A legal US tax scam. All a company has to do is convince the IRS that they are in the real estate business, at least that a lot of their business is real estate, and presto, chango, NO US CORPORATE INCOME TAX.
Nice deal if you can get it. Right now a cellphone operator, American Tower is trying to become a tax exempt REIT on the basis that its cellphone towers are real estate. In line behind American Tower are data center operator Equinox (they own a fair number of big buildings full of computers) and bill board company Lamar Advertising (billboard are real estate).
This tax scam is essentially unfair. Business is business and all businesses ought to be taxed alike. No special deals for special business. The REIT scam sucks money out of everything else and pours it into real estate. Which might be why a real estate bubble caused Great Depression 2.0. We would be better off to have investors decide where to put their money. They will pick things that will make money (and employ workers). The REIT scam is picking winners and losers via the tax code.
Romney and Ryan might be willing to repeal this ugly bit of tax favoritism.