In an Advisory Opinion issued near the end of 2016, the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance has determined that the transfer of real property in New York State from an “exchange accommodation titleholder” to a taxpayer in connection with a so-called “reverse” like-kind exchange under Section 1031 of the Internal Revenue Code is not subject to the New York State Real Property Transfer Tax. In the more typical or “forward” like-kind exchange, a taxpayer sells real property (the “relinquished” property) and deposits the proceeds from such sale with a qualified intermediary. Subject to the rules established under IRC Section 1031, the qualified intermediary holds the proceeds until the taxpayer has identified one or more “replacement” properties and the proceeds are then held by the qualified intermediary are used to acquire the “replacement” property or properties. In a “reverse” exchange, the “replacement” property is acquired before the “relinquished” property is sold by way of an “exchange accommodation titleholder” or EAT. The EAT holds title to the “replacement” property (generally using a newly-formed limited liability company that is disregarded for tax purposes) until the taxpayer transfers the “relinquished” property. The Advisory Opinion concisely describes the process of a “reverse” exchange and the rules governing “reverse” exchanges.
The taxpayer provides the funds used by the EAT to acquire the “replacement” property; the EAT does not use any of its own funds. The funds provided to the EAT are generally evidenced by a promissory note and secured by a mortgage on the “replacement” property. The taxpayer is also responsible for maintaining the “replacement” property, usually by way of a lease. The EAT leases the “replacement” property to the taxpayer until the exchange is concluded, with the rent paid to the EAT being consistent with the debt service payments made by the EAT on the mortgage securing the loan from the taxpayer for the funds used by the EAT to acquire the “replacement” property.
The opinion examines the exemption to the payment of the Real Estate Transfer Tax allowed under Tax Law § 1405(b)(4) with respect to “conveyances of real property without consideration and otherwise than in connection with a sale, including conveyances of realty as a bona fide gifts.” The opinion further states that two conveyances are made for consideration in a “reverse” exchange: the purchase of the replacement property by the EAT and the sale of the relinquished property by the QI to a purchaser. The EAT is considered to be acting as the agent of the taxpayer by holding title to the “replacement” property for the purpose of timing under a like-kind exchange, no consideration was found to have been provided for the conveyance of the “replacement” property from the EAT to the taxpayer, thus qualifying for the exemption under Tax Law § 1405(b)(4). In addition, the fees that the EAT receives from the taxpayer for its services in acting as the “exchange accommodation titleholder” were not deemed to be consideration subject to taxation.
As a side note, the New York City Department of Finance came to a similar conclusion in a letter ruling back in 2003 as to properties located within New York City with respect to the application of the New York City Real Estate Property Transfer Tax; the full text can be found here. The full text of the Advisory Opinion from the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance can be found here.