When it comes to real estate investing, tax planning is one of the most important things to consider. By carefully planning your taxes, you can minimize your tax liability and maximize your returns. Join Ted Lanzaro as he discusses strategic tax planning for real estate investors to help them generate wealth. Ted is a Certified Public Accountant, real estate investor, real estate broker, author, and speaker with over 30 years of real estate tax consulting and investing experience. He is also the co-founder of Landmark CPA Group, a boutique CPA firm specializing in accounting and taxation for the real estate industry. For the past 30 years, he has helped thousands of real estate business owners, entrepreneurs, and investors all over the United States implement cutting-edge tax strategies that save them thousands of dollars annually on their taxes.
Get in touch with Ted Lanzaro:
If you are interested in learning more about passively investing in multifamily and Build-to-Rent properties, click here to schedule a call with the CPI Capital Team or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you like to Co-Syndicate and close on larger deal as a General Partner click here. You can read more about CPI Capital at https://www.cpicapital.ca. #avabenesocky #augustbiniaz #cpicapital
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- Landmark CPA Group, LLC
- The Tax Smart Landlord
- The Tax Smart Landlord Toolkit
- Multifamily Conference
- Rich Dad Poor Dad
- CPI Capital
- High Performance Habits
About Ted Lanzaro
Ted Lanzaro is a highly recognized and respected Certified Public Accountant, real estate investor and real estate broker. He is the founder of Landmark CPA Group, LLC located in Fairfield, Connecticut, a boutique CPA firm specializing in accounting and taxation for the real estate industry.
For the past 31 years, he has helped thousands of real estate business owners, entrepreneurs and investors all over the United States implement cutting edge tax strategies that save them thousands of dollars annually on their taxes.
In addition, Ted runs the Lanzaro Commercial Investment Group at eXp Commercial which does investment acquisition and disposition for real estate investors and private equity firms as well as his personal investments and syndications. As part of this, Ted mentors new and experienced commercial real estate agents how to build a successful commercial real estate agent career as a niche expert in their market.
Mr. Lanzaro assists accredited investors source exceptional real estate syndication deals for passive cash flow and tax benefits with an emphasis on investing with the high quality operators with a track record of success in the real estate industry.
Strategic Tax Planning For Real Estate Investors For Wealth Generation – Ted Lanzaro
In this episode, we have an incredible guest which is Ted Lanzaro. We’re excited to dive into some tax benefits and tax savings when it comes to investing in real estate. Before we dive into things, please like and subscribe as it helps us build our channel and allows us to keep bringing you this great content and these incredible guest speakers who educate us.
Keep in mind that it’s not easy to find and bring Ted on the show, for him to put his time and for us to organize all of this. All we ask is to like and subscribe. In this episode, we are focused on tax and tax is an important topic because nobody wants to pay tax or they want to pay tax less. The rich always pay the least amount of tax, so we’re going to talk about those strategies with a bit of focus on real estate, multifamily and these syndicated deals. How can there be tax advantages to investors and the general partner?
My dad always told me, “There are two things you can’t control in life, death and tax.” We’re excited to hear some golden nuggets from Ted. A little bit about Ted. Ted is a certified public accountant. He’s a real estate investor, real estate broker, author and speaker with many years of real estate tax consulting and investing experience.
He’s the Cofounder of Landmark CPA Group, LLC, a boutique CPA firm specializing in accounting and taxation for the real estate industry. For more years, he has helped thousands of real estate business owners, entrepreneurs and investors all over the United States by implementing cutting-edge tax strategies that have saved them thousands of dollars annually on their taxes.
Mr. Lanzaro is the author of The Tax Smart Landlord, The Tax Smart Landlord Toolkit, as well as over 100 articles on taxation for the real estate industry, specifically for investors, landlords, flippers and developers. Ted is a sought-after speaker and has spoken all over the United States to groups of real estate investors and business owners on the taxation of real estate.
He’s going to be speaking at the Multifamily Conference with none other than Ava Benesocky on stage at different times.
I’m excited to share the stage there, so I can’t wait for that. We know and believe this interview with Ted will bring great value to both passive and active investors to learn how strategic tax planning of real estate investments could help them generate wealth. Ted, we’re so excited to have you here. Thank you so much for being here.
I’m so excited to be here. Thank you so much for asking me to come on. It’s a pleasure.
The absolute pleasure is ours.
You’re going to give so much value. Can you please start by telling us about your background and you’re starting real estate?
My background is primarily as an accountant and a real estate investor. I started as an accountant in the early ‘90s. I was working in South Florida for a large regional CPA firm which was where I started. I was working with a lot of real estate investors. At the time, Florida was in a big development boom, especially Southeast Florida and there wasn’t much. From a CPA firm standpoint, we specialize primarily in real estate, farming and medical. That’s all there was. There wasn’t a lot of manufacturing or anything like that.
I was doing work for a lot of real estate investors and developers. Somewhere along the line, I had maybe 5 or 6 years in and a friend of mine called me from high school. He says, “You’ve got to read this book. It’s about real estate investing. It’s called Rich Dad Poor Dad.” They bought me a copy and I read it. A week later, we were down in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, looking for real estate investments. I got started buying single-family houses down the Fort Lauderdale area.
As a result of that, I started to also think entrepreneurially. I got a partner track with this firm and I’m like, “I’m going out on my own. I’m going to start my CPA practice and invest in real estate.” What ended up happening was, as a result of investing in real estate, I started going to the local real estate investment club meetings to network and learn more about how to buy properties. I went to presentations by investors. We were doing it and it’s the same way. Everybody starts their journey.
Somebody found out that I was a CPA also and they started asking, “What strategies are you using? What are you and your buddies doing to save money on taxes?” I started telling them and they were like, “That’s amazing. You need to do a presentation in front of the group.” I had never done a presentation before. If you could imagine the first time doing it standing up in front of a room in a real estate investment club with 40 or 50 people sitting, they are reading off of my PowerPoints.
At the time, my knees were shaking, the whole part. It was the first time but, in the end, everybody was kind and they clapped. I talked to a few people afterward and walked out with a couple of clients. I was like, “This is not too bad.” Fast forward, I do this regularly. I could do it in my sleep. I walked into a group of guys who wanted to learn about real estate investing without a script and started answering questions. It’s become almost second nature.
As part of that journey, we also started buying apartment buildings down in Fort Lauderdale in Hollywood, Florida and built up a nice portfolio. I started to try flipping houses. One of the things that I loved was taking ugly houses and turning them into beautiful houses and reselling them. Right up until about 2006, that was pretty much what I was doing. I was running my CPA firm and was an active real estate investor. At that time, I decided I was going to move back to Connecticut, where I’m from.
I sold my portfolio to my partners. I moved up here and started doing the same thing. I’m a much less active real estate investor and a much more passive real estate investor. The reason is that I reached a point in my life where I decided that I didn’t want to be running around constantly. I want to spend time with my kids and work on my practice.
I wrote the book, The Tax Smart Landlord. It’s about all of my little adventures as an investor but also the strategies that I was using. That’s primarily what I do. I work with real estate investors all over the United States and teach them essentially how to do what I call Year-Round Tax Planning. It’s a proactive and strategic approach to tax planning that occurs during the year. That’s where all the good stuff happens.
It’s during the year, so I always tell people, “Let me know when you’re going to buy a property, sell a property or renovate a property. There’s going to be certain things that I’m going to want you to do both from a strategy and a record-keeping standpoint to be able to minimize your taxes.” I say record-keeping because it’s the foundation of tax strategy. You want to try to be the best that you can be and be a good record keeper.Record keeping is the foundation of tax strategy. Click To Tweet
I’ll give you a real-life example. I have clients that bought a large apartment complex. They know they’re going to do renovations, so I’m like, “You need to take before pictures when you close to the extent that you can go in as tenants are moving out. As you’re renovating those apartments, take before pictures. Why? You bought the building. Everything that existed in that building when you bought it you paid for and when you throw those things away in the renovation process, we want to document that those appliances and that carpeting went into the garbage.”
“Document all of those things because we’re going to write those things off and then we’re going to add the new stuff that you put onto the depreciation schedule and do a cost segregation study. What we’re going to end up doing are two things. We’re going to end up writing off all the stuff we threw away and taking accelerated depreciation on all the stuff we put in.”
I liked that you were touching point on being a passive investor and I wanted to dive right into things. CPI Capital is a real estate investment firm with its mandate to acquire multifamily assets while partnering with investors as our passive limited partners. Maybe you can quickly give us a crash course on the tax benefits that multifamily syndicated investments provide to passive investors. This is an exciting concept and you’re the king of being a passive investor in multifamily syndicated investments.
From the get-go, the biggest one is tax-free cashflow. If you take the concept of investing as a passive investor, what am I doing? I’m putting my money into a deal and I’m doing it for a return on my investment. Whatever the deal is, I put my money in with the expectation of getting a month on your quarterly check as part of the profits of the building. Sometimes I’m also going to get a piece of the back end when the building sells, depending on the deal.
During that period that I’m investing my money, what I’m looking for is for that money to be tax-free essentially. The way it’s tax-free is because the operator and the general partners are going to do the cost segregation study and they’re going to create a first-year loss that I may not necessarily be able to deduct against my earned income as a CPA, for example. I’m going to have a loss on my K-1 but I’m also going to have a line item called distributions, which is the money that I received.
It’s that money if I have a loss on my K-1, so I don’t pay tax on what I received. I don’t pay tax on the loss that’s passed through to me. What ends up happening is I’m able to use that loss to offset all of the cashflow that I’m getting. If I’m a high net worth individual and let’s say I’m a tech person who lives in California and I deal with a lot of tech people in California. If they’re making $500,000 a year, let’s say for Apple, they’re probably paying $200,000 in taxes between the federal government and the state government. That’s 40%.
I tell people, “If you’re in that situation and you’re able to invest in enough syndicated deals using the extra money that you create, if you’re able to add over a couple of years $100,000 of tax-free cashflow, you are making $500,000 from your job and $100,000 from your investments. It’s $600,000 but you’re still only paying $200,000 in taxes. You’ve lowered your marginal tax rate from 40% down to 33%.” That’s the biggest way to get your marginal tax rate down and that’s what you’re looking for.
There are other strategies that we use to help passive investors save money on their taxes. In many of the cases, they’re not going to be able to deduct the passive losses against ordinary income because they won’t qualify as a real estate professional and as being active in the deal. By the nature of being a passive investor, you’re not active in the deal.
What can you do? If I use the dollars I received from my passive investing to fund my 401(k), I can get a $20,000 tax deduction against my wages or my earned income. I’m not able to deduct the passive losses against my income but I’m able to use that money to fund a retirement plan that maybe I’m not funding already. That’s one way of doing it. If I’m a business owner and I can fund a more high-value retirement plan like SEP or 401(k) with a profit-sharing match, I might be able to put $60,000 away. I’m using the cash that I received from my passive investments that’s tax-free in such a way to create an additional deduction.
Let’s say I have a business where I’m making $500,000 a year. I’m not funding my 401(k) or my retirement plan. I use it to invest $100,000 of passive investment income, so my income is at $600,000. I’m still only paying tax on $500,000 but then I put $60,000 of that tax-free money that I got into myself. My business income is not $500,000. It’s $440,000. $500,000 minus the $60,000 tax deduction I got for making a SEP contribution.
My marginal rate is down to the high twenties. I use the dollars that I got from my passive investing to create a taxable benefit for myself from my business. That’s another way to do it and get the income down. If you’re a GP in a deal, you weren’t active in the deal and you qualify as a real estate professional, then that’s the Holy Grail.
What are some of the tax benefits for general partners of syndicated investments?
They can be amazing. I have a lot of clients that can qualify as real estate professionals. They’re active in the deal. They either put money in the deal or their guarantors on the deal. Let’s say you have that same $500,000 of income from your business and then, as a GP, you get allocated $200,000 of the bonus depreciation from the cost segregation study. This is what we do all day long. You can take that $500,000 to deduct the $200,000 that you have gotten in bonus depreciation losses. You’re only paying tax on $300,000. I have clients who have wiped out $1 million of income in a year with bonus depreciation because they’re involved in so many deals.
Could you quickly explain what bonus depreciation is?
Depreciation is the rational allocation of the cost of a building. Let’s say, for example, you go buy an apartment building for $5 million. The IRS will ordinarily tell you that you’re able to depreciate that $5 million over 27.5 years. You’re going to get approximately, give or take, $200,000 a year of depreciation on the property and that’s what’s going to get spread across the partner base.Depreciation is the rational allocation of the cost of a building. Click To Tweet
What the IRS also says is, “I can do a cost segregation study and break out all of the five-year property, being anything that I can unscrew or unplug the tax somehow and walk out with it.” It’s all of the appliances, decorative writing, cabinets, vanities, tubs, toilets, mirrors, lighting and shelving. On a national average, that’s typically about 18% of the cost of a property. It runs between 15% and 20%.
There’s another category called land improvements, which are the sidewalks, parking lot, landscaping, retaining walls, fencing and all of the things that you would find outside of an apartment building. The IRS says, “Those are fifteen years. Those are subject to bonus depreciation also. They run about 7% or somewhere between 5% and 10% on average.” Typically, you’re going to get about 25% of the cost of a building in 5 and 7-year assets. With the IRS, you can take the entire amount of the depreciation in year one. On a $5 million building, you can expect to write off something like $1.25 million in 1st-year depreciation.
This is how the cashflow becomes tax-free. It’s this concept right here.
I can have $200,000 in net operating income. Less $1,250,000 in depreciation, I’ve got $1 million in tax loss. Even if I took that $250,000 and sent out checks to everybody in the form of shareholder distributions, people’s percentage of the profits, they’re still getting a K-1 with their share of that $1 million loss.
Can the deficit be rolled over into the next year?
For passive investors, with the loss allocated to them, they will not be able to deduct it, so they will get carried over to future years. In most syndications, the passive investors never pay income tax in the 1st year and typically don’t pay income tax for the first 3 or 4 years. If they end up paying taxes, it’s usually in the year the building is sold because then they’re going to be allocated capital gain. All of the dollars that they get back from that there’s going to be a capital gain portion but, in the meantime, all of their 1st-year depreciation benefits are going to wipe out any taxable income that gets allocated to them for the first 4 to 5 years of the investment.
I saw a recent report where it was comparing multifamily investing over the last couple of years to the S&P 500 and multifamily returns beat the S&P 500. With this strategy that we talked about with depreciation, are there other investments like the stock market that this can be utilized or is it strictly in real estate?
This is strictly a real estate concept. There are other businesses that you can use accelerated depreciation and bonus depreciation on but not stock investments or stuff. If you have a business, you’re able to write off your equipment that way but it wouldn’t be anything in the stock market.
Isn’t it fair to say that even the returns can even be higher because there are tax savings that get added on to the returns you receive from multifamily investing compared to the stock market? I feel like that is an area where there’s not a lot of focus. There are great tax savings that come with passive multifamily investments.
Definitely, what you have to look at too, and a couple of the other strategies that we didn’t talk about, is as a passive investor, you’re not allowed to deduct your passive losses from your syndication against your ordinary earned income. You are allowed to deduct it against any other rental income that you have. A lot of people who are getting around syndications start by having their portfolio.
They get to a point where the portfolio has matured and there is no more depreciation or there’s little depreciation left and the mortgage is paid down. That’s when properties typically start to throw off rental income that you can’t do anything about. Investing in syndication is a great way to wipe out active rental income. You can invest passively in syndications, actively in your portfolio and wipe out that net rental income. We do that with clients all the time.Investing in syndication is a great way to wipe out active rental income. Click To Tweet
The other thing that you can wipe out with passive losses is capital gains from the sale of investment real estate. We use investing in syndications as a way to offset capital gains. I was talking to somebody about this. They’re like, “I’m selling a property for a $1 million gain. What do I do?” Investing in syndications is one of the ways that you can make that capital gain disappear because you’re going to get allocated losses that are going to be able to be offset against that real estate capital gain.
That goes against the concept that the NOI is $200,000. The depreciation of the tax loss is $1.2 million, so you’ve got $1 million to play with and that $1 million get shared between the partners pari-passu relative to what their level of investment is. They can use that not only to make the distributions tax-free but also to use the remainder for other rent income that they have or a sale of a property. Would you say that, at times, you plan for a sale to align with the date of that passive investment? Is that something that you advise your clients?
Yes. That’s part of that year-round tax planning that we were talking about. If somebody comes to me on May 11th and says, “Ted, I’m selling this property. It’s going to have a $1 million gain. What am I going to do,” one of the first things I’m going to recommend is they either invest in syndication or go out and buy another property. If they didn’t tell me that and they hadn’t been taught by me to be proactive about this, they might come into my office like on April 10th, 2023 and say, “I sold the property in 2022. Can you help me save money on it?”
“No, I can’t. If you had told me about when you sold it, maybe I could have helped you.” That’s the whole thing. That’s the real value of being both proactive and strategic. We’re putting things like investing in syndication into play during the year. Years ago, I had some people that came up and said, “We need to get rid of $1 million worth of capital gains. How do we do this?” We were putting them into syndications. One of them closed on the 31st of the year.
Our next question is somewhat of a complex question. We might not have enough time to go and dissect it but let’s overall go over this idea, which is a 1031 exchange where you can defer your capital gains in a sale of a property down the road. Can 1031 exchanges be used in a syndication model? If so, some syndications have hundreds of investors and limited partners who have invested in them. Does this mean that every single limited partner has to agree to roll over their gains into a different project? Maybe give us a crash course on 1031 exchange as it relates to syndicated multifamily investments.
If you’re a syndicator operator and your model is, “I’m going to use the 1031 exchanges,” I would probably let people know in advance, as they’re coming into the initial investment, that this is an investment where we’re planning on doing 1031. You know that up front. It’s written into the agreement that the operator has the right to 1031 your funds. That would be the ideal way to do it.
If you don’t do that upfront and you get to a point where you’re going to do a 1031 exchange, you do have to go to your investors and say, “We’re selling this building and we’re going to do a 1031 exchange.” I guarantee you, there’s going to be some of them who are going to be like, “I’m out,” especially if they know they’re going to make money and looking to get their money out. In that scenario, they could in theory, prevent you from doing an exchange or in some cases, what I’ve seen is the operators will rebuy those people.
Let’s say you have 100 investors. You might buy out a couple to get them out. You can also drop them out of this syndication and into what’s called tenant-in-common ownership. Most people can’t do that with 50 or 60 partners, so that ends screwing things up to some extent. At least, there’s always the alternative.
We’re going to take the gains in this entity and then start a new entity, buy a new and larger building, maybe not through the 1031 exchange but use the bonus depreciation on the second building. It may not eliminate but dramatically offset any capital gain treatment on building one. It’s always probably an easier way to move the investors around and put them onto a new entity and buy a new building. Doing 1031 within syndication is tricky if you have a lot of probates.
Can any of the investors take a portion or all of their profits out and their original investment has to be rolled over into a new deal?
It all depends on how it’s written. If you’re doing an exchange, anything that gets taken out and given back to the investor is considered taboo so you would be doing a partial exchange and paying taxes on some of that. That happens a lot when people are in international deals. I’m involved with one where 3 of the 20 investors in the syndication are not US citizens and, in their country, there is no such thing as a 1031 exchange, so they’re going to end up paying the tax on the gain.
What are we doing? We’re creating a strategy where they’re not going to be part of the exchange. They’re going to get distributed out. It’s going to be a partial exchange and these three people are not going to participate in it. They’re going to get their proportionate share of the game and then pay the taxes on it because otherwise, they’d end up paying the taxes without having the money to pay the taxes.
Last question here before we move to the next segment of our show. Our firm CPI Capital is located here and in Canada. We’re looking to make a move to the US but we do partner with a lot of Canadian investors to acquire US multifamily assets. We’re much involved in this space and we hear a lot of stories where Canadian investors are either approached or connected with US syndicators, at which time, they’re told to create a US entity and invest in our investment. Most of these syndicated deals are structured in an LLC, which is not tax-efficient for Canadian investors.
When you are in talks or advising your clients and they bring it up to you that they’re looking to bring on Canadian investors to the deals, what advice do you give them? Is it worth the headache of dealing with Canadian investors overall? What is the first thing that comes to your mind when somebody says, “I want to serve as Canadian investors,” other than saying, “Go and deal with CPI Capital?”
There’s a way to do everything. What I would say to somebody like that is you need to find somebody who’s a specialist in doing that. The passive investors need to have both a good Canadian chartered accountant and a good US CPA that are going to work together. The syndicator has to have good attorneys and a good international advisor CPA, who knows the rules, who can advise you on how to write the agreements and all of this stuff. The devil is in the details.
Ted, we appreciate all the advice you give. We can sit here all day and keep picking your brain but we’re in the second segment of our show, Ten Championship Rounds to Financial Freedom.
It’s whatever comes to mind when I ask the questions. Here’s the first question, Ted. Who was the most influential person in your life?
From a business standpoint, I was fortunate to have a good mentor. He’s the person who ran the large regional firm that I started with. He was a guy who had about a $10 million tax practice. His name is Jerry. I remember asking him, “How did you build this gigantic practice?” He told me, “Everything I do, I do with a client. If I want to play golf, I will play golf with a client. If I go to dinner, I go to dinner with a client. If I want to go to a ballgame, I go to a ball game with a client.” When he couldn’t afford it, he moved into a high-net-worth country club community in South Florida so he could be around the high-net-worth people who live there. If you’re raising capital, there’s a real lesson in that. You got to go where the people with money are.If you're raising capital, you have to go where the people with money are. Click To Tweet
Ted, what is the number one book you’d recommend?
I started with Rich Dad Poor Dad. That one launched a lot of careers. I love that one. If you’re starting in real estate, you’ve got to read that one. The one that I love the most that I’m reading is called High Performance Habits. It’s a book by Brendon Burchard. It talks about putting in place certain habits in your life that allow you to perform at a higher level.
Next question. If you had the opportunity to travel back in time, what advice would you give your younger self?
Buy more real estate. I was fortunate to do very well in my real estate investing career. I would be retired and living on the beach in the South of France if I had bought everything I wanted to buy at the time. Buy more real estate at the right time.
Ted, what’s the best investment you’ve ever made?
It was a redevelopment project that we did. It was taking a building and turning it into apartments. It was almost a mill and we turned it into apartments, so it was part of the big development team that did that. It was a lot of fun. It was a real learning experience and we did pretty well on it.
What’s the worst investment you’ve ever made? What lessons did you learn from it?
I remember when I first started buying single-family houses. I was self-employed during this time. As a self-employed guy, I used to go around collecting the rents. I used to be the guy when the contractors needed paint, they’d call me and I’d run to Home Depot. I was their go-to and that was one of the big mistakes that I made.
I can remember when my partner and I went to the door of the single-family house and the guy said, “I’m a little short this month. Can I owe you the $200 in rent?” As no was about to come out of my mouth, “Sure. No problem,” came out of my buddy’s mouth as I kicked him. The next month he was $500 short. The next month, he didn’t pay the rent and after that, we evicted him. It wasn’t the worst investment I’ve ever made.
We ended up selling that property. We put up another tenant and sold it to make money but it was a valuable lesson. Probably the worst actual investment I’ve ever made was in the stock market and buying stuff based on not having an adequate amount of knowledge and then getting my butt handed to me in the form of losses.
This will be interesting to hear from a CPA. How much would you need in the bank to retire? What’s your number?
$20 million. A burger in Saint-Tropez is about $60.
If you could have dinner with someone dead or alive, who would it be?
I’m a music guy. I would have loved to have had dinner with John Lennon.
Ted, if you weren’t doing what you’re doing, what would you be doing?
There’s a part of me that wished that a long time ago, I stopped being a CPA and continued to be a real estate investor but I’m trying to learn how to play the keyboard. If I wasn’t doing this, I would have wanted to be a rock star.
Book smarts or street smarts?
A mentor of mine one time told me that he would take a guy who sold documents door to door over somebody with an MBA, so I would say street smarts.
Last question, Ted. If you had $1 million in cash and you had to make 1 investment now, what would it be?
It’s an important question. The way it’s laid out is $1 million in cash, less liquid. You can only make one investment and you have to do it now. Meaning, pretty quick here. The markets are closing here soon.
It would be in real estate. Assuming the opportunity to invest with somebody that I liked, trusted and thought had a good record of doing this, it would be a no-brainer at that point.
Let people know, what’s the best way that they can reach you?
The best way to reach me is to email me at Ted@LandmarkCPAGroup.com. I will always get back to somebody who emails me. During the day, I don’t answer the phone because I like to concentrate on what I’m working on, so email is probably the best way.
Ted, thank you so much for bringing such great value to our readers and us. We share this with everybody. We appreciate having you here.
Thank you. It was a pleasure.