|The Inside Scoop|
Self-Storage Tax Woes: How Are 2013 Changes Affecting Your Paycheck, Your Investment and Your Customers?
Musical artist Cyndi Lauper said it in her 1984 hit single ... "Money Changes Everything." Maybe money can't buy love, but it sure can create and solve a lot of problems, depending on whether you have it, want it, need it, make it, lose it or dream about it.
Right now a lot of us are fixated on money as the first paycheck of 2013 hits our bank account and we feel the pinch of the 2 percent increase in Social Security tax withholding. Thanks to the expiration of a two-year "tax holiday," the employee tax rate for Social Security has increased to 6.2 percent. (If you haven't yet received your first check of the year and want to be prepared, you can access some great free calculators at paycheckcity.com.)
I don't know about you, but this is a change my husband and I will definitely notice in our take-home pay, and one that has caused us to rework our household budget for 2013. Like many, we'll be tightening the belt and giving up some small luxuries. Of course we're thankful to have any indulgences, and that the decrease in our pay won't impact our non-negotiable expenses, which is more than can be said for some wage-earners. We're also glad it's the only tax change to immediately diminish our income. It's still a pretty crappy way to start the year.
If you're a self-storage manager, you're probably in the same boat. Your salary falls below the level where a 2 percent loss ceases to be significant. And like many Americans, you're likely living paycheck to paycheck, and every dollar counts—unless you have some mitigating circumstance like a trust fund or a rich spouse or a lottery disbursement. In that case, self-storage management may be something you do out of sheer joy, or for your health, or as a sociology experiment. Good for you!
If you're an executive-level professional, business owner or property investor, you have other tax woes. Perhaps you're one of those high earners ($400k or more per year) who will be experiencing a 4.6 percent increase on income tax (now 39.6 percent). There's also a 3.8 percent Medicare contribution tax for those with next investment income in excess of $200,000, and a 0.9 percent additional Medicare tax on earned income in excess of $200,000. The estate tax has increased to 40 percent from 35 percent, and the capital gains tax rate has increased. All of this affects the profitability of investments.
Check the ISS website on Wednesday for an article by self-storage real estate expert Ben Vestal, "Capital Gains Tax in 2013: How the New Laws Effect Self-Storage Property Owners." He explains that for the first time in recent history, the percentage a real estate investor will pay in federal capital gains tax will be tied to his household income. In 2013, households earning more than $400,000 ($450,000 if married and filing jointly) will see federal capital gains taxes increase from 15 percent to 20 percent. Additionally, all capital gains taxes may now include the 3.8 percent Affordable Care Act tax, also known as the Medicare tax.
Yet another concern for all self-storage operators, whether they're sweating the Social Security tax in their individual paychecks or the effect of various tax increases on their investment performance, is what the end of the tax holiday means for the industry's most critical income element: self-storage customers. How many of them will choose to eliminate storage from their list of monthly expenses now that they're bringing home less money? What can you do to minimize your move-out rate and help renters manage their budget?
Regular rent increases are part of any storage facility's ongoing performance plan, and yet they may be more challenging to execute in light of the average consumer's changing income stream. Delinquencies may also increase. Collections calls and lien-sale procedures are always supremely important, but be sure to have your system honed to a sharp edge this year. For insights and strategies, read articles in the following sections of the ISS content archive:
Do you anticipate the tax changes will have an impact on your occupancy rates? Have you already been hearing from customers that their monthly storage bill may have to go? Experienced any move-outs? Please share your tax woes on the blog as well as any ideas you may have for retaining customers in these tight times.