Foreclosure relief for home owners may be getting all the press on the new housing bill signed into law by the President this Wednesday. But there's plenty of tax-related goodies sprinkled through the bill's nearly 700 pages for sharp-eyed real estate investors.
Start with the low-income housing tax credit program -- the federal government's biggest source of support for affordable rental complexes -- driven mainly by tax shelter offerings.
The bill basically increases the size of the program, at least temporarily, by raising the current state-by-state volume limitations on tax credits. Put another way, the bill expands the number of potential deals supported by credits that developers and investors can do through the year 2009.
It also streamlines many of the technical regulations that govern the housing tax credit program, and simplifies the rules on the use of state tax-exempt multifamily bonds to finance tax credit projects. On top of that, it eliminates current IRS restrictions that prohibit the use of low-income housing and rehabilitation tax credits to offset the alternative minimum tax.
Elsewhere in the bill, tax rules affecting real estate investment trusts (or REITs) are significantly streamlined. Although the details of the changes are mainly for green eye-shade accountants and lawyers, the bottom line is that the REIT industry welcomes the changes and believes they will be good for business.
That's important because stockholder-owned REITs represent one of the most efficient ways for small investors -- and big institutions -- to put money into commercial and residential real estate, as well as into mortgages.
The housing bill also sweetens the pot for Gulf Opportunity Zone (or GO Zone) developments -- a tax resource for real estate and other investors in the hurricane-damaged areas of Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana. As we've mentioned a number of times here on Real Estate-Realtor Times, when the government will pay you to invest in an area where property values can only go up -- you ought to take a hard look at it.
The latest changes waive the start-construction deadlines for certain properties eligible for bonus depreciation in the GO Zone, and allow property investors and developers to amend federal tax returns to take into account their receipt of hurricane-related recovery grants.