Steven J. Rosenthal, CPA, CFP, JD
Capital Gains Income Exclusions on the Sale of a Principal Residence
Many persons approaching retirement own real estate that has appreciated significantly over time. If the real estate is used as a primary personal residence, there are tax benefits that can exclude from taxation some or all of the capital gains on the sale of the residence. If you have owned and lived in your principal residence for at least two of the five years before the sale, $500,000 of capital gain is excluded from income for married filing jointly taxpayers ($250,000 for single filers).
However, if the residence has been used in any manner other than as a primary residence, that usage could reduce the tax benefits of the exemption. For example, if the home has been depreciated, a tax could be imposed on the “recapture” of depreciation when the property is sold. Depreciation deductions are typically claimed when a home office deduction or part or all of the property has been rented out. The recaptured depreciation is taxed as income at a 25% maximum tax rate vs. a 20% maximum tax rate for other capital gains. Failing to deduct depreciation when required will not relieve a taxpayer from depreciation recapture upon the sale of the home. It could subject that taxpayer to double taxation on the unrecaptured amount in the case of an audit. See https://www.irs.gov/publications/p523
For upper-income taxpayers, the value of the capital gain exclusion is increased due to the avoidance of a Net Investment Income Tax surcharge of an additional 3.8%. This surcharge is imposed on most dividends, interest, and capital gains for taxpayers whose income exceeds $250,000 for those filing married jointly or $200,00 for single filers. See https://www.irs.gov/newsroom/questions-and-answers-on-the-net-investment-income-tax
Investments in real estate can be an integral part of a financial plan, but there are many complicated tax rules concerning the use of principal residences, home offices, vacation homes, rental properties, like-kind exchanges, and using real estate for gifts or inheritances. Taxpayers should seek the advice of tax and investment professionals regarding the utilization of real estate as part of an overall financial plan.
For a comprehensive review of your personal situation, always consult with a tax or legal advisor. Neither Cetera Advisor Networks LLC nor any of its representatives may give legal or tax advice.