The IRS has released new rules and conditions for implementing the real estate developer alternative cost method. This is an optional safe harbor method of accounting for real estate developers to determine when common improvement costs may be included in the basis of individual units of real property in a real property development project held for sale to determine the gain or loss from sales of those units.
Under Code Sec. 461, developers cannot add common improvement costs to the basis of benefitted units until the costs are incurred under the Code Sec. 461(h) economic performance requirements. Thus, common improvement costs that have not been incurred under Code Sec. 461(h) when the units are sold cannot be included in the units’ basis in determining the gain or loss resulting from the sales. Rev. Proc. 92-29, provided procedures under which the IRS would consent to developers including the estimated cost of common improvements in the basis of units sold without meeting the economic performance requirements of Code Sec. 461(h). In order to use the alternative cost method, the taxpayer had to meet certain conditions, provide an estimated completion date, and file an annual statement.
Rev. Proc. 2023-9 Alterative Cost Method
In releasing Rev. Proc. 2023-9, the IRS and Treasury stated that they recognized certain aspects of Rev. Proc. 92-29 are outdated, place additional administrative burdens on developers and the IRS, and that application of the method to contracts accounted for under the long-term contract method of Code Sec. 460 may be unclear.
The alternative cost method must be applied to all projects in a trade or business that meet the definition of a qualifying project. However, the alternative cost limitation of this revenue procedure is calculated on a project-by-project basis. Thus, common improvement costs incurred for one qualifying project may not be included in the alternative cost method calculations of a separate qualifying project.
The revenue procedure provides definitions including definitions of “qualifying project,”“reasonable method,” and “CCM contract” (related to the completed contract method). It provides rules for application of the alternative cost method for developers using the accrual method of accounting and the completed contract method of accounting, rules for allocating estimated common improvement costs, and a method for determining the alternative costs limitation. The revenue procedure also provides examples of how its rules are applied.
Accounting Method Change Required
Under Rev. Proc. 2023-9, the alternative cost method is a method of accounting. A change to this alternative cost method is a change in method of accounting to which Code Secs. 446(e) and 481 apply. An eligible taxpayer that wants to change to the Rev. Proc. 2023-9 alternative cost method or that wants to change from the Rev. Proc. 92-29 alternative cost method, must use the automatic change procedures in Rev. Proc. 2015-13 or its successor. In certain cases, taxpayers may use short Form 3115 in lieu of the standard Form 3115 to make the change.
This revenue procedure is effective for tax years beginning after December 31, 2022.