How to Avoid Capital Gains Tax When You Sell
Your South Bay Home.....
There are a lot of reasons to buy real estate. You can buy with a minimal cash
investment. Real estate tends to appreciate in value over time. If you occupy
the property, the federal government subsidizes your housing expense with tax
write-offs for mortgage interest and property taxes. If thats not enough incentive,
consider the tax benefits you receive when you sell.
Homeowners who have owned their homes for at least two years are entitled to
a capital gains tax exemption when they sell. For married couples that file
jointly, the first $500,000 of gain is taxfree. For single individuals, the exemption
is $250,000. In either case, the property must be a primary residence that you
occupied for 2 of the 5 years before selling.
The current capital gains exclusion for primary residences can be taken every
two years. So conceivably you could buy ahome, experience two years of
appreciation, sell the property, receive tax-free gain, buy another property and
repea the sequence again and again.
The Taxpayer Relief Act of 1997 significantly changed the federal tax laws
regarding the sale of a principal residence. Under the current law, you dont
need to invest in another home in order to defer capital gain liability, as was
the case previously. Even if you sell your home and rent indefinitely, youre
entitled to take the $250,000 (individual) or $500,000 (married couples) capital
gain tax exemption.
Contractors and renovation specialists are making good use of the current
tax law. Some builders are choosing to occupy a home theyve recently built
rather than sell it new. After establishing the 2-year minimum residency
requirement, they sell the property and are eligible for the $250,000 (individual)
or $500,000 (married couples) capital gain tax exemption. Home buyers with
fix-up expertise can use this strategy to help build wealth. First, buy a fixer
and move into it. Fix it up and live there for at least two years. Then sell,
take your tax-free gain and buy another fixer. But dont even consider this
approach unless you like moving a lot and you can live comfortably in a
construction zone. Youre only entitled to cash in on tax-free capital gain
on the sale of your primary residence. If you own income-producing property,
you must pay tax on the gain when you sell unless you complete a 1031
tax-deferred exchange. A 1031 exchangeallows you to roll gain from one
income-producing property into another income-producing property. You
ultimately have to paytax on the gain, but a 1031 exchange permits you
to defer capital gain tax payment in the future.
HOME SELLER TIP: Some homeowners are incorporating current tax law
into their retirement planning. Recently, an Oakland,Calif., couple sold an
apartment building using a 1031 Exchange. With the proceeds, they
purchased, or traded into, a home theyll ultimately occupy when they retire.
Until they retire, the property will be rented. So, they traded onerental
property for another and deferred paying tax on the gain. At retirement, they
will sell their current residence and collect $500,000 of tax-free gain. Then
theyll move into the rental property they acquired in exchange for the
apartment building they sold years before. For tax purposes, theyll convert
the rental property to their primary residence and will avoid paying tax on
the gain of the investment properties.
THE CLOSING: Federal tax laws are in a continuous state of flux, so be
sure to consult a knowledgeable tax advisor before you buy or sell, particularly
if income property is involved. State tax laws vary, so consult with an expert
in your area.