Uncertainty surrounding tax reform continues to make planning difficult for companies in the commercial real estate industry, according to panelists participating in a Sept. 5 webcast on election year tax trends and the real estate industry.
Although little in the way of new tax legislation is expected to be introduced prior to the November elections, commercial real estate companies should be paying attention to the tax reform debates expected to continue in the coming months, the panelists at the Deloitte-sponsored event said.
“While we don’t expect a great deal of movement on tax reform for the remainder of this year, we may see new proposals and see more need for discussion in Washington and on the campaign trail,” said Jeff Kummer, managing director with Deloitte Tax LLP. “It’s the perfect storm of non-tax and tax issues all coming to a head later this fall.”
With taxes serving as a central theme in an election cycle focused on jobs and the economy, a consensus has emerged that current rates are too high and the system is too complicated, according to Kummer. Companies are unsure about potential changes, though, said Fred Witt, director with Deloitte Tax LLP.
“The real estate market needs certainty, predictability and liquidity. With commercial real estate being a long-lived asset, the added uncertainty of what the tax rules will be in 2013, which is now only four months away, will make it very difficult for owners and operators to plan accordingly,” Witt said during the panel, which was moderated by Bob O’Brien, partner with Deloitte and Touche.
Kummer said the overriding feeling is that “revenue-neutral,” comprehensive tax reform is necessary. That would include reforming the current income-based tax system, rather than replacing it with a new system, as well as lower corporate and individual rates and international reform that moves toward a territorial tax system.
Some of the potential outcomes of tax reform for real estate mentioned in the webcast include the devaluation of existing capital assets, transition problems and a lower corporate tax rate.
“Tax reform in of itself will be a traumatic event,” Kummer said. “There will still be that day you are operating on one side of the rules and the next day another.”