Until recently, if you purchased a home, you were required to keep track of the original cost and the cost of improvements to the home for tax purposes. Then, when you sold the home, if you made a profit on the sale, you had to either pay tax on the profit, or roll the profit forward into your next home, and next home, and next home. Someday, when you stopped buying homes, you might have to pay tax on the accumulated profits on all your homes. Unless of course you were over age 55 when you sold the final home, in which case you were exonerated from at least some of the tax bite. But times change, and so do tax laws. Keep in mind that, as with any tax law, there are exceptions to the rules and special rules for special cases, and it always makes sense to speak with a tax professional before making decisions that affect your tax return. That said, here are the basic rules you need to know when buying and selling your personal residence: If you own the home for at least five years and live in the home as your primary residence for at least two of those five years, and sell the home for a profit of not more than $250,000 (or $500,000 if you are married and filing a joint tax return), you don’t have to pay tax on the profit, nor do you have to report the sale of the home on your income tax return. If you don’t meet the above requirements, you might have to pay tax on the profit from your house. If you use part of the home for business purposes, you do need to keep track of all of the costs associated with your home, so that you can take a tax deduction for the business portion of your home.
By Gail Perry