Selling Your Home: How It Affects Your Taxes

by Wendy Wiegand 11/18/2019

Photo by Acharaporn Kamornboonyarush from Pexels

In a nutshell, if you have owned a home for five years and lived in it for at least two out of five years, or if you’ve owned the house for two years and lived in it the entire time, a single person has a $250,000 tax exemption. If you are married, as a couple, you have a $500,000 exemption. Any gains over those amounts are taxable. You should always discuss the sale of your home with a tax attorney, especially if you used the house for business or rented it out, as you may not be able to take the exemption on homes used for business or as a rental.

Figuring the Tax

Before you can estimate how much tax you might owe, you need to calculate the cost basis for the property. Figure the tax by completing these steps:

Figure the Cost Basis

Add the price you paid for the property to the cost of any significant improvements. Subtract any casualty and theft losses, closing costs you paid when you bought the house and allowable depreciation. You might be able to subtract some closing costs. If you inherited the property, the initial investment is the fair market value on the date of the death of the person who willed the house to you.

For gifted properties, if there is a gain, you use the donor’s adjusted basis in the cost basis equation. If there is a loss, the cost basis is the fair market value on the date you received the property as a gift or the donor’s adjusted basis, whichever is less.

Figure the Capital Gain

Once you have the cost basis, subtract it from the sale price of the house. For example, if you paid $500,000 for your home and you are now selling it for $1,000,000, you have a capital gain of $500,000. If you are single, you will pay tax on $250,000. If you are married, the exclusion is $500,000, which wipes out the $500,000 profit.

Reducing the Tax Owed

You may be able to use the Section 1031 exchange if you are selling a home used for business or that was rented out as long as you buy another house for business or to rent out. The new purchase cannot be for personal use and the exchange must be for “like-kind.”

The regulations for a Section 1031 exchange are limited and may be confusing. Always retain a tax lawyer or accountant to help you with your taxes, especially if you are buying and selling an investment property. If you are selling a million dollar plus home and you use it as your personal residence, you should still contact a tax lawyer. Depending on your finances, the tax lawyer may be able to help you avoid some of the tax.

About the Author
Author

Wendy Wiegand

As a premier real estate agent in Carlsbad, I’m here to provide you with all the resources and information you need to buy or sell real estate. I work with buyers and sellers in Carlsbad, Encinitas, Oceanside, San Marcos, Vista and the surrounding areas and I’ve had extensive training in the latest real estate marketing strategies.  I’m confident that I can offer you knowledge and tools most other agents can’t.

I believe in service, both to my clients and our community. When working with clients, you can be assured I am focused on providing the most comprehensive and dedicated effort so that you can achieve the best results possible when buying or selling real estate. I am also deeply involved in serving our community, as you and I all call it home. I have been a member of Rotary since 2003, have been an active member of the Carlsbad Chamber of Commerce since 2006, and serve on the board of the Agua Hedionda Lagoon Foundation. Perhaps my even deeper service to my clients and our community is Wiegand Realty’s participation in Business for a Cause.

Contact me so I can keep you updated on the latest real estate activities in our community and answer any questions you may have.

Thanks and I look forward to assisting in all of your real estate needs!