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What Real Estate Investors Should Know About Section 1031 Exchange Rules

July 20, 2023 4 Min Read Tax Strategy, Real Estate, Business Tax
Lisa G. Pileggi, CPA
Lisa G. Pileggi, CPA Director-in-Charge, Tax Strategies and Real Estate Industry Group Co-Leader

Home to almost 10,000 sections, the U.S. tax code proves to be a master class in convolution.  Despite the volume and complexity, there is one code section that is known by many – Section 1031.   

A 1031 exchange, also known as a like-kind exchange, is a component of the tax code that permits individuals or businesses to defer paying capital gain taxes on the sale of certain types of investment properties, which is intriguing to many in real estate operations and investment.

The general operations of a 1031 exchange are as follows:

  • Qualifying properties: The properties involved in the exchange must be like-kind, meaning they are of the same nature or character, regardless of their quality or grade. For example, you can exchange a residential rental property for another residential rental property, or a commercial property for another commercial property.
  • Timing: The exchange must be completed within a specific timeframe. Once the original property is sold (referred to as the “relinquished property"), a period of 45 days is available to identify potential replacement properties. One or more of the identified replacement properties must be closed upon within 180-days of selling the relinquished property.
  • Qualified intermediaries: To ensure compliance with IRS rules, a qualified intermediary (QI) must be involved in the transaction. The QI acts as a facilitator and holds the funds from the sale of the relinquished property in escrow, then utilizes the sale funds to purchase the replacement property on the purchaser’s behalf. This helps to prevent the purchaser from taking actual or constructive receipt of the proceeds, a crucial step in the process to ensure the exchange is not disqualified.
  • Reinvestment of proceeds: To qualify for tax deferral, the proceeds from the sale of the relinquished property must be reinvested into the replacement property. Any cash or other non-like-kind property that is received will be subject to capital gains tax.

Understanding the general principals a 1031 exchange is important in order to determine whether the property’s specific facts and circumstances and the investor’s investment goals support pursuing a 1031 exchange. 

Here are a few potential benefits and considerations of a tax-deferred exchange:


  1. Tax deferral: The primary advantage is the ability to defer paying capital gains taxes, potentially allowing for an increased investment into the replacement property.
  2. Portfolio management: 1031 exchanges provide an opportunity to consolidate or diversify an investor’s real estate holding without incurring immediate tax liabilities.


  1. Complex process: 1031 exchanges involve specific rules and timelines, as described above, and working with a qualified intermediary is crucial. Failure to comply with IRS requirements can result in disqualification and the immediate taxation of the gains produced.
  2. Limited scope: The exchange applies to investment or business properties, not personal residences or properties held primarily for sale.
  3. Long-term commitment: Engaging in a 1031 exchange means continuing to hold real estate investments. If the goal is to exit the real estate market or diversify into other investment vehicles, a 1031 exchange may not align with the investor’s overall goals.

Beginning in 2023, Pennsylvania will recognize the tax-deferral benefit of 1031 like-kind exchanges for the first time. An exchange of property located in the Commonwealth will follow the same rules as those set forth in section 1031 of the Internal Revenue Code. 

Despite conformity with IRC Section 1031 in Pennsylvania, there are additional rules and regulations related to real estate transactions in Pennsylvania that need to be considered such as requirements for deed recording, real estate transfer taxes, and other regulations.  And as such, consulting a qualified tax advisor is strongly encouraged.

If you are examining the benefits and opportunities of a tax-deferred real estate exchange, please contact us.

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Contact the Author

Lisa G. Pileggi, CPA

Lisa G. Pileggi, CPA

Director-in-Charge, Tax Strategies and Real Estate Industry Group Co-Leader

Construction Specialist, Real Estate Specialist, Business Tax Specialist, Individual Tax Specialist, Estates, Trusts, & Gifts Specialist, International Tax Specialist

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