Cost Segregation: What It Is How Peter J. Burns III Can Save You Money at Tax Time

Entrepreneur Peter J. Burns III didn’t invent cost segregation—but the Southern California-based entrepreneur has innovated this process, which can save property owners thousands of dollars at tax time.

Burns has also identified a simple way that cost segregation can be used to boost the often-unenviable task of charitable fundraising. In fact, cost segregation is a win-win for both donors and charitable organizations looking to raise money.

But first, what is cost segregation? It’s a method of reclassifying components and improvements of commercial and residential real estate. Using Internal Revenue Service guidelines, cost segregation results in reduced tax liabilities and increased cash flow—for both owners and lessees.

To initiate cost segregation, a third-party-certified study identifies, values and separates depreciable personal property. A certified analyst will appraise non-structural items (things like carpet, wall coverings, etc.) and adjust the scheduled depreciation.

The result? Acceleration of depreciation can lead to huge tax savings in the early years of the life cycle of a real estate property. This allows a property owner to catch up on savings that result from the depreciation adjustment.

It’s relatively simple. Under standard, straight-line depreciation, the default tax life on a commercial building is 39 years. Cost segregation professionals seek to identify the multiple pieces of personal property that can be placed on shorter—five-, seven- or 15-year—depreciation terms.

According to studies commissioned by Peter J. Burns III, doing a third-party-certified study for cost segregation usually result in 6 percent of the value of a building coming back in tax benefits. In one study, an $8-million rental villa returned $625,000 to the owner after cost segregation.

Cost segregation is a 100-percent legal process guided by IRS methodology. The IRS publishes guidelines for a cost segregation study on its website.

IRS guidelines allow this technique to be applied to newly built and existing buildings. However, the building must have been placed in service after 1987. The number of years owned by the current owner, prior renovations, and future renovation plans are some of the considerations used to determine whether a cost segregation study makes economic sense.

The technique has been widely used since 1997 as a result of two landmark tax court cases in which both Walgreens and Hospital Corp. of America prevailed against the IRS. Traditionally, engineering departments in Big Four CPA firms have used cost segregation with their large clients.

The modern application of cost segregation can be traced to those 1997 court cases—but it was Peter J. Burns III, who was serving as an adjunct faculty member at the Barrett Honor College at Arizona State University, who first tied the practice to other business ventures in 2005.

Using Cost Segregation for Innovative Charitable Fundraising

Seeking charitable donations for even the worthiest organizations is often an uphill battle. Nobody likes to be in the position of holding out their hand for money.

Tradition techniques include cold calling and letter-writing campaigns that detail why donations are important for the worthwhile mission of the charitable organization. Whatever method you use to seek funding, it’s often a tough sell with your donation base.

However, what if you can guide wealthy patrons into a simple way to create huge tax savings on their real estate properties? It’s logical that they can, in turn, donate a substantial percentage of those savings to your charitable organization.

It’s estimated there are 91 million buildings eligible for a cost segregation study. Yet, only five percent have undergone the process. According to Peter J. Burns III, that means that as much as $500 billion of potential funding for charitable organizations is still on the table.

It’s actually a simple transaction! Charities offer to commission a cost segregation study for donors—in return for a sizable portion of the resulting tax savings. This allows wealthy donors who own property to generate funds for the charity of their choice at no out-of-pocket expense.

 If you’d like to find out more about this innovative process to do charitable fundraising, reach out to Peter J. Burns III, who can help match prospective donors with qualified cost segregation professionals.

Peter J. Burns III

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Peter J. Burns III

Starting at the age of 19, Peter J. Burns III has started, operated, bought and sold well over 100 businesses in literally dozens of niche markets. Nantucket Island was the home of Burns' first "real" business-importing mopeds from Austria and being the firrst in the country to rent them to vacationing tourists. After making $55,000 in only 10 weeks from his summer "job," Burns took his moped fleet and set up shop on Sanibel Island, Florida for the winter season.