Did Multiple Celebrities Time Home Sales to Avoid New Real Estate Tax?

Measure ULA went into effect on April 1

House for sale
A tax on real estate transfers went into effect in Los Angeles on April 1, 2023.
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On April 1, 2023, Measure ULA went into effect in Los Angeles. As an article at Curbed on the measure explained, Measure ULA increased taxes on real estate transactions over $5 million, and increased them slightly more for transactions in excess of $10 million. Proceeds from the measure would go to fund public housing and steps to protect tenants — all told, a laudable goal. And even with the increased taxes, given the sums of money involved, you’d think would likely not be much of a factor when selling, say, a $15 million estate.

Turns out it would absolutely be a factor for some buyers — and a recent Los Angeles Times investigation names a few celebrities who sold property suspiciously close to the point when Measure ULA went into effect. Admittedly, there’s nothing wrong with timing a transaction to get the best terms possible — but several of the people cited in the article are people who don’t seem to be hurting for cash right now.

The Los Angeles Times points out that Brad Pitt sold a home in the region for $39 million shortly before Measure ULA went into effect, saving $2.145 million. Both Simon Hedberg and Colin Farrell also sold homes that would have had been eligible for a higher tax bill under Measure ULA in the weeks prior to it going into effect.

As Jack Flemming, who reported the piece for the Times, pointed out, a number of the celebrities named in the article frequently give millions of dollars to charity — and yet. Again, no laws were violated here — but it might well inspire a raised eyebrow or two along the way.

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