The real estate market in the United States saw a decline in home sales in 2023, yet many homeowners managed to make a profit when selling their property. However, these gains can potentially lead to a significant tax bill for the sellers. According to ATTOM, a nationwide property database, the average profit from selling a median-priced single-family home in 2023 was $121,000, slightly lower than the previous year’s figure of $122,600. This discrepancy in profits could result in unexpected tax implications for homeowners.

While facing the prospect of paying taxes on home sale profits may seem daunting, it is essential to note that the tax laws are structured to incentivize homeownership. Home sellers can take advantage of certain exclusions to reduce their tax liabilities. Single homeowners are eligible to shield up to $250,000 of profit from capital gains taxes, while married couples filing jointly can exclude up to $500,000, provided they meet the IRS eligibility criteria. To qualify for these exclusions, homeowners must pass the ownership and residence tests outlined by the IRS.

The ownership test mandates that homeowners must have owned the property for at least two of the past five years before the sale. However, this requirement applies to only one spouse in cases of joint filing. Additionally, the residence test stipulates that the property must have been the primary residence for at least 24 months within the five years leading up to the sale. Both spouses need to meet the residence requirement to qualify for the full exclusion. Exceptions exist for partial exclusions, such as selling due to job relocation, health reasons, or unforeseeable events.

In instances where the capital gain exceeds the IRS exclusions, homeowners can explore strategies to lower their taxable income. By increasing the original purchase price or “basis” of the property, sellers can reduce their overall gains. Adding the costs of certain improvements that enhance the property’s value and prolong its useful life can contribute to raising the basis. Examples of qualifying improvements include home additions, updated systems, landscaping, and new appliances. It is crucial to maintain detailed records of these improvements to substantiate claims during audits and avoid potential penalties.

After closing a home sale, the IRS receives Form 1099-S, which outlines the closing date and gross proceeds of the transaction. To support any adjustments to the property’s basis, homeowners must retain documentation of home improvements made over the ownership period. Failing to maintain comprehensive records of home improvements is a common oversight that can lead to complications during tax assessments. Estimates are insufficient when substantiating claims during an audit, underscoring the necessity of accurate and detailed documentation.

Selling a home can be a financially rewarding experience, but it is essential to consider the tax implications associated with the transaction. By understanding the IRS guidelines for capital gains exclusions, maintaining accurate records of home improvements, and exploring strategies to minimize taxable income, homeowners can navigate the complexities of selling their property in 2023 efficiently. Adhering to these practices can help sellers optimize their financial outcomes while staying compliant with tax regulations.

Real Estate

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