Tax Benefits of DST Investments

Introduction

When it comes to tax planning for real estate, the Delaware Statutory Trust (DST) has gained significant popularity in recent years. Investors and property owners have found DSTs to be a powerful tool for minimizing tax liabilities while achieving their financial objectives. 

 

Overview

A DST is a grantor trust formed under Delaware state law. The trust agreement specifies the purpose, structure, and management of the trust, as well as the rights and obligations of the beneficiaries or investors.  Although formed in Delaware the trust can operate anywhere in the United States.  Investors (also called beneficiaries) purchase beneficial interests in the DST, which represent their ownership in the trust. These beneficial interests are similar to shares in a traditional corporation.

The DST uses the funds from investors to acquire real estate. The income generated from these assets is distributed to the investors monthly according to their proportional ownership.  A key characteristic of a DST is that they have a definite life, which means that the trust has a predetermined termination date. This termination date is specified in the trust agreement when the DST is created.

 

Tax-Deferred Exchanges

A significant advantage of the DST is their ability to facilitate tax-deferred exchanges. Section 1031 of the Internal Revenue Code allows investors to defer capital gains taxes when they sell a property and reinvest the proceeds in a “like-kind” property. DSTs qualify as like-kind properties, which means that investors can sell their existing property and invest in a DST without triggering immediate capital gains taxes. This allows investors to preserve more of their investment capital and continue to compound their returns over time. 

Upon closure of the trust, if the investor wishes to divest from the DST and potentially acquire another property, they could initiate another 1031 exchange. This involves selling the DST interest and using the proceeds to acquire a new like-kind property, or potentially another DST. By continually engaging in 1031 exchanges, an investor can perpetually defer capital gains taxes. 

Using a DST, an investor can potentially change the situs of their real estate investments without triggering capital gains taxes by selling the property and reinvesting in a new property in a different location. This is where the relocation of the situs can be achieved to move from jurisdictions that have higher tax burdens and offer investors the flexibility to participate in real estate investments that might have been beyond their reach if investing directly. 

 

Ongoing Tax Benefits

DSTs are structured as pass-through entities for tax purposes. This means that the income generated by the trust is not taxed at the entity level. Instead, the income passes through to the individual investors, who report it on their personal tax returns. When an investor contributes real estate to a DST, they retain the ability to claim depreciation deductions on their portion of the property’s value, which can help offset taxable income generated by the DST’s operations. 

DSTS often operate in low tax states which may help investors minimize state income taxes on   investment income.  Lower tax states often have reduced regulatory burdens and lower property taxes as well as other operating costs associated with maintaining properties so as to provide greater and more stable cash flows to its investors.   Additionally, low-tax states often provide a favorable environment for business and economic growth, which can positively impact property values and demand for rentals.

 

Estate Tax Benefits

Assets held in a Delaware statutory trust receive a step-up in basis upon the death of the grantor. Beneficiaries can continue to hold fractional ownership without assuming direct management responsibilities. This can be advantageous for families looking to maintain control over real estate assets while reducing the burden on heirs who may not be interested in day-to-day management. 

DSTs can be structured to skip a generation and benefit grandchildren or more remote descendants. This can be used as a strategy to minimize generation-skipping transfer taxes. Income generated by the real estate properties held within a DST can continue to provide for beneficiaries without interruption. This can be crucial for maintaining financial stability and ensuring that heirs have a reliable source of income after the passing of the original investor.

 

Final Thoughts

Delaware Statutory Trusts provide investors with a streamlined way to invest in real estate while enjoying a range of tax benefits. From tax-deferred exchanges to pass-through taxation and estate planning advantages, DSTs offer a compelling option for those seeking to optimize their real estate investments from a tax perspective. As with any investment, it’s important to conduct thorough research and consult with financial and legal professionals before making decisions. By harnessing the tax benefits of DSTs, investors can potentially enhance their returns and take full advantage of the wealth-building potential of real estate.

Voss Real Estate Advisors

September 4, 2023

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