Section 1031 has been in the Internal Revenue Code since 1921. In 1991, the U.S. Treasury Department enacted regulations designed to allow taxpayers up to 180 days to exchange investment and business property, such as a rental house or bare land, for other like-kind replacement property of equal or greater value. The regulations created a safe harbor requiring the use of a qualified intermediary (or exchange accommodator) should a property owner wish to defer the capital gains generated from their investment property sale under IRC § 1031. But the regulations do not place any restrictions on who can act as an exchange accommodator, and the Treasury Department does not monitor or in any way control the industry. As a result, today’s exchange accommodators hail from a number of professions, including: real estate professionals, lawyers, title professionals, accountants, and independent financial consultants.
In 1989, the Federation of Exchange Accommodators (the “FEA”) was established to provide professional exchange accommodators with an educational forum and advocacy platform. In an effort to “self-regulate” the industry, the FEA began presenting the designation of Certified Exchange Specialist® (CES) to those individuals who meet specific work-experience criteria and pass a comprehensive examination on exchange laws and procedures. Additionally, the candidates are subjected to a background check and eliminated if they have committed any offenses involving theft or the loss of a professional license. CES designees must adhere to a code of ethics and maintain continuing education requirements.
The FEA established the CES certification to enhance the professionalism and expertise of its exchange industry members. Over three years of research and planning went into the development and design of the CES certification program. And to date, only 100 exchange accommodators are actively certified, demonstrating that they have attained a nationally-recognized professional standard of knowledge in the exchange facilitation field.
The FEA is actively encouraging all of the owners and employees of its member companies to become certified and are advising property owners considering a like-kind exchange not to proceed with the transaction without first consulting with a Certified Exchange Specialist. Likewise, with the advent of the CES designation, it is essential that a referring professional — such as a REALTOR®, attorney or accountant — notify their clients that using an exchange accommodator company that employs CES designees is not only the prudent thing to do, but quite possibly the only thing to do.
David Brown, Katie Brown, Becky Petersen and Chet Mellema each holds the designation of Certified Exchange Specialist®.