While most associate mortgage loan interest and property taxes are the two greatest tax benefits of owning a home, don’t forget that the federal government also provides many tax benefits of selling a home. From capital gains to real estate broker fees, the Internal Revenue Service offers a variety of important tax breaks.
Hopefully, you kept excellent records of the capital improvements you made while you owned the home, because you can deduct the total cost of those expenses (less any depreciation) from the gain. Calculate the gain by subtracting deductible closing costs, selling costs and the tax basis from the sale price. Not sure what the tax basis is? It’s what you paid for the house plus the cost of your improvements adjusted for current value.
Also, make sure you save your sale documents, because selling costs add up fast. Your real estate broker fee, title insurance, inspection costs and legal fees are all deductible. Didn’t use a broker? Deduct your advertising and administrative costs you spent during your do-it-yourself home sale project.
The biggest tax benefit is the income exclusion on the gain of the sale of a principal residence. Single folks earn a $250,000 exclusion – meaning that if you bought your home for $250,000 and sold it for $400,000, you don’t owe income tax on the $150,000 gain. Married couples earn a $500,000 exclusion. If you lived in the home full time during at least two of the previous five years, you qualify.
Don’t forget about the benefits of buying a new home. If you sold your home because you got a job somewhere else, you may be able to deduct some moving expenses. Qualifying means that your new job must be at least 50 miles farther away than your old job was. You can also deduct prepaid points on your new mortgage.