As a savvy real estate investor, you’re well aware of the tax benefits that 1031 exchanges offer. These powerful tools allow you to defer capital gains taxes when selling one investment property and acquiring another like-kind property. However, the intricacies of dealing with partnerships and LLCs can be as complex as navigating a multi-story commercial building. In this comprehensive article, we’ll delve into two specific strategies: the “swap and drop” and the “drop and swap.” Understanding the distinctions and applications of these strategies is crucial for making informed decisions that align with your investment goals. Let’s explore the nuances and differences between these approaches.

1. The Basics of 1031 Exchanges

Before we dive into the specifics, let’s revisit the fundamental principles of 1031 exchanges. These transactions allow investors to sell a property and reinvest the proceeds into another property of equal or greater value, all while deferring capital gains taxes. The key requirement is that the replacement property must be of like kind (e.g., commercial real estate for commercial real estate). It’s important to note that ‘like-kind’ refers to the nature and character of the property, rather than its grade or quality, allowing for a broad range of investment opportunities.

2. The Challenge with Partnership LLCs

Limited liability companies (LLCs) are a popular choice for real estate investments due to their pass-through taxation and flexibility. However, when it comes to 1031 exchanges, partnership LLCs pose unique challenges. Partnership interests mean that each partner holds an ownership interest. But what happens when some partners want to cash out while others prefer to continue deferring taxes through a 1031 exchange? It’s akin to trying to negotiate lease terms with a diverse group of tenants—everyone has different priorities. Navigating these challenges requires strategic planning, often leading investors to consider ‘swap and drop’ or ‘drop and swap’ strategies.

3. The “Drop and Swap” Strategy

What Is It?

In a “drop and swap,” partners first perform a financial ballet by converting their ownership structure from an “entity level” (the LLC) to a co-ownership arrangement (tenants in common or TIC). Next, the property is sold, and the proceeds are divided proportionally among the co-owners. Co-owners can choose to cash out and pay taxes or reinvest in another property through a qualified intermediary (QI) while still deferring taxes. Simply put, this strategy involves restructuring ownership from a collective LLC to individual ownership before proceeding with the exchange.

Is It Legal?

Yes, the “drop and swap” strategy is legal. It allows partners to maintain the benefits of a 1031 exchange while adjusting their ownership structure. Think of it as choreographing a tax-saving waltz.

4. The “Swap and Drop” Strategy

What Is It?

In a daring twist, partners start with the existing LLC ownership structure. The property is sold, and the entire LLC sells the relinquished property in one grand swoop. Partners then purchase the replacement property together, continuing to defer taxes as long as the LLC remains intact. In more straightforward terms, the “swap and drop” keeps the LLC structure intact throughout the exchange process, enabling partners to act together.

Is It Legal?

Absolutely. Section 1031 requires that exchanges of partnership property be handled by the same taxpayer. As long as the LLC composition remains unchanged, the “swap and drop” approach is compliant. It’s like executing a flawless aerial maneuver without missing a beat.

5. Which Strategy Should You Choose?

The decision between “swap and drop” and “drop and swap” depends on your specific circumstances. “Drop and Swap” is ideal when partners want to change their ownership structure and maintain 1031 exchange benefits. “Swap and Drop” is suitable when partners prefer to keep the existing LLC intact and defer taxes collectively. While choosing a strategy, consider potential risks and consult with professionals to understand the implications fully.


Both strategies offer solutions for navigating the complexities of partnership LLCs during 1031 exchanges. The nuances of each approach require careful consideration and a deep understanding of the partnership’s goals and individual circumstances. While these strategies offer innovative solutions, the complexities of 1031 exchanges and partnership dynamics necessitate personalized advice from tax and legal professionals to navigate successfully. Consult with your tax advisor and legal counsel to determine the best approach for your investment goals.