Taxation of Oil & Gas Royalty Interests

The recent oil boom in regions such as the Bakken Oil Field has created millionaires overnight based upon royalty interests in oil and gas leases of investors. While fortunes can be made from such payments, it is important to understand that there may be various potential risks involved, as well as numerous taxes. This article will generally discuss three common types of royalty interests, and taxation of payments received from such interests.

Oil and Gas Interests Royalties

There are generally three main types of royalties received for oil and gas interests: standard royalty interests, overriding royalty interests, and working interests

Standard Royalty Interests

A standard royalty interest (also called a “landowner’s royalty”) entitles an owner of mineral rights (a lessor in a lease) to an agreed-upon part of the total oil and gas production attributable to the lease, minus reasonable production costs of the producer (the lessee in a lease). Royalties are usually expressed as a percentage or a fraction of the total production of the well.

Drilling and producing oil and gas wells entail certain types of costs. Unless stated otherwise in a lease, exploration, marketing and production costs are generally paid by the production company, whereas post-production costs may be shared by the landowner with the production company. Depending upon the terms of the lease, certain post-production costs incurred that add value to the oil and gas drilled at the wellhead prior to the place of sale (such as various treatment, compression, processing and transportation costs) may be deducted by the lessee when calculating the royalty payment amount. Additionally, royalty interest payments may be subject to various federal, state and county taxes (which will be detailed later).

Overriding Royalty Interests

Another type of royalty is the overriding royalty interest. A holder of such interest is entitled to a share of the production revenues from a well, free of production and monthly operating costs. Like a standard royalty interest, overriding royalty interests are subject to taxes and post-production costs. Unlike standard royalty interests, holders of overriding royalty interests do not own the underground minerals, and they will not have any ownership rights once well production ends. Overriding royalty interests can be both assigned from holders of a working interest (defined below), as well as created by a leaseholder who retains an override after assigning a leasehold to a working interest owner.

Working Interests

A working interest is the interest obtained by a lessee under an oil and gas lease. Under this interest, holders fully participate in production revenues based upon the percentage of working interest that is owned along with other investors. Unlike royalty interests, holders of working interests fully participate in the profits generated from successful wells. However, owners of working interest are generally directly liable for payment of the applicable share of drilling costs, and other associated costs, such as operating, leasing and exploration costs. Working interest holders generally do not own the underground minerals. Working interests may offer significant tax advantages.

Taxation of Royalties

Landowners must pay taxes on royalties received from production companies, in addition to numerous other potential taxes. Under the Federal income tax, royalties are considered to be ordinary income. However, royalty owners may generally deduct up to 15% of their income received from mineral interests through depletion allowances.

Most states in which oil and gas are produced also levy a severance tax on such production. These taxes are deducted from royalties received, and are calculated based upon either the value of the production, or the production volume, depending upon the state’s tax laws. Additionally, many counties also levy annual ad valorem taxes based upon the value of oil and gas wells in production.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Tax Help With Oil and Gas Royalty Interests

This article is intended to give a brief summary of these issues, and should not be construed as legal or tax advice. Federal, state and local taxation planning and reporting often necessitates an experienced understanding of complex regulations, statutes, and case law, and penalties for failure to comply can be substantial. If you have further questions regarding your own tax circumstances, Sherayzen Law Office offers professional advice for all of your tax needs. Email [email protected] or call (952) 500-8159 for a consultation today.