Category Archives: Governmental

Governmental agency policy changes or discussions. City, county, state, federal, or judicial. Related to industrial operations or land use.

The Interest Deduction: Origin, Who It Benefits, and Fiscal Impact

The below paragraphs are excerpted from “Economic Trends in California Real Estate: Realty Almanac 2018-2020“. It describes the mortgage interest deduction origin, whether buyer or seller reaps the benefit, and the fiscal impact upon the national treasury. After reading it you may come to agree with my view that this deduction should be phased out and the $70 billion in lost tax revenue could then be applied towards balancing the budget. 

Interest deductions took root in the late 19th century. The first federal income tax was established in 1894 and all forms of interest were deductible. However, homeownership was not what motivated Congress to enact such a policy. An interest deduction was viewed primarily as a business situation. Most people at that time in history paid cash for their homes (as is the case today in countries with less sophisticated financial systems). Mortgages were generally only taken out by farmers or investors.

Not until the 1950s did the home mortgage gain anything close to its current significance. Since then, the home mortgage has become the common concern of the housing industry. Without a mortgage, most tenants wait until they accumulate savings equal to the price. The tax deductions and exclusions are now considered entitlements for those homebuyers who need to borrow and for those homeowners who sell.

The true tax benefits to the taxpayer of interest rate deductions for buying and owning a home were lost long ago. They were arbitraged away by increased home pricing and interest rates. Thus, the benefits are passed on to the seller (increased price) and the lender (interest and charges on increased principal). The howl today by industry insiders is that prices will drop if the deductions go away: exactly the evidence that subsidies go to the seller and the lender, not the buyer/owner.

The interest deduction loophole costs the Department of Treasury over $70 billion in lost tax revenue annually, to the benefit of sellers and lenders received indirectly via the buyer. However, the majority of debt- encumbered homeowners don’t see much for it, except for the wealthier among them. Only half of the tax filers who are homeowners are able to claim the deduction. Usually, they receive less than $2,000 in reduced tax liability (the rest have no mortgages and thus no risk of loss).

More than 50% of the federal tax benefit is taken by those few homeowners with incomes exceeding $100,000. It is fair to say those wealthier homeowners have the least need for a subsidy as an inducement to buy a home, since they are financially capable and most likely to purchase anyway.

Boyle Heights Land Use Plan Update

The City of Los Angeles is in the process of updating its land use plans. These plans are the way the City plans for the future. The Draft Boyle Heights Community Plan Update is the blueprint for guiding this change. For a PDF of the plan see Boyle Heights Zoning Plan Update. Note the industrial section known as The Flats, on the left side of the image, is being rezoned from Industrial to an Innovative zone. This may be a riff from the CASP multi-zoned ordinance passed for the area north of DTLA near LA State Park, the cornfield.

 

California Energy Benchmarking Law Now Active

In 2015, the State of California passed Assembly Bill 802 (AB 802) to provide building owners access to their building energy use data from utilities, and to track consumption in their buildings. AB 802 also fixed several issues related to AB 1103, the previous statute mandating benchmarking.

With some exceptions, all commercial buildings 50K s.f. and larger will have to benchmark and report to the CEC by June 1, 2018, and every year thereafter. This includes manufacturing and warehouse industrial buildings. For more info see http://cbpa.com/government/benchmarking-ab-802/.

California State Payroll taxes :(

Anyone who is considered an employer in California must comply with payroll tax obligations, whether or not you may object to them! Yes, some of the programs they fund have questionable track records of abuse by workers. Nevertheless, this article is a good summary provided by Gehres Law Group. Excerpt below.

There are four payroll tax programs in California which are administered by the Employment Development Department. These payroll taxes include:

  • Unemployment tax: Unemployment tax must be paid on the first $7,000 in wages employers pay to each employee during the calendar year. Employers pay this tax on a quarterly basis. Tax rates vary based on factors including whether the employer is a new employer as well as the employer’s experience with the unemployment program. Taxes could vary between 1.5% and 6.2%. This tax funds unemployment payments for workers who are laid off from their jobs.
  • Employment training tax: Employment training tax is charged at a rate of .1% of the first $7,000 in wages employers pay to employees during each calendar year. The tax provides funding to train employees in industries necessary to keep California businesses competitive. Employers pay this tax.
  • State disability insurance: State disability insurance is funded by a tax on employee wages. Employees pay this tax. Employers must withhold .9% of the first $110,902 in wages that are paid to employees during each calendar year. The taxes fund short-term disability payments and paid leave for eligible workers who take time off to care for a new child or for a sick child, parent, grandparent, sibling, spouse, or other close relative
  • California personal income tax withholding: California personal income taxes are paid by workers on income they earn within the state of California. Employers must withhold an appropriate amount of money from an employee’s entire salary based on the information provided by employees on their W-4 forms.

Employers are responsible for the payment and/or collection of each of these payroll taxes as well as for the timely submission of payroll tax forms and payments of all taxes due.

City of Los Angeles Approves Recreational Cannabis Regulations. Boon to Industrial Property Owners

The Los Angeles City Council voted and approved new regulations for recreational cannabis businesses. Recreational marijuana will officially spread like wildfire on January 1, 2018, per California state law. This will be a boon for industrial real estate landlords as cannabis growers and cultivation operations typically pay premium industrial rental rates compared to regular warehouse and manufacturing users. Pot growers often pay in excess of 2X the market rate. Some key rules are below from the L.A. Times article. The mayor is expected to sign the ordinance soon.

12/20/2017 UPDATE: the Mayor signed the cannabis ordinance.

Under the new regulations, pot shops can open their doors only in specific commercial and industrial zones and must operate at least 700 feet from schools, public parks and libraries, child care centers, alcohol and drug treatment centers and other “sensitive” sites, as well as from other pot retailers.

Other kinds of marijuana businesses, including growers and manufacturers, would be confined to industrial zones and banned within 600 feet of schools. And marijuana manufacturers that use volatile solvents would also be prohibited within 200 feet of residential areas.

To prevent an “undue concentration” in neighborhoods, city leaders also decided to cap the number of pot shops, growers, manufacturers and marijuana “micro-businesses,” which do a combination of things, allowed in each community.