President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden released their income tax returns last week. The first couple reported $610,702 in adjusted gross income and paid $150,439 in federal income tax at an effective tax rate of 24.6%.
While it’s unclear what former president Donald Trump’s income or tax bill was for 2021, we can compare Biden’s 2017 federal tax return with the data The New York Times reported on regarding Trump’s income tax payment in 2017.
Biden’s 2017 tax return showed $11,031,309 in adjusted gross income and a federal tax payment of $3,553,249. The New York Times reported that Trump only paid $750 in federal income taxes that year, the same as he paid in 2016.
According to The New York Times, the former president’s various businesses lost hundreds of millions of dollars over the previous 20 years, allowing him to reduce his federal tax obligation to almost nothing.
Benzinga hasn’t seen Trump’s tax returns and cannot verify the facts reported on by the Times. However, assumptions can be made based on Trump’s largest business venture – his real estate holdings.
See also: Top Real Estate Investment Companies in 2022
Real Estate Tax Benefits
Real estate offers some unique tax advantages, mainly the ability to write-off depreciation against income. In fact, it’s quite common for a real estate investor to show a loss on their income tax return while actually receiving positive cash flow for the year.
This tax strategy can be seen across almost all equity real estate investment trusts (REITs). For example, Piedmont Office Realty Trust (NYSE: PDM) reported a net loss of nearly $1.2 million for 2021, which included a $120.6 million expense for depreciation and amortization. The company’s actual funds from operations (FFO) was $245.4 million.
While the company’s tax returns showed a loss, it was actually able to pay out over $104 million to its shareholders for the year in dividends.
Another likely reason for Trump’s low tax bills is the use of a tax loss carryforward. Companies, such as The Trump Organization, can carry losses over from one year to offset taxes in subsequent years. Trump used this strategy after realizing nearly $1 billion in losses in the early 90s. He was able to carry those losses over each year until 2005.
Joe Biden’s 2017 income, on the other hand, was mainly earned through speaking engagements and book deals, neither of which offers the same tax advantages as real estate.
See also: Top REITs to Recession-Proof Your Portfolio
How Individuals Use This Tax Strategy
Individual real estate investors use Trump’s tax strategy every year, which is one reason real estate is such a popular asset class. Investors can even take advantage of these tax benefits without having to purchase a skyscraper, hotel or apartment complex themselves.
Passive investments as a limited partner through private equity real estate deals can provide many of the same benefits. Investors that take part in a direct real estate investment through a crowdfunded offering will receive a K-1 tax document each year, which shows the investor’s share of net income, or loss, after deducting expenses like depreciation.
It’s not uncommon for investors to receive cash distributions throughout the year, then be able to show a loss on their tax returns.
Related: Browse Private Equity Real Estate Investment Offerings on Benzinga Alternative Investments
It’s important to understand that each individual’s situation is different when it comes to income taxes and not all private equity real estate investments have the same pass-through tax structure. It’s always a good idea to consult with a certified public accountant to determine how a particular investment will affect your unique tax situation.
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