Flip Tax

You’ve probably heard the term “flip tax” mentioned in conversations that involve buying and selling New York City real estate. Flip taxes cannot be deducted as a property tax, typically paid by the seller and sometimes the buyer of an NYC co-op.

Anyone who’s ever bought or sold a co-op will be familiar with something called a flip tax. It’s basically a co-ops way of saying “So you’re leaving, huh? Well, pay us some money and we’ll let you go.” Flip taxes, sometimes known as transfer fees, are a way for a co-op to increase its financial resources without resorting to unpopular maintenance increases. If you’re new to the co-op market the term might cause some confusion. Read on for the definitions and tips to arm yourself with the right knowledge for buying your dream NYC apartment.

Below are some of the most asked questions about flip taxes.

Co-op Flip Taxes 101

A Flip Tax is a fee that is paid in addition to the purchase price of a co-op apartment following a sale. It can be paid by either buyers or seller – more on that in a moment – and can be either a flat rate or percentage of the sale price or profit made. The price varies by building and can be hard to pin down. Because of NYC’s typical 6% real estate commission, closing costs for sellers are sky high. Often more than 8% of the sales price. While you won’t be able to eliminate the Flip Tax you have a chance of being able to negotiate the 6% commission when selling.

How long have flip taxes been around?

Flip taxes first came about in the 70’s and 80’s. At the time, there was a wave of co-op conversions throughout the city. Many of these buildings were in poor condition and badly in need of capital investment. The flip tax work as a way for co-ops to bulk up cash reserves for the future. It also prevents people from buying apartments at a cheap rate, then turning around and selling them for much more without putting anything into the value of the apartment.

Who pays the Co-op Flip taxes?

More often, flip taxes are paid by the seller. The idea was that a flip tax to the seller would help keep the purchase price for the buyer down while keeping a small percentage of the seller’s profits for the co-op or condo. However, in 2010 the sluggish housing market changed that. It’s now more common for sellers to pass on the tax to buyers instead. The reason for the shift was that sellers began including the flip tax into the offer price. The higher price meant fewer offers. By lowering the asking price and having the sellers pay the flip tax the sellers could get a little more interest in the property.

If you’re currently looking to buy a co-op you should ask early whether the property requires a flip tax to be paid by the buyer. In any case, the co-op doesn’t care who pays it, they just want to see it go into their reserves.

What’s the point of imposing a flip tax?

As mentioned above, the profit goes directly to a co-op’s operating expenses. The point is to avoid assessments and maintenance increases for the shareholders. With thousands of dollars in reserve funds, if the building requires a capital improvement project, often the flip taxes from past sales can pay for the project in full or at least a good part of it. In turn, the maintenance fees won’t need to be increased, and assessments wouldn’t be necessary either.

How Much is a Typical NYC Flip Tax?

Flip taxes come in many shapes and forms. Typically, the price in NYC is 1-3% of the gross sale price. However, each building has its own policy and there is no way to generalize. Usually, it comes in the following ways:

  • Percentage of the gross sale price
  • Set dollar amount per co-op share
  • Percentage of sales profit
  • Hybrid of any of the above

Co-ops, Condos or Both?

When dealing with a co-op, it’s practically a guarantee that there will be a flip tax. With condos, it’s a little bit different. Instead, condos can be subject to transfer taxes, which is something entirely different. In order for a flip tax to pass, most bylaws/proprietary leases require a 2/3 majority vote from the shareholders. Any absent vote is a no vote. Many condos are owned by investors from out of town this makes getting a 2/3 majority difficult. 

Is there any way I can get out of paying the flip tax when I sell my apartment?

Unfortunately, no. You’ll have no choice but to ante up for this flip tax when you go to sell your co-op. There is the possibility that you could purchase an apartment in a building with no flip tax.

Are flip taxes legal?

A flip tax must be written into a co-op’s proprietary lease to be legal. If not verbalized in a lease, two-thirds of the shareholders must approve the imposition of the flip tax.

Are Flip Taxes in NYC Tax Deductible?

Usually, you can subtract the flip tax when calculating your taxable capital gains. However, you should still consult your attorney and tax professional for advice.


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