A Delaware Statutory Trust, or DST, is a separate legal entity created as a trust under Delaware statutory law, which permits a very flexible approach to the design and operation of the entity. Investors in a DST own a pro-rata interest in the trust and have the right to receive distributions from the operation of the trust, either from rental income or from the eventual sale of the assets.
IRS Revenue Ruling 2004-86 determined that a beneficial interest in a DST that owned real estate assets would be considered a “direct interest in real estate” and, thus, could qualify as a tax-deferrable real estate investment. At the completion of a DST investment, beneficial owners have the ability to engage in a 1031 exchange by purchasing beneficial interests in another DST or another eligible real estate investment. Likewise, an investor who sells a tax-deferrable real estate investment can purchase beneficial interests in a DST as a like-kind replacement property to complete their 1031 exchange.
A Real Estate Investment Trust, or REIT, is another type of trust that owns real estate and offers shares of stock to investors and also distributes all of its net operating income to stockholders. However, there is a great difference in the regulations and requirements by which each trust must operate. REIT investors are not considered to have a direct interest in the real estate owned by the REIT and, therefore, do not own real estate that can be exchanged in a tax-deferred 1031 exchange.