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Blog post featured image on A Guide to 1031 Exchange legal considerations by Point Acquisitions, featuring high-rise commercial real estate buildings.

1031 Exchange Legal Considerations: A Must-Read Guide

You’re in the right place if you’re considering a 1031 exchange for your commercial real estate investments. Whether you’re a seasoned investor or just dipping your toes into the market, understanding the legal landscape of 1031 exchanges is key to success in this trillion-dollar industry.

We will explore the important 1031 exchange legal considerations every investor must know before starting this lucrative journey. From compliance requirements to potential pitfalls, we’ll give you the knowledge you need to make informed decisions and maximize your returns. 

Key Takeaways of 1031 Exchange Legal Considerations

  • A 1031 exchange allows real estate investors to defer capital gains tax by exchanging like-kind properties within the U.S., adhering to specific IRS rules, including time constraints such as the 45-day identification and 180-day closing periods.
  • Investors face several legal risks and complexities in a 1031 exchange, such as correctly classifying the property, adhering to strict timing rules, avoiding impermissible related party transactions, and ensuring the intent to use the property for business or investment is clear.
  • Working with a Qualified Intermediary is essential for a compliant 1031 exchange. Proper legal documentation, such as IRS Form 8824, and engaging legal and tax professionals are also important to understand the particular requirements and potential scenarios within a 1031 exchange.

Understanding the Legal Framework of 1031 Exchanges

A 1031 exchange is an effective tool that allows real estate investors to swap one investment property for another while deferring capital gains tax. Following the strict rules set out in the Internal Revenue Code Section 1031 is necessary. The exchange must involve ‘like-kind’ properties, and investors must observe the 45-day identification period and the 180-day closing deadline to benefit from it.

As an investor, you cannot simply exchange a property in the U.S. for one in a foreign country. The investment properties must be located within the United States. However, you may exchange one property for multiple properties as long as you stay within the stipulated time and identification constraints.

Consider an individual who sold their $3 million property with a $2 million profit. They successfully navigated legal frameworks and amplified their investment growth by adhering to the rules of a 1031 exchange.

Legal Provisions

The 1031 exchange rules stipulate that properties must be used for business or investment. However, they don’t necessarily have to be similar in service or related use. The IRS defines ‘like-kind’ property as property of the same nature, character, or class, where the quality or grade doesn’t affect eligibility. 

So, if you’re looking to conduct a 1031 exchange, the property must be held for investment or used in a trade or business, and the commercial property should be of equal or greater value. If the property is improved, it must be rented out.

IRS Regulations

Aside from the requirement to exchange like-kind properties, the IRS imposes strict rules regarding property classification. For example, real property primarily held for sale does not qualify for a 1031 exchange.

The Internal Revenue Code prohibits Qualified Intermediaries from accessing the exchange funds or net equity from the property sale. These regulations guarantee the integrity of the 1031 exchange process and prevent its abuse or misuse.

It’s important to understand these regulations to defer capital gains tax and avoid potential tax obligations. For instance, attempting to extract cash through refinancing before an exchange is prohibited and will hinder the exchange process. Failure to adhere to IRS exchange rules leads to capital gains liability.

Identifying Potential Legal Risks in 1031 Exchanges

Potential legal risks can make even the most savvy real estate investors stumble. One such risk is not clearly showing the intent to use the property for business or investment. Maintaining proper timing, including the potential to convert a taxable sale into a 1031 exchange shortly before closing, is also key.

For instance, if you’re considering a vacation home for a 1031 exchange, it should have active tenants for at least 6 to 12 months. To fully defer taxes, it is necessary to carry forward all equity from the relinquished property to the replacement property. This makes sure that taxes are deferred effectively. A misstep in any of these areas may result in tax liability and negate the benefits of the 1031 exchange.

Incorrect Property Classification

Incorrect property classification is one of the common pitfalls in a 1031 exchange. Since the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, Section 1031 now applies only to exchanges of real property. Real property, as defined by the IRS, includes:

  • Vacant land
  • Improvements
  • Unsevered natural products of the land
  • The airspace above the land

Personal or intangible property no longer qualifies for a 1031 exchange.

However, some tangible and intangible assets may be considered real property for 1031 exchange purposes if they meet the respective classification criteria under state or local law, IRS-specific listing, or have an inherent relationship to real property. It’s important to note that assets such as:

  • Stocks
  • Bonds
  • Notes
  • Partnership interests
  • Certificates of trust

These are not classified as real property for 1031 exchanges, irrespective of their classification under state or local laws.

See our post on 1031 exchange identification rules for more information.

Violating Time Constraints

Time is of the essence in a 1031 exchange. The IRS mandates that replacement property be identified within 45 days and received within 180 days or by the tax return due date, whichever is earlier. If you fail to follow these time constraints, the exchange is disqualified, and you’ll be liable for capital gains taxes.

The IRS is usually strict about these 1031 exchange timeline rules and doesn’t allow extensions, except in the case of a federally declared disaster. Hence, with these time constraints in mind, careful planning of your exchange process is important for a successful and compliant 1031 exchange.

Related Party Transactions

Related party transactions are another potential concern for  a 1031 exchange. The taxpayer and the related party must hold the exchanged property for at least two years after the transaction to prevent non-recognition of gain abuse. 

The IRS closely observes these transactions, as they could be structured to evade taxes or manipulate tax basis. If the parties do not comply with regulations, the penalties can be severe.

However, the IRS does provide some exceptions that allow for tax deferral in related party transactions, including: 

  • subsequent exchanges by the related party
  • transfers due to death
  • situations where tax avoidance is not the primary purpose

If you’re considering a related party transaction, it is advisable to consult with a legal or tax professional to encourage compliance.

What does a Qualified Intermediary do in a 1031 exchange?

A Qualified Intermediary facilitates the 1031 exchange by holding funds, ensuring tax rules are followed, and handling the acquisition and transfer of properties.

The role of a Qualified Intermediary (QI) is big in a 1031 exchange. They help the exchange process happen and hold funds on behalf of the investor, guaranteeing that all necessary rules are followed to qualify for tax deferral. A QI must perform certain duties, which include:

  • Acquiring the relinquished property
  • Transferring the relinquished property
  • Acquiring the replacement property
  • Transferring the replacement property back to the taxpayer

The QI must perform all of these duties and cannot be the taxpayer or a disqualified person.

Working with a Qualified Intermediary (QI) ensures that your 1031 exchange is treated as a like-kind exchange and provides guidance throughout the exchange process. Nonetheless, having a written agreement with the QI before the exchange is necessary for meeting timing requirements.

How to Select a Reputable QI

Choosing the right Qualified Intermediary (QI) is important for a successful 1031 exchange. Look for a QI with:

  • Relevant experience in the type of exchange you’re pursuing (e.g., delayed or reverse exchanges).
  • A strong reputation in the market.
  • Membership in industry trade groups like the Federation of Exchange Accommodators.
  • Sufficient financial resources to manage and safeguard funds.

When assessing a potential QI, inquire about:

  • Their expertise in your specific type of exchange.
  • Security measures for protecting exchange proceeds.
  • Accessibility to the QI.
  • Service fees.
  • Handling of interest on escrowed funds.

QI Responsibilities and Limitations

A QI plays several roles in a 1031 exchange. They are responsible for:

  • Preparing the documentation that supports an investor’s intent to participate in a 1031 exchange
  • Executing the exchange agreement, making sure it allows for the requisite assignment to the QI as the seller of the relinquished property and as the buyer of the replacement property
  • Overseeing all closing transactions

In addition to helping with transaction details, QIs offer guidance throughout the exchange process while maintaining necessary independence from the taxpayer to comply with exchange regulations. They also create a qualified escrow account for securely holding the exchange proceeds, designed to preserve principal and liquidity until the exchange is completed.

Complex Exchange Scenarios

While standard delayed 1031 exchanges are common, investors might encounter other, more complex scenarios. These include Opportunity Zone investments within 1031 exchanges, which offer tax benefits and encourage economic revitalization in distressed communities.

There are reverse exchanges, where replacement property is purchased before the existing property is sold, and construction or improvement exchanges, where exchange funds are used to construct or improve replacement property.

Each of these scenarios, including delayed exchange, comes with its own rules and complexities, which we will discuss in the following sections, including how to identify replacement property.

Reverse Exchanges

A reverse 1031 exchange occurs when a taxpayer buys a replacement property before selling the existing one . In this scenario, the new property must be transferred to an exchange accommodation titleholder, as the replacement property needs to be located before the old property is sold. 

An Exchange Accommodation Titleholder (EAT) holds the title to the replacement property and allows improvements to be made during the exchange period. The investor authorizes and submits improvement invoices to the EAT, which controls the funds and pays the invoices. After 180 days, the improved property’s title is returned to the investor.

A 1031 reverse exchange is particularly useful when an investor locates an ideal replacement property before selling their existing property. However, it requires careful planning and execution to ensure compliance with the rules of a 1031 exchange.

Construction or Improvement Exchanges

1031 Construction or Improvement exchanges allow investors to use equity to construct or improve replacement property. The 1031 exchange process has two key phases. The relinquishment phase, where the original property is sold, is followed by the acquisition phase, where the replacement property is bought and improvements are made.

See our post on 1031 improvement exchange rules for more information.

Vacation Homes and Primary Residences

A common question among real estate investors is whether or not vacation homes and primary residences qualify for a 1031 exchange. The answer lies in the property’s use. To qualify a 1031 exchange property for conversion into a primary residence, the safe harbor rules state that the property must be held for at least 24 months. Personal use must not exceed 14 days or 10% of the days rented during each of the 12-month periods within those 24 months. 

Demonstrating the initial intent to use the property for investment or business purposes is also key when converting it to a primary residence. For conversion of a 1031 exchange property into a primary residence, the IRS guidelines require the property to be rented out at fair market value for at least 14 days during one of the two years following the exchange and retained for at least five years before selling under the Universal Exclusion to benefit from tax exemptions on gains.

For a full list, see our post about what qualifies for 1031 exchange.

Legal Documentation and Reporting Requirements

An important part of a successful 1031 exchange is proper legal documentation and reporting. One important form for reporting like-kind exchanges is IRS Form 8824. This form requires details such as:

  • Descriptions of exchanged properties
  • Identification and transfer dates
  • Relationships with other parties
  • Financial details of the exchange

When multiple assets are exchanged in different groups of like-kind properties, a separate statement for each group should be included with Form 8824. Not properly completing and submitting the IRS Form 8824 can lead to significant tax bills and penalties.

Exchange Agreement

The exchange agreement is a key document in a 1031 exchange. It must include a 1031 exchange cooperation clause to properly document the intent to conduct an exchange and the role of the Qualified Intermediary.

The cooperation clause requests the other party’s collaboration in the exchange and protects them from: 

  • Claims
  • Cost
  • Liabilities
  • Delays related to the exchange

Making sure that the exchange agreement is properly executed is key to the validity of a 1031 exchange transaction.

IRS Form 8824

IRS Form 8824, Like-Kind Exchanges, is the form used to report each like-kind exchange involving business or investment real property and calculate the amount of gain deferred from the transaction. The instructions for Form 8824 include guidance on how to complete the form for different cases, such as property partly used for home and partly for business or investment purposes.

Additional information is required when reporting a 1031 exchange involving related parties on the IRS Form 8824, including identification details and the related party’s relationship. Proper completion and submission of this form are necessary for the success of a 1031 exchange and compliance with IRS regulations.

Consultation with Legal and Tax Professionals

Consulting with legal and tax professionals is key to demonstrating the intent to hold property for investment purposes, a requirement for qualifying for a 1031 exchange. These professionals help1031 exchange investors in the following:

  • Guaranteeing they have the proper documentation to substantiate their investment intent
  • Understanding the specific rules and regulations surrounding 1031 exchanges
  • Navigating any potential IRS scrutiny

Legal and tax advisors are important for understanding the complexities of related party transactions within 1031 exchanges and guaranteeing compliance with IRS regulations. Without proper guidance, investors may incur substantial tax liabilities and encounter potential legal complications.

Choosing the Right Advisors

Choosing the right advisors for your 1031 exchange is an important decision. Working with a well-respected and established 1031 exchange advisor is recommended for their profound understanding of the tax code and experience across various market cycles. A 1031 exchange advisor should be licensed through FINRA to make sure they operate fairly and ethically within the broker-dealer industry.

When selecting an advisor, they should:

  • Conduct personalized meetings to understand your situation and goals
  • Provide education on the exchange process, timings, and rules without rushing you into decisions
  • Develop a strategic, adaptable 1031 transition plan
  • Offer unbiased recommendations among all eligible exchange options based on your financial and lifestyle objectives.

Coordinating with Your Team

1031 exchange investors must coordinate with a team of advisors, including a knowledgeable, qualified intermediary and tax/legal advisors, to review their situation and guarantee compliance. Qualified intermediaries collaborate closely with the taxpayer’s attorney, CPA, or other tax advisors to increase understanding and compliance with exchange rules.

Additionally, taxpayers must file for an extension of their tax return if a 1031 exchange initiated near year-end is not completed by the due date to preserve the full 180-day exchange period.

Are you considering a 1031 exchange? Start your exchange process with ease by selling your commercial real estate to Point Acquisitions. Our team guarantees a quick and fair sale, allowing you to transition smoothly into your like-kind exchange. Contact us to learn more and kickstart your exchange venture today!


A 1031 exchange is a great resource for real estate investors looking to defer capital gains tax and reinvest their profits. However, a 1031 exchange comes with complex regulations, potential risks, and specific documentation requirements. 

By understanding these elements, working with a knowledgeable team of professionals, and carefully planning your exchange, you will successfully navigate the 1031 exchange process and maximize your investment growth.

What is the two-year rule for 1031 exchanges?

The two-year rule for 1031 exchanges states that the replacement property must be held for at least two years following the exchange to qualify for non-recognition treatment of the gain. This 1031 exchange two year rule is important for investors who defer capital gains taxes on selling investment property.

What are the IRS rules for a 1031 exchange?

For a 1031 exchange, follow these rules: the replacement property should be of equal or greater value, identified within 45 days, and purchased within 180 days.

What would disqualify a property from being used in a 1031 exchange?

A property can be disqualified from a 1031 exchange if it is not used for business or investment purposes, if the exchange is not completed within the specified 1031 timeline, or if it does not meet IRS regulations.

What invalidates a 1031 exchange?

Missing the 180-day deadline for acquiring replacement properties or having the relinquished property classified as personal use or held solely for resale will invalidate a 1031 exchange. These factors might cause concern for investors considering a 1031 exchange.

What is a 1031 exchange?

A 1031 exchange is a method of swapping investment properties to defer taxes on the investment’s growth, following specific rules in the Internal Revenue Code Section 1031.

About The Author

Jesse Shemesh

With a wealth of experience in nurturing diverse commercial real estate investment portfolios across multiple markets, I actively engage in the development and execution of deals spanning all asset classes. My expertise lies in collaborating with strategic partners, including corporate real estate professionals, fund managers, developers, and investors, to source, identify, and entitle opportunities. At Point Acquisitions, we take pride in our unique, proprietary platform that specializes in property acquisitions, generating a steady stream of organic deal flow that sets us apart from the competition. As a seasoned professional in the real estate industry, I am dedicated to creating lasting partnerships and delivering exceptional results for all stakeholders.


Please note that Point Acquisitions is not a tax expert or tax advisor. The information on our blogs and pages is for general informational purposes only and should not be relied upon as legal, tax, or accounting advice. Any information provided does not constitute professional advice or create an attorney-client or any other professional relationship. We recommend that you consult with your tax advisor or seek professional advice before making any decisions based on the information provided on our blogs and pages. Point Acquisitions is not responsible for any actions taken based on the information provided on our blogs and pages.

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