Since its inception, NAREIT has diligently worked to preserve and perfect REITs by helping to shape the landmark legislation and policy decisions that have defined the evolution of REITs and real estate investment.
Speaking as the voice of the industry, NAREIT articulates its position at the highest levels of the U.S. and other governments, at state and local levels, and before numerous standards-setting organizations around the globe.
Ensuring that our members collective best interests are effectively protected and promoted remains our topmost priority.
Current legislative priorities include:
Congress continues to eye tax reform as a priority issue. And while it’s unlikely that comprehensive tax reform will be enacted over the next two years, advocates are expected to maintain a steady drumbeat in favor of broad reform. Their argument: tax reform is essential to restoring US competitiveness abroad, encouraging economic growth at home, and making for a fairer, simpler tax system.
Foreign Investment in Real Property Tax Act (FIRPTA)
The Foreign Investment in Real Property Tax Act (FIRPTA) was enacted by Congress in 1980 as a means to tax the gains on non-US citizens’ income from the sale of US real property. FIRPTA acts as a significant impediment to foreign investment in US infrastructure and real estate at a time when the country’s infrastructure needs are greater than ever. As a practical matter, FIRPTA limits the amount that foreign investors are willing and able to invest in US REITs.
The like-kind exchange rules recognize that the exchange of one property held for investment or business use for a similar property does not change the economic status of the taxpayer and therefore should not be taxed. As they apply to real estate, like-kind exchange rules have led to a more dynamic real estate sector – one that encourages reinvestment and construction activity and allows real estate owners to better allocate resources. The rules also lead to lower levels of debt in commercial and multifamily real estate transactions.
Marketplace Fairness would level the sales tax playing field by ensuring that sales taxes are applied equally – whether the sale occurs at a physical location or online. It would ensure that main street businesses are not unfairly burdened with a government-sanctioned price disadvantage over their online competitors.
A proposal was raised in the Hawaii state legislature in 2015 to eliminate the dividends paid deduction (DPD) for all real estate investment trusts in the state. NAREIT opposed the proposal. Eliminating the DPD would be contrary to the federal income tax rules applying to widely held REITs in every state with an income-based tax system like Hawaii. Based on filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, approximately 20 widely held REITs have invested about $6 billion in commercial real estate in Hawaii, resulting in the employment of many Hawaii residents.
Housing Finance Reform
In the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, the US government seized control of mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. As a result, the federal government now backs 70 percent of all new residential mortgages, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. Policymakers have been struggling for years to determine a legislative solution to reduce the federal government’s newly-expanded role in the US housing market.
NAREIT joined with the Real Estate Roundtable to launch the Coalition to Insure Against Terrorism (CIAT) in 2002. CIAT represents businesses and organizations throughout the real estate, manufacturing, utility, construction, transportation, sports, entertainment and retail sectors. The coalition speaks for business insurance policyholders as part of an ongoing effort to ensure that terrorism coverage is both available and affordable. CIAT was integral to the 2002 enactment of TRIA, which restored the private insurance marketplace and allowed businesses to once again purchase terrorism risk insurance while protecting the economy against highly unpredictable, catastrophic terrorist attacks.
The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) is an organization of industrialized countries responsible for creating a model tax treaty known as the Model Tax Convention. Since 2006, NAREIT and its foreign partners in the Real Estate Equity Securitization Alliance (REESA) have worked collaboratively with the OECD on REIT-related provisions in the treaty.
As the market for real estate investment trusts continues to grow, it is critical that individuals have access to accurate and impartial data to make informed investment decisions. One important figure is Funds from Operations (FFO), which is used by REITs to define the cash flow from their operations, is calculated by adding depreciation and amortization expenses to earnings, and sometimes quoted on a per share basis. However, there is no consensus FFO definition used by the REIT market. Companies and analysts often release guidance using their own FFO formulas, often with unclear labeling and lacking explanation.
Investment Company Act of 1940
The Investment Company Act of 1940 is a pillar of US financial law which regulates open-end mutual funds, unit investment trusts and closed-end funds. However, the law lays out in plain language a broad exclusion through which many publicly-traded REITs are exempt from regulation as an “investment company.” In 2011, the Securities and Exchange Commission, which is tasked with enforcing and regulating the act, issued a concept release soliciting comments regarding mortgage companies exclusion from registration as investment companies.
In an effort to prevent future runs on banks, a number of nations including all G-20 countries agreed to the Basel III regulatory framework in 2010, which strengthens bank capital requirements by increasing bank liquidity and decreasing bank leverage.
Check out the latest facts and figures for REITPAC.