of building improvements into shorter tax recovery periods is more depreciation expense, less taxable income, less taxes, and more cash in the taxpayer’s hands.
Cost Segregation is considered neither an elective nor aggressive practice. The IRS describes it as the “required method” for accurately measuring and classifying “lump sum” costs for depreciation purposes. In most situations if a cost segregation study is not performed, property owners are not properly classifying real property costs. It is interesting to note that the IRS does not enforce a taxpayers’ failure to use cost segregation in situations where the taxpayer may be overpaying taxes.
The 2012 Tangible Property Regulations: A Trash-To-Cash Opportunity. Engineered studies provision the classification and quantification of the effect of spending to change, improve and maintain a commercial property. This new section in the tax code affects virtually all commercial property owners. In simple terms, owners can elect to write down components removed or disposed of (i.e. roof, HVAC, electrical, plumbing) and concurrently accelerate depreciation on new materials put in service. A “use it or lose it” look back or catch-up provision is available only through tax year 2014. The combined tax considerations and consequences of the application of cost segregation and tangible property regs are significant, particularly to those seeking to capitalize energy efficiency improvements.
Real Estate Tax. Personal property taxes are lower than real property taxes by as much as 25%. Use Tax: same underlying principal as real estate taxes. Property Insurance. Personal property is assessed at a lower “per thousand” rate than real property, generally between 10% and 20%.
Lower Cost of Capital. Stronger cash flow can allow for greater ease in servicing debt. Pointing out increased cash-flow has many lenders willing to negotiate better loan terms, potentially reducing rates by as much as 100 basis points, or reducing the required down payment.
Due Diligence. A complimentary preliminary property analysis reviews and properly classifies the assets involved and provides predictive values by asset category for buy/sell transaction analysis and subsequent agreements. A full engineered study categorizes the assets acquired and provides the contributory value of each in the context of the overall purchase price for all newly acquired properties.
Value of the dollar. Why act, now? It is not just the dollar amount ‘released’ by cost seg that’s important, but the value of that dollar today. The value of the dollar diminishes over time. As the debt ceiling soars, the value of the dollar continues to drop precipitously. Cost segregation studies let owners put their money to work today for their best and highest purpose.
Compliance & Audits. Cost segregation studies provide a clear, documented audit trail. Studies performed per IRS guidelines satisfy all compliance requirements and minimize audit exposure. They are in fact, less likely to be audited then a tax professional’s component depreciation.
The Best Economic Results. CPA/Tax Professionals and Engineers working collaboratively achieve the best economic result for owners. Source – IRS Audit Guideline
No need to amend prior tax returns. More importantly, Engineered Cost Segregation studies enable owners to optimize the time value of money and in so doing grow their net worth. More saving & cash flow generating opportunities…
Bonus Depreciation. First-year bonus depreciation provisions are extremely generous. Bonus Depreciation is a special tax depreciation deduction allowance granted to taxpayers who place certain “Qualified Property” in service in the years from 2008 through 2013, or, in some cases, in 2014. For most Qualified Property, the allowance is 50% of the adjusted basis (i.e., after adjustments under other sections of the Internal Revenue Code, e.g., Section 179). This allowance is increased from 50% to 100% for Qualified Property placed in service after September 8, 2010 and before January 1, 2012. Certain taxpayers may be eligible to write off as much as $500,000 of “qualified” property improvements for Tax Year 2012 and 2013 expenditures; slashed as of this writing, to only $25,000 in tax year 2014.
Solar Energy / Combined Heat and Power. The IRS allows a 30% tax credit related to certain investments in equipment using solar energy to generate electricity, or to heat or cool a structure. There’s also a 10% credit for select investments in geothermal property.
Historic Structures and Districts There are significant benefits associated with upgrades to pre-1936 structures or Certified Historic Structures or buildings located in a Registered Historic District that are “substantially rehabilitated.” A building is “substantially rehabilitated” when real property expenditures incurred during either a 24-month or 60-month measurement period exceed the depreciable basis at the beginning of such measurement period. For pre-1936 buildings that meet the requirements, the tax credit is 10% of “qualified rehabilitation expenditures.” The credit increases to 20% for Certified Historic Structures or buildings located in and “substantially rehabilitated” in a Registered Historic District.
Other Incentives. Owners and operators should monitor and track state and local tax incentives.
Climate Change & Environmental Services can help assess whether you qualify and help you apply, too. It’s also highly recommended that taxpayers meet with their utility companies before any project is started to determine what additional incentives and cash grants may be available.
The work presented here is the full responsibility of Mr. Jeff Darling of Cost Segregation Services, Inc. He can be contacted for more information at email@example.com or at 888.406.4019.