What is a REIT?
A real estate investment trust, or REIT, is a company that owns, and in most cases, operates income-producing real estate. Some REITs also engage in financing real estate. The shares of many REITs are traded on major stock exchanges.
To qualify as a REIT, a company must have most of its assets and income tied to real estate investment and must distribute at least 90 percent of its taxable income to shareholders annually in the form of dividends. A company that qualifies as a REIT is permitted to deduct dividends paid to its shareholders from its corporate taxable income. As a result, most REITs historically remit at least 100 percent of their taxable income to their shareholders and therefore owe no corporate tax. Taxes are paid by shareholders on the dividends received and any capital gains. Most states honor this federal treatment and also do not require REITs to pay state income tax. Like other businesses, but unlike partnerships, a REIT cannot pass any tax losses through to its investors.
The REIT Story: An Introduction To The Benefits of Investing In Real Estate Stocks