In the past decade, businesses, particularly restaurant chains have been utilizing real estate sale-leasebacks as a financing tool. The sale-leaseback typically involves an above market purchase price followed by an above market lease; providing current cash to the seller/lessee and an income stream for the buyer/lessor. Federal tax law encourages this system with favorable tax treatment.
However, this system tends to clash with Ohio’s property valuation scheme mandating that an arm’s-length purchase price was the “market value” for property tax purposes. Thus, much of the federal tax benefit of the sale-leaseback was eaten up by the increased property taxes.
Two recent changes to Ohio law recognize the nature of sale-leasebacks; allowing businesses the carrot of the federal tax advantages without the stick associated with Ohio’s prior tax law.
First, the auditor is now required to determine the value of real property “as if unencumbered,” meaning that the value of the leaseback portion of the sale-leaseback is to be disregarded in determining the value of the real estate (i.e., to the extent the price paid is elevated by consideration of the income stream).
Second, purchase price is no longer dispositive of market value, underscoring the necessity of recognizing the hybrid nature of the sale-leaseback and allowing a proper allocation between the financing tool and the real estate purchase.
Finney Law Firm’s property valuation team is versed in these changes, assisting our clients achieve fair values for properties before local Boards of Revision.