Thursday, June 13, 2024

How To Avoid Capital Gains Tax On Property

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Limit The Rental Use Of Your Home

How To Avoid Capital Gains Tax (CGT) On Investment Property (Ep193)

Let us assume that you arent able to sell your home within your desired time frame, so you decide to rent it. Renting it may result in a paper loss you can claim to reduce your income at tax time. Such a loss is usually the result of allowed depreciation of the property. However, two things may temper your enthusiasm.

First, since youre renting your home, it is no longer your primary residence, so you are chipping away at the ownership and use tests that would allow you to exclude the capital gain when you sell. Consider renting for only two to three years, if you have lived in it for five years, in order to meet the tests to exclude capital gains when you sell. Remember that to get the exclusion, you must have lived in the home as your primary residence for two years within the five years immediately preceding the date of sale.

Second, since you rented the home, you must recapture the depreciation. That recaptured depreciation can be taxed a couple of different ways. See IRS Publication 544, Sales and Other Disposition of Assets, for a discussion of whether the recaptured depreciation results in capital or ordinary gain.

In the final analysis, you might save more money by avoiding renting your home at all. You dont have to contend with more complicated tax preparation you avoid a reduction in your basis due to depreciation and you avoid the complexity of recaptured depreciation .

Length Of Ownership Matters

If you sell an asset after owning it for more than a year, any gain you have is a “long-term” capital gain. If you sell an asset you’ve owned for a year or less, though, it’s a “short-term” capital gain. How much your gain is taxed depends on how long you owned the asset before selling.

  • The tax bite from short-term gains is significantly larger than that from long-term gains – typically 10-20% higher.
  • This difference in tax treatment is one of the advantages a “buy-and-hold” investment strategy has over a strategy that involves frequent buying and selling, as in day trading.
  • People in the lowest tax brackets usually don’t have to pay any tax on long-term capital gains. The difference between short and long term, then, can literally be the difference between taxes and no taxes.

When Youre At Risk Of Capital Gains Tax

Most homeowners dont stay in the same home for their entire lives. The $250,000/$500,000 exclusions from capital gains tax allows people to buy a family home, and then sell it when the need arises and buy a different one without facing taxes on selling a house.

However, there are some situations in which sellers cant claim those exclusions. Its important to understand what those are so you can learn how to avoid paying capital gains tax on real estate.

The capital gains tax exclusion does not apply to a sale of real estate if:

  • The property you sold was not your principal residence . According to the IRS, a condominium, mobile home, or even a houseboat can qualify as a principal residence if it meets certain criteria.
  • You owned the real estate that you sold for less than two years in the five-year period just prior to the sale
  • You did not live in the house for at least two years during the five-year period just prior to the sale. However, there may be exceptions for military service members, members of the foreign service or intelligence communities, or individuals with disabilities
  • You are subject to expatriate tax
  • You acquired the property through a like-kind exchange, also referred to as a 1031 exchange, within the past five years
  • In the two-year period prior to the sale of the home, you previously claimed the exclusion on the sale of another home.

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How Much Will I Pay In Capital Gains Tax

When searching online, you will likely come across a capital gains tax on property calculator. The formula that these calculators use is primarily the same.

Weve taken the time to provide you with the method used for a capital gains tax on property calculator so that you can estimate how much youll need to pay next year.

First, youll want to know your income. You will either be subject to tax at the basic rate or the higher additional rate-payer.

If your income defines you as a basic-rate payer, you could make enough on capital gains tax to push you into the additional-rate payer category. If this is the case, youll only pay the 28 percent tax on the amount that takes you over the threshold.

Deducting Your Home Improvements From The Home Sale Profit

Avoid Capital Gains Tax!

Making substantial physical improvements to your house, no matter how long ago you made them, allows you to add the cost of that improvement to your tax basis.

Home improvements you can use include:

  • adding a new bedroom, bathroom or garage
  • installing new insulation, pipes or duct work or even replacing walls and floors
  • installing a new heating and air conditioning system
  • installing extensive new landscaping, such as new lawns, new fences or retaining walls
  • adding a new porch, patio or deck
  • replacing driveways and walkways
  • installing a new roof, windows, doors or new carpeting
  • installing new built-in appliances

Just remember that you cant use regular home repairs like cleaning the carpets in your list of home improvements.

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First How Much Is Your Gain

Many people mistakenly believe that their gain is simply the profit on the sale: “We bought it for $100,000 and sold it for $650,000, so that’s a $550,000 gain, and we’re $50,000 over the exclusion, right?”. It’s not so simple — a good thing, since the fine print can work to your benefit in such instances.

Your gain is actually your home’s selling price, minus deductible closing costs, selling costs, and your tax basis in the property.

Deductible closing costs include points or prepaid interest on your mortgage and your share of the prorated property taxes.

Examples of selling costs include real estate broker’s commissions, title insurance, legal fees, advertising costs, administrative costs, escrow fees, and inspection fees.

So, for example, if you and your spouse bought a house for $100,000 and sold for $650,000, but you’d added $20,000 in home improvements, spent $5,000 fixing the place up for the sale, and paid the real estate brokers at least $25,000, the exclusion plus those costs would mean you’d owe no capital gains tax at all.

For more information, see IRS Publication 551, Basis of Assets, and look for the section on real property.

Mortgages And Contract Price

If the buyer of the property assumes a mortgage or some other promissory note with the purchase, the cost basis of the property must be reduced by the amount of the mortgage/note. If, for example, the rental property that Hal sold for $400,000 has a mortgage of $100,000, the contract price is reduced to $300,000 .

If the amount of the mortgage exceeds the total adjusted basis of the property, the difference must be reported as a payment in the first year and the contract price is increased by that amount. Let’s assume, for instance, that Hal’s property has a mortgage of $250,000. In this case, in addition to the installment payment, Hal will have to report an excess payment of $50,000 during the first year.

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How Capital Gains Are Taxed

Holding an asset for more than one year before disposing of or selling it has a significant impact on the amount of tax potentially owed to the IRS. Thats because short-term gains are taxed as ordinary income at the normal 2021 tax bracket ranges of 10%, 12%, 22%, 24%, 32%, 35%, and 37%.

On the other hand, long-term capital gains tax rates are much lower, ranging between:

  • 0% for personal incomes of up to $40,400
  • 15% for personal incomes of between $40,401 to $445,850
  • 20% for personal incomes of $445,850 or higher

Short-term vs. long-term capital gains tax liability

Lets look at how capital gains are taxed based on a short-term and long-term holding period. For the purposes of this example, weve excluded any additional individual state income tax due.


  • Taxable gain = $50,000 + $7,200 depreciation recapture = $57,200
  • Capital gains tax due = $8,580

In this example, the real estate investor with a short-term investment strategy pays nearly 40% more in capital gains tax than an investor with a longer-term investment plan.

Wait At Least One Year Before Selling A Property

Avoid Capital Gains Tax on Real Estate LEGALLY

When you sell an asset youve held for less than a year, the profit is considered to be a short-term capital gain, which can be taxed at a federal rate of up to 37%.

If you sell the same asset after holding it for over one year, the profit is classified as a long-term capital gain, which has a much lower tax rate of 0% to 20%.

Holding on to a property until it qualifies as a long-term investment could reduce your federal tax burden dramatically.

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Is There Still A Way To Avoid Capital Gains Tax On Us Property

If you sell your primary home, you may exclude up to $250,000 of your capital gain from tax . However, you must have owned and lived in the home as your primary residence for at least 2 of the last 5 years before the sale.

If youve been living overseas, and the US home has not been your primary residence, then this exclusion will not apply to you. For instance, if youve been renting US home for 3 or more years before you sell, you will have to pay capital gains on the sale of that property.

Final Thoughts On This Topic

When everything is said and done, most heirs are able to avoid paying capital gains tax on inherited property, or at least keep capital gains tax to a bare minimum.

Some heirs may choose to sell right away, or to move into the inherited home. Others turn the inherited home into an investment property with the goal of generating rental income, having the home increase in value over the long term, and harvesting the tax benefits that real estate investors enjoy.

This article, and the Roofstock Blog in general, is intended for informational and educational purposes only, and is not investment, tax, financial planning, legal, or real estate advice. Roofstock is not your advisor or agent. Please consult your own experts for advice in these areas. Although Roofstock provides information it believes to be accurate, Roofstock makes no representations or warranties about the accuracy or completeness of the information contained on this blog.

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Who Is Exempt From Paying Capital Gains Tax

Most real estate investors are quite familiar with capital gains taxes.

Capital gains is a federal tax imposed by the Internal Revenue Service on profits generated from the sale of real property assets, land, stocks, or bonds. If you purchased any of these assets and then sold them after they realized an increase in value, you have generated a capital gains tax liability.

There are ways investors can minimize their exposure to capital gains taxes, such as completing a 1031 exchange by reinvesting the proceeds from the sale of an investment property into a like-kind replacement asset. However, the exchange process only defers capital gains liabilities — those taxes will come due when you divest the replacement asset .

There are very few ways investors can avoid paying capital gains tax entirely. In this article well take a look at who is exempt from paying capital gains taxes.

How To Avoid Capital Gains Tax On A Home Sale

8 Pro Tips on How to Avoid Capital Gains Tax On Property ...
  • Live in the house for at least two years. The two years dont need to be consecutive, but house-flippers should beware. If you sell a house that you didnt live in for at least two years, the gains can be taxable. Selling in less than a year is especially expensive because you could be subject to the short-term capital gains tax, which is higher than long-term capital gains tax.

  • See whether you qualify for an exception. If you have a taxable gain on the sale of your home, you might still be able to exclude some of it if you sold the house because of work, health or an unforeseeable event, according to the IRS. Check IRS Publication 523 for details.

  • Keep the receipts for your home improvements. The cost basis of your home typically includes what you paid to purchase it, as well as the improvements you’ve made over the years. When your cost basis is higher, your exposure to the capital gains tax may be lower. Remodels, expansions, new windows, landscaping, fences, new driveways, air conditioning installs theyre all examples of things that might cut your capital gains tax.

  • About the author:Tina Orem is NerdWallet’s authority on taxes and small business. Her work has appeared in a variety of local and national outlets.Read more

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    Don’t Underestimate Your Capital Gains Tax Liability

    The biggest mistake many wealthy Americans make when it comes to estate planning is underestimating their capital gains tax liability.

    Remember, a short-term capital gain, which occurs when the asset is held for less than a year, is taxed as ordinary income. If you hold the asset for longer than a year, your long-term capital gains tax rate will depend on your tax bracket. However, typically, a long-term capital gain is taxed at either 15% or 20%.

    Selling A House Avoid Taxes On Capital Gains On Real Estate In 2021

    Many or all of the products featured here are from our partners who compensate us. This may influence which products we write about and where and how the product appears on a page. However, this does not influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own. Here is a list ofour partnersandhere’s how we make money.

    It feels great to get a high price for the sale of your home, but watch out: The IRS may want a piece of the action. Thats because capital gains on real estate are taxable sometimes. Heres how you can minimize or even avoid a tax bite on the sale of your house.

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    What Is Adjusted Home Basis

    The cost basis of a home can change. Reductions in cost basis occur when you receive a return of your cost. For example, you purchased a house for $250,000 and later experienced a loss from a fire. Your home insurer issues a payment of $100,000, reducing your cost basis to $150,000 .

    Improvements that are necessary to maintain the home with no added value, have a useful life of less than one year, or are no longer part of your home will not increase your cost basis.

    Likewise, some events and activities can increase the cost basis. For example, you spend $15,000 to add a bathroom to your home. Your new cost basis will increase by the amount you spent to improve your home.

    Use A Retirement Account

    How to Avoid Capital Gains Tax When Selling Investment Property in Australia (2021)

    You can use retirement savings vehicles, such as 401s, traditional IRAs, and Roth IRAs, to avoid capital gains and defer income tax. With 401s and traditional IRAs, you can invest in the market, through a platform like TD Ameritrade, using pretax dollars. Youll never pay capital gains on the earnings, although you will pay ordinary income tax when you withdraw the income. Investing this way can save you a bundle on taxes if youre in a lower tax bracket when you retire.

    However, you shouldnt automatically assume that youll be in a lower bracket upon retirement. Although your income from employment may decrease when you retire, you may have additional income streams from Social Security, pensions, interest, and dividends. So, your marginal tax rate may be the same as before you retired. And, because you may have fewer potential deductions like student interest payments or mortgage interest payments, and you cant claim your child as a deduction, your taxable income may actually rise.

    If youre not sure whether youll be in a lower tax bracket at retirement, a Roth IRA is another way to avoid capital gain taxes. Like 401s and traditional IRAs, gains or dividends are not taxed while in the account. Unlike 401s and traditional IRAs, where contributions are from pretax dollars, contributions to Roth IRAs are from post-tax dollars, so distributions are not taxable.

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    Capital Gains And Mutual Funds

    Mutual funds that have accumulated realized capital gains throughout the course of the year must distribute those gains to shareholders. Many mutual funds distribute capital gains right before the end of the calendar year.

    Shareholders of record as of the fund’s ex-dividend date receive the fund’s capital gains distribution. Individuals receiving the distribution get a 1099-DIV form detailing the amount of the capital gain distribution and how much is considered short-term and long-term. When a mutual fund makes a capital gain or dividend distribution, the net asset value drops by the amount of the distribution. A capital gains distribution does not impact the fund’s total return.

    Tax-conscious mutual fund investors should determine a mutual fund’s unrealized accumulated capital gains, which are expressed as a percentage of its net assets, before investing in a fund with a significant unrealized capital gain component. This circumstance is referred to as a fund’s capital gains exposure. When distributed by a fund, capital gains are a taxable obligation for the fund’s investors.

    When Is Real Estate Exempt From Capital Gains Tax

    Real estate becomes exempt from capital gains tax if the home is considered your primary residence.

    According to the IRS, your primary residence is a home you have lived in for at least 2 of the last 5 years.

    Keep in mind, however, that this exemption can only be used once every 2 years, and there is a monetary limit to these exemptions.

    Capital gains on a home saleare exempt from taxation up to $250,000 for singles and $500,000 for married couples.

    We discuss this in more detail below.

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