The reasons for selling a rental property vary. Landlords who personally live in and manage their properties may move and want to buy a different investment property near their new residence. A landlord may also want to cash in on the appreciation of a rental property rather than accumulating cash flows through rent. It may even be a case of a property that is losing money, either through vacancy or not enough rental income to cover the expenses. Regardless of the reason, real estate investors looking to sell will have to deal with taxes in some way shape or form.
A deferred exchange, also called a 1031 exchange (after the IRS code section that allows it), permits the seller of rental real estate to take the profits from a sale and invest them in another rental property without having to pay taxes. This is a federal tax provision that is also honored by all but two states (Georgia and Mississippi). It is referred to as a deferred exchange because taxes will have to be paid when the last property is sold. However, because there are no limits on the number of 1031 exchanges you are allowed to participate in, you could continually roll over profits into new properties and never pay taxes. You must use an exchange facilitator or other impartial third party to hold the proceeds between sales, and the transactions must conform to strict timelines.
When you sell rental property, profits, or capital gains, and losses are categorized as either short-term or long-term. Short-term profits are taxed at the same rate as ordinary income. Long-term capital gains are taxed at between 5 and 15 percent, depending on your tax bracket. Neither short-term nor long-term capital gains are subject to the social security tax. The maximum long-term capital gains rate is typically lower than the ordinary tax rate for most people selling real estate. To qualify for the long-term rate, you have to hold real estate for at least one year. Se sure to speak with your CPA or tax preparer about the specifics of any sale so you are prepared.