Tax Considerations for Commercial Real Estate Investors in Los Angeles

Tax Considerations for Commercial Real Estate Investors in Los Angeles

Investing in commercial real estate in Los Angeles can be highly lucrative, but it also comes with a complex array of tax considerations. Navigating these tax implications effectively is crucial for maximizing returns and ensuring compliance with federal, state, and local regulations. This comprehensive guide delves into the key tax considerations for commercial real estate investors in Los Angeles, offering insights and strategies to optimize your investment.

Property Taxes in Los Angeles

Property tax is one of the primary tax obligations for commercial real estate investors in Los Angeles. California's property tax system is governed by Proposition 13, which caps the annual increase in assessed value at 2% unless the property is sold or underwent significant improvements. This means that long-term property owners often benefit from relatively stable property tax bills, while new purchasers might face higher assessments based on the property's market value at the time of purchase.

To effectively manage property taxes:

  1. Regularly Review Assessments: Ensure the property assessment accurately reflects the market value. If you believe the assessment is too high, consider filing an appeal with the Los Angeles County Assessor’s Office.

  2. Plan for Reassessments: When purchasing a new property or making substantial improvements, anticipate potential increases in property taxes and factor them into your financial planning.

Federal Income Taxes and Deductions

Federal income taxes are a significant consideration for commercial real estate investors. Several key deductions and credits can help reduce taxable income:

  1. Depreciation: The IRS allows investors to depreciate the value of commercial properties over 39 years, which can significantly reduce taxable income. Accurately calculate the depreciation expense to ensure you are taking full advantage of this deduction.

  2. Interest Expenses: Interest paid on loans used to purchase or improve commercial properties is generally tax-deductible. Keep meticulous records of interest payments to maximize this deduction.

  3. Operating Expenses: Ordinary and necessary expenses related to managing and maintaining the property, such as repairs, utilities, and property management fees, are deductible. Maintain detailed records of all expenses to support your deductions.

  4. Section 179 and Bonus Depreciation: For certain types of property, such as equipment and improvements, investors can take advantage of Section 179 expensing and bonus depreciation. These allow for immediate deduction of the cost of these assets rather than spreading the deduction over several years.

State and Local Taxes

In addition to federal taxes, investors must consider California state taxes and local Los Angeles taxes:

California Franchise Tax: Businesses operating in California, including LLCs and corporations, are subject to the California Franchise Tax. Ensure your business entity complies with state tax filing requirements and pays the appropriate franchise tax.

Local Business Taxes: Depending on the nature of your investment and business structure, you may be subject to local business taxes in Los Angeles. Verify with the City of Los Angeles Office of Finance to determine your tax obligations.

Capital Gains Taxes

When selling a commercial property, investors must contend with capital gains taxes. The tax rate on capital gains depends on the holding period of the property:

  1. Short-Term Capital Gains: Properties held for less than one year are subject to short-term capital gains tax, which is taxed at ordinary income tax rates.

  2. Long-Term Capital Gains: Properties held for more than one year qualify for long-term capital gains tax, typically with a lower tax rate (0%, 15%, or 20%, depending on your income level).
To mitigate capital gains taxes, consider the following strategies:

  1. 1031 Exchanges: A 1031 exchange allows investors to defer capital gains taxes by reinvesting the proceeds from the sale of one property into a similar “like-kind” property. This strategy can be highly effective for growing your portfolio without immediate tax liability.

  2. Opportunity Zones: Investing in Qualified Opportunity Zones (QOZs) can provide significant tax benefits, including deferral of capital gains and potential elimination of gains on new investments held for a certain period.

Estate Planning and Taxes

For long-term investors, estate planning is a critical component of managing commercial real estate assets. Proper estate planning can help minimize estate taxes and ensure a smooth transition of assets to heirs:

  1. Gifting and Trusts: To reduce the taxable estate, consider transferring ownership of commercial properties to heirs through gifting or trusts. Consult with an estate planning attorney to explore the best strategies for your situation.

  2. Step-Up in Basis: Upon the property owner's death, heirs receive a step-up in basis, which adjusts the property's value to its fair market value at the time of inheritance. This can significantly reduce capital gains taxes if the property is later sold.

Tax Credits and Incentives

Several federal, state, and local tax credits and incentives can benefit commercial real estate investors:

  1. Historic Preservation Tax Credits: If you invest in historic properties, you may qualify for federal and state historic preservation tax credits, which can offset a portion of the costs of rehabilitating historic buildings.

  2. Energy Efficiency Incentives: Federal and state programs offer tax credits and deductions for energy-efficient improvements to commercial properties. These incentives can reduce the cost of upgrades and improve the property's long-term value.

  3. New Markets Tax Credit (NMTC): The NMTC program encourages investment in low-income communities by providing tax credits for equity investments in qualified community development entities.

Working with Tax Professionals

Given the complexity of tax considerations in commercial real estate, working with experienced tax professionals is essential. A knowledgeable accountant or tax advisor can help you navigate the intricacies of tax laws, identify opportunities for savings, and ensure compliance with all regulatory requirements.


Investing in commercial real estate in Los Angeles offers numerous opportunities but also involves significant tax considerations. By understanding and strategically managing these tax implications, investors can maximize their returns and ensure long-term success. Being proactive and informed about tax matters is crucial from property taxes and federal deductions to capital gains strategies and estate planning.

Partnering with an experienced real estate team, like The Davis Saadian Group, can provide valuable insights and guidance to help you navigate the complexities of commercial real estate investment in Los Angeles. Visit The Davis Saadian Group to learn more about how we can support your investment journey and optimize your real estate portfolio. Contact us today to schedule a consultation and take the next step toward achieving your real estate goals.

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