With the New Year underway, many are already thinking about the upcoming tax season. For new homeowners or those who have recently sold a home for the first time, you may be wondering how this tax season will differ from the previous years. Below, Michael Litzner, Broker of Century 21 American Homes walks us through what you can and cannot deduct.
Capital gains: "If you sold your primary residence, you're in luck," says Litzner. "You may be able to exclude up to $250,000 of gain, and $500,000 for married couples, from your federal tax return."
What is your gain? Your gain is defined as your home's selling price, minus deductible closing costs, minus your basis-the original purchase price of the home, plus improvements, less any depreciation.
However, there are a few rules: your home must have been owned by you and used as your main home for a period of at least two out of the five years prior to its sale.
You also must not have excluded gain on another home sold during the two years before the current sale. Sorry, investors.
Sales Loss: "Unfortunately, you cannot deduct any sales losses from your taxes," says Litzner. Why? Sales losses are considered personal losses, and so they aren't deductible the way stock and investment losses can be.
Selling Costs: If you sell your home and realize a taxable gain even after the exclusion, you can reduce your gain with selling costs. "Selling costs can include broker commissions, title insurance, legal fees, inspection fees, and the like," Litzner explains.
Home Improvements: These can be deducted if you have sold your home, as they add to your basis. But what constitutes an "improvement?" The IRS defines improvements as those items that "add to the value of your home, prolong its useful life, or adapt it to new uses" – such as putting in new plumbing or wiring or adding another bathroom.
Seller-Paid Points: "These are deductible for the buyer, but not the seller, even though the seller pays them," states Litzner. Since the early 1990's, home-buyers have been able to deduct points paid by the seller; before then, they could only deduct the actual points they paid on the home loans themselves.
"Of course, it's always smart to speak to a tax accountant or finance professional when it comes to any major tax changes," cautions Litzner.
For more information on real estate and your taxes, please contact Century 21 American Homes at 1-800-270-6318.
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