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Michelle Napoli is editor of TIC Monthly, from which this article is excerpted.

Las Vegas— Political outreach on Capitol Hill is a key focus for the Tenant-in-Common Association, a fact made clear at the association’s annual conference in Las Vegas last month. Being proactive in Washington, DC–where TICA’s next symposium will be held in March–is what the association is aiming to do to avoid another threat to the industry like the one it saw this past spring in the Senate Finance Committee. Professional lobbying representation and advice, a new TICA Political Action Committee, grassroots lobbying efforts and a tax code legislative proposal of its own are the chief avenues it plans to pursue.

Advised by its counsel and its advocacy firm, the Washington Council of Ernst & Young, TICA’s board has devised a proposed legislative change in tax reporting requirements for TICs. The thinking behind proposing such a legislative change, according to a TICA alert sent to association members about a week after the conference, is “to respond to concerns that have been articulated as possible rationales for limiting the application of section 1031 to TIC arrangements and the general concern of legislators and tax administrators that there is a tax gap representing the excess of taxes legitimately owed over the amount of taxes which are being paid by taxpayers.”

TIC owners currently self-report any rental income and expense on Form 1040. “Concerns that TIC owners may not be appropriately reporting income and expense associated with a co-owned TIC investment property could be addressed by requiring an information return to be furnished to TIC co-owners and filed with IRS,” the TICA member alert states.

The proposed addition to the Internal Revenue Code would require managers of rental real property owned by more than one person as tenants-in-common and that is paid more than $600 by those TICs for its management activities to provide a return. That return would include such information as the co-owners’ names, addresses and tax identification numbers, the gross amount of rent paid to each of the co-owners and any other amounts paid to or set aside for the co-owners, such as reserves from rental income, for example.

Feedback on the proposal was sought from TICA members. Now it is up to the TICA board to finalize the proposal and present it to the appropriate parties in Congress. Richard L. Lipton of Baker & McKenzie LLP and TICA’s general counsel, told the audience attending the conference’s Washington update panel that “it’s in all of our best interests” to put the proposal “as a stake in the ground. Congress likes it when an industry comes in and says, ‘we want to work with you’.”

Lipton and other panelists gave the audience a timeline of how things evolved on Capitol Hill, from seemingly normal inquiries to a sudden revenue raiser threat in the budget reconciliation process to TICA’s responses since. In July, TICA representatives met with various parties in Washington, DC, including key Senate staffers and representatives of the Senate Finance Committee, the Joint Committee on Taxation and the House Ways and Means Committee. One key staffer had a list of specific questions and areas she wanted to ask about, recalled Nick Giordano of the Washington Council Ernst & Young. One of them had to do with marketing and how investors are treated and, noted Giordano, there was an impression of “boiler room operations.”

Work on the proposed legislative change began in May. In addition to potentially helping address the “tax gap,” said Giordano, it provides transparency and shows the industry is doing the right things.

Modeled after 1099 reporting, the draft seemed agreeable to the National Association of Realtors‘ Linda Goold, who said “it keeps the focus in the right place.” Goold, who noted she would recommend NAR support TICA’s proposal, provided critical assistance in stemming the revenue raiser threat this past spring, thanks to a letter she wrote on behalf of NAR, said Tim Snodgrass of Argus Realty Investors LP and TICA’s outgoing president.

Goold told the audience that her association wants to “be sure that no one messes around with 1031.” Goold continued, “If anything had happened at that date related to TICs or related to 1031, it could not be changed. I was just in orbit. I was just enraged that at that point in the process something being examined and explored would suddenly be included as a revenue raiser. I felt with a lot of passion that they simply could not do that.”

TICA president-elect Patricia DelRosso of Inland Real Estate Exchange Corp., noted that TICA is focused on building alliances with other real estate organizations like NAR and the Real Estate Roundtable when she introduced the Roundtable’s Stephen M. Renna. “There is scrutiny of the TIC industry going on in Congress right now,” Renna warned the audience.

In addition to drafting proposed legislation and hiring professional advisers like Giordano, TICA is also pursuing grassroots lobbying efforts among its members and has engaged Doug Campbell of WDC Strategies to help. A few fundraisers organized by TICA members have already taken place–Jeff Young of First Financial Equity Corp. organized an event for Sen. Jon Kyl of Arizona, Gary Beynon and Greg Paul of Omni Brokerage Inc. organized one for Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, and, most recently, Tom Berthel of Berthel Fisher & Co. hosted a fundraiser for Sen. Chuck Grassley.

During the conference’s Grassroots Lobbying 101 panel, Campbell urged the audience to hold such fundraisers for members of Congress in their states and districts as a means of making friends on Capitol Hill and delivering TICA message points from a local perspective and with local examples. Campbell advised audience members when approaching their representatives to be even tempered and deferential, don’t talk shop talk, be concise and stick to TICA message points, among other pointers. He encouraged members who want to get involved to get seek tools and support from him and TICA.

He stressed, “This is a life or death issue for you. If you like this space, you have to assume the costs of doing business in this space. You don’t have numbers, but you have money.”

An audience member observed, “I think the unfortunate perception among the majority of attendees is that either it’s not important or there’s nothing we can do about it. You could set off a grenade in this room and probably not hurt anyone.” In fact, the Grassroots Lobbying 101 panel was poorly attended, with maybe 60 of the conference’s 1,150 people attending. “I’m very sad to see so few people,” incoming TICA president DelRosso lamented from the audience. “This is terribly important.”

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