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 - Terms Used in the Real Estate Investment Trust Industry

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Real Estate Investment Trust Act of 1960

The federal law that authorized REITs. Its purpose was to allow small investors to pool their investments in real estate in order to get the same benefits as might be obtained by direct ownership, while also diversifying their risks and obtaining professional management.

Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT)

A REIT is a company dedicated to owning, and in most cases, operating income-producing real estate, such as apartments, shopping centers, offices and warehouses. Some REITs also engage in financing real estate.

REIT Modernization Act of 1999

Federal tax law change whose provisions allow a REIT to own up to 100% of stock of a taxable REIT subsidiary that can provide services to REIT tenants and others. The law also changed the minimum distribution requirement from 95 percent to 90 percent of a REIT's taxable income -- consistent with the rules for REITs from 1960 to 1980.

Return of Capital

The portion of a REIT's dividend in excess of taxable income. Because REIT dividends are often higher than taxable income, principally due to depreciation, the amount by which the dividend exceeds taxable income is a return of capital to a shareholder, meaning that - for a taxpaying shareholder - it does not create currently taxable ordinary income, but instead reduces the shareholder's tax basis. At the final sale of the shares, the difference between tax basis and final net sales price is recognizable as a capital gain. To the extent the final capital gains rate is lower than interim ordinary income tax rates, REITs provide a tax shelter function for certain taxpaying investors, by allowing the deferral of tax on current cash received as dividends and taxing it at a lower rate upon disposition of the shares.


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