The ability to defer taxes through a 1031 Exchange can make or break a real estate transaction. But federal tax law does not treat all real estate owners equally. Under IRC Section 1031(a)(2), real property held “primarily for sale” in the ordinary course of a trade or business is excluded from Section 1031 and may be subject to ordinary income taxes in the event of a sale.
Generally, land held for investment purposes can be swapped for “like kind” property without triggering taxable gain. However, certain property is excluded from 1031 because, under IRC Section 1221(a)(1), it is not a capital asset, including:
(i) Stock in trade of the taxpayer
(ii) Inventory; or
(iii) Property held by the taxpayer primarily for sale to customers in the ordinary course of a trade or business.
Such property, including any real estate which qualifies as inventory, is excluded from 1031 treatment and, upon sale, is taxed at ordinary income rates. This means that active developers dealing in subdivided property for sale in the ordinary course of business may be excluded from capital gains tax treatment.