NEW YORK CITY-Wide variations have been found in the classification for financial reporting purposes of internal operating costs by US real estate investment trusts, according to a new survey conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers, based here. Those costs include salaries, office rent and depreciation, equipment rentals, communications, travel and entertainment and professional services.

Classifications appear to be influenced by factors such as property type, the size of the development pipeline and the volume of operating activity carried out through unconsolidated subsidiaries. In addition, variations were found in the accounting of certain property expenditures, including parking lot work, roof work, deck work, painting and landscaping.

Regarding the amount of leverage employed by REITs, the survey also notes that nearly a third of the respondents reported, as a percentage of gross book value, a target ratio of more than 50%. Sixty-four percent reported a target ratio ranging from 30% to 50%, while just 4% came in with less than 30%. Mall companies came in with the highest debt ratios (50% to 60%), which are attributed to their long-term lease structures and anchor tenants. Target debt ratios also appear to be determined by the need to protect bond ratings, the level of investment opportunities and the availability or equity capital.

More than 80% of the survey respondents are planning on setting up a new taxable REIT subsidiary in accordance with the REIT Modernization Act that becomes effective next year. That legislation allows a REIT to own a taxable REIT subsidiary that can provide services to tenants without disqualifying the income received by the trust from tenants. In the past, the kinds of services REITs could provide to tenants were restricted.

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