The U.S. housing market has been extremely volatile over the past year. Year-over-year growth rates were at highs of 20.1 percent in April 2022, then declined to only 8.6 percent in November – the biggest drop in over 20 years. As a result, many homeowners who sold their homes in 2022 or plan to in 2023 may have either gains or losses depending on their location and timing. Below, we tackle the issues you need to know to properly account for the taxation of your home sale.
Only Some Gains Are Taxable
Not all gains on home sales are taxable, with the initial $250,000 or $500,000 exempt in certain circumstances. All you need to do is have lived in the home as a main residence for at least two out of the past five years before the sale.
A key factor is that the above exclusion applies only to the sale of your main home. If you own multiple houses, the one you spend the most time in typically counts as your main home.
Just because the gain on a home sale qualifies for exclusion from taxation, it does not mean that you do not need to report the transaction and income. Often, you will receive a Form 1099-S; and in all cases, you need to report the sale on Schedule D and Form 8949 with your Form 1040.
Also, remember that part of your gains could be taxable. Even if a married couple qualifies for a $500,000 exclusion, if they have a $600,000 gain, then the $100,000 over the exclusion is taxable.
Figuring Your Gain
To understand if you have a gain or loss on the sale of a home, you will need to make a calculation. First, start with calculating your basis. This is the price you paid for the house plus any significant improvements. When you sell your home, your gain is the sales price (fewer taxes, realtor commissions, etc.) and this basis. It pays to keep good records of remodeling and additions.
Capital Gains Tax
Like any capital asset (a stock for example), if you owned your home for one year or less before you sold it, then you have short-term capital gains, which are treated as ordinary income for tax purposes. If you owned it longer than one year, then your capital gain above the exclusion is long-term.
In the case where you have losses on the sale of your home and not a gain, then you are in a bit of a bad spot. There is no tax impact since you cannot claim a loss on the sale of a personal residence. This is the other side of the exclusion of gains.
Exceptions to the Rules
As always with the tax law, there are exceptions. One example is when a home is transferred as part of a divorce settlement. Here there is no reportable gain or loss unless your ex-spouse is a nonresident alien.
Other exceptions that might affect the taxability of your gain include those involving taxpayers who died, empty land, or a home that was destroyed. If you believe you have unusual circumstances related to a 2022 or pending 2023 home sale, then it’s best to consult with your tax professional.
2023 Home Sales
Looking at the remainder of 2023, there are mixed opinions on the single-family housing market. The consensus is that there will be fewer homes on the market for sale; however, how far prices may decline is up for debate.
Some analysts believe home prices will not drop much in 2023, despite increased mortgage rates due to demand being supported by low inventory. Meanwhile, others think prices could decline quite a bit, especially in certain markets such as Florida, Texas, and the Southeast where they’ve run up the most in recent years.
National home price averages, while statistically cited, are meaningless with residential real estate being so location dependent. Many homeowners who sell in 2023 may still have a profit on the sale of their home. Assuming no tax law changes, the same capital gains rules will apply in 2023 as they did in 2022.
The takeaway here is that if you are thinking about selling this year, start planning now. Gains realized in 2023 are not reportable or taxable until 2024. Figuring out your basis and adjustments now will save a lot of headaches next tax season.