Call Us: (628) 333-9492
Our clients have saved more than $27,000,000
back arrow

How Much Tax Do You Pay When You Sell a Commercial Property?

August 1, 2023

Selling a commercial property is a significant financial event. It's an occasion that brings the opportunity for significant gain, yet, concurrently, presents the responsibility of tax obligations. Tax implications, often viewed as complex and onerous, are a vital part of the process and warrant a thorough understanding. The precise amount of tax levied on the sale of a commercial property can be influenced by multiple factors, including the sale price, the original cost, and the nature of the property itself. The tax amount is rarely trivial and understanding how it's calculated can make a substantial difference in your net proceeds.

Understanding Commercial Property Taxes

Commercial property taxes form a critical element of the broader taxation system. They differ substantially from residential property taxes. Commercial properties are seen as business assets, often generating considerable revenue. They are subject to a complex tax structure, including both ongoing property taxes and taxes upon sale. Ongoing property taxes are typically assessed annually and are based on the appraised value of the property. The taxes upon sale, however, are based on the capital gains generated from the sale. As we delve deeper into this topic, these distinctions will become more clear.

Selling Commercial Property: The Basics

Selling a commercial property isn't just about listing the property, finding a buyer, and negotiating the price. The tax implications are significant and should not be overlooked.

How Commercial Property is Taxed

The key component in commercial property taxation is capital gains tax. Capital gains are defined as the profit realized from the sale of an asset or investment, such as a commercial property. When you sell a commercial property at a higher price than you originally paid, the difference is considered as capital gain and is subject to tax.

Understanding Capital Gains Tax

Capital gains tax is a type of tax levied on the profit (capital gains) realized from the sale of an asset or investment. It's important to note that this tax is only applied to the gain, not the total sale amount. Therefore, if you sell your commercial property for a higher price than your initial investment (including the cost of any significant improvements), the profit is subject to capital gains tax.

Determining Your Capital Gains

Your capital gains, and thus your capital gains tax, are determined by three key elements: the original purchase price, the cost of any improvements, and depreciation.

Original Purchase Price

The original purchase price is the baseline for your capital gains calculation. It includes the initial amount you paid for the property plus any additional purchase-related expenses such as legal fees, survey costs, and inspection fees.

Cost of Improvements

Significant improvements made to the property, such as renovations or upgrades, are factored into the cost basis. These improvements can increase the value of the property and thus, they reduce the amount of your capital gains.


Depreciation is a tax deduction that allows property owners to recover the costs associated with wear and tear on the property. Commercial properties are typically depreciated over a period of 39 years according to IRS guidelines. This reduces your taxable income annually but becomes a significant factor at the point of sale.

The Role of Depreciation Recapture

Depreciation recapture is a tax provision that allows the IRS to collect taxes on any gain realized from the sale of depreciable capital property. In simple terms, it is a way for the government to "recapture" the tax benefits that you've received from depreciation. It is applied at a 25% rate on the portion of the gain related to depreciation.

The 1031 Exchange: A Way to Defer Taxes

If you're looking to defer capital gains taxes, you may want to consider a 1031 exchange. Named after Section 1031 of the U.S. Internal Revenue Code, it allows an investor to defer paying capital gains taxes on an investment property when it is sold, as long as another "like-kind property" is purchased with the profit gained by the sale of the first property.

State and Local Taxes on Commercial Property Sale

In addition to federal taxes, state and local taxes must also be taken into account when selling commercial property. These vary widely by location, so you need to research the specific tax rates applicable in your area.

Factors Affecting Commercial Property Tax

Several factors can affect the tax on a commercial property sale. These include the type of property (whether it's an office building, retail space, or industrial facility), location (property taxes can vary greatly by state and city), and market conditions (the value of commercial property is influenced by the broader real estate market).

Mitigating the Impact of Commercial Property Sale Taxes

Tax planning is crucial to mitigate the impact of taxes on commercial property sales. For example, carrying out a 1031 exchange can defer capital gains tax, while timing the sale can take advantage of favorable tax laws or rates. It's also possible to offset capital gains with capital losses from other investments.

When to Seek Professional Help

Commercial property tax laws are complex and can change frequently. Given the large sums of money usually involved, it can be highly beneficial to seek the advice of tax professionals or real estate attorneys. They can guide you through the process, advise on potential tax strategies, and ensure that you comply with all relevant laws and regulations.


In conclusion, selling a commercial property can be a rewarding venture, but one must not overlook the tax implications. An understanding of how these taxes work can go a long way in planning for a sale, ensuring compliance with tax laws, and possibly reducing the overall tax burden. With careful planning and expert advice, you can maximize your profits and ensure a successful property sale.


What is capital gains tax?

Capital gains tax is levied on the profit made from selling an investment, such as commercial property.

What is a 1031 exchange?

A 1031 exchange is a strategy to defer capital gains tax by reinvesting the sale proceeds into another "like-kind" property.

How is depreciation recapture handled in commercial property sales?

Depreciation recapture is the IRS's way of collecting taxes on the depreciation benefits that have reduced your taxable income over the years.

Can state and local taxes affect the sale of my commercial property?

Yes, state and local taxes can significantly impact the net profit from the sale of your commercial property. These taxes vary by location.

When should I seek professional help in selling my commercial property?

It's advisable to seek professional help from the onset. Professionals can guide you through tax planning and provide strategies to mitigate your tax burden.

For more detailed information on the subject, visit the IRS guide on Sale and Disposition of Assets. If you're interested in 1031 exchanges, the Federation of Exchange Accommodators provides comprehensive guidance. Lastly, the National Association of Realtors provides updates and insights into commercial property taxes and other real estate matters.

Commercial Property Tax Review

Get a free tax review for your commercial property, no commitment needed.

Let's work together

Get a free tax review for your commercial property

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.