Imputed Interest for Seller Financing

Imputed interest is a concept used by the IRS to assess tax on loans or securities that pay no interest or that pay interest at a rate below a minimum rate considered acceptable by the IRS. This is particularly relevant in the context of below-market loans between related parties, where the intention might be to transfer wealth in a manner that avoids taxation. The IRS uses imputed interest to ensure that lenders and borrowers recognize and pay taxes on the interest income and expense that should have been paid or received if the loan had been issued at the market rate of interest.

For commercial real estate transactions involving seller financing, whether or not imputed interest applies depends on several factors, including the terms of the financing, the relationship between the buyer and the seller, and the purpose of the loan. Generally, the IRS's rules around imputed interest are intended to prevent tax avoidance through the use of below-market interest rates in transactions between parties that have an interest in minimizing their taxable income.

When a seller provides financing at an interest rate below the applicable federal rate (AFR), the IRS may require the lender (seller in this case) to report imputed interest income at the minimum AFR, even if the actual interest rate is lower. This means that the seller might have to report and pay taxes on interest income that exceeds the actual interest received from the buyer.

For short-term loans (those with a term of 3 years or less), the applicable federal rate is updated monthly and reflects the market rate for short-term loans. If the interest rate on seller financing for a commercial real estate transaction is below the AFR for the month in which the loan is made, the transaction may be subject to the rules governing imputed interest.

However, there are exceptions and specific provisions that may apply, including different rules for sales to related parties, where the IRS scrutiny might be higher, and for transactions structured in certain ways that may not trigger imputed interest. It's also essential to consider state and local tax implications, which may have different rules regarding seller financing and imputed interest.

Given the complexity of tax laws and the potential for significant financial implications, individuals involved in commercial real estate transactions with seller financing at low interest rates should consult with a tax professional or legal advisor to understand the specific tax implications, including the application of imputed interest, in their situation.


Let's consider a scenario where imputed interest on seller financing for commercial real estate might apply:


John owns a commercial building valued at $1 million. He wants to sell this property quickly and is willing to offer seller financing to attract more buyers. Mary, a small business owner, is interested in buying the property but cannot obtain traditional financing from a bank due to her business being relatively new. John offers to finance the sale himself, providing Mary with a seller-financed loan for the full purchase price of $1 million at an interest rate of 1% per year. The term of the loan is 3 years, after which Mary is expected to pay the remaining balance through refinancing or another means.

Application of Imputed Interest:

Given that the loan term is 3 years, it falls under the short-term category for IRS purposes. If the AFR for short-term loans at the time the loan is made is, say, 3%, John's loan to Mary at 1% is below the market rate defined by the IRS. This situation triggers the imputed interest rules because the interest rate is less than the minimum rate set by the IRS.

Tax Implications:

  • For John (the seller/lender): Even though John is only charging Mary 1% interest, the IRS would require him to impute interest income at the AFR of 3%. This means John must report and pay taxes on this higher amount of interest income, despite not actually receiving it. This could increase John's taxable income and tax liability for the year.

  • For Mary (the buyer/borrower): Mary might also be affected by the imputed interest rules. While she is only paying interest at a 1% rate, for tax purposes, the amount of interest she is considered to have paid is calculated using the 3% AFR. This could potentially increase her deductible interest expense, which might lower her taxable income if she uses the property for business purposes and deducts the interest as a business expense.


This scenario highlights the tax implications for both the seller and the buyer in a commercial real estate transaction involving seller financing at an interest rate below the AFR. It demonstrates the need for both parties to be aware of the IRS rules regarding imputed interest to properly report and pay taxes on such transactions. Consulting with a tax professional is essential to navigate these rules and ensure compliance while minimizing tax liabilities.

Contact us today to discuss your commercial property in Connecticut: Michael Guidicelli, CCIM, SIOR: 860.371.7103 or


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