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Taxes on Selling a House


  1. Introduction
  2. Capital Gains Tax
  3. Reporting the Sale
  4. Additional Considerations
  5. Strategies to Reduce Taxes
  6. FAQs


Selling a house can have significant tax implications. Understanding these taxes and how to minimize them can help you maximize your profits. This guide covers the key tax considerations when selling a house, including capital gains tax, reporting requirements, and strategies to reduce your tax liability.

Capital Gains Tax

Understanding Capital Gains

  • Capital Gains: The profit made from selling a property is known as capital gains. This is the difference between the selling price and your adjusted basis (original purchase price plus improvements, minus depreciation).
  • Short-Term vs. Long-Term: If you owned the house for more than a year, it is considered a long-term gain and is taxed at a lower rate. If owned for less than a year, it is a short-term gain and taxed at ordinary income rates.

Primary Residence Exclusion

  • Exclusion Amount: You can exclude up to $250,000 of capital gains from taxation if you’re single, or $500,000 if married and filing jointly.
  • Eligibility: To qualify for the exclusion, you must have owned and lived in the house as your primary residence for at least two of the last five years before the sale.

Calculating Capital Gains

  • Adjusted Basis: Start with the original purchase price, add the cost of improvements, and subtract any depreciation claimed.
  • Gain Calculation: Subtract the adjusted basis and selling costs (e.g., commissions, legal fees) from the selling price to determine your capital gain.

Reporting the Sale

IRS Form 1099-S

  • What It Is: This form reports the sale of real estate transactions to the IRS.
  • When It’s Required: The closing agent or real estate professional will typically file this form if the transaction meets certain conditions (e.g., sale price over $250,000).

IRS Schedule D

  • Purpose: Schedule D is used to report capital gains and losses from investments, including real estate.
  • Filing: You’ll need to include your capital gains calculation and any applicable exclusions.

Additional Considerations

Improvements and Repairs

  • Capital Improvements: Expenses that add value to your home, prolong its life, or adapt it for new uses can be added to your basis, reducing your capital gains.
  • Repairs and Maintenance: Regular maintenance and repairs (e.g., fixing a leaky faucet) are not considered capital improvements and cannot be added to your basis.

State and Local Taxes

  • State Taxes: Some states impose capital gains taxes in addition to federal taxes. Rates and rules vary by state.
  • Local Taxes: Certain localities may also have taxes on real estate transactions. Check with your local tax authority.

Strategies to Reduce Taxes

Timing the Sale

  • Long-Term Gains: Holding the property for more than a year can reduce your tax rate on the gain.
  • Utilize Exclusions: Plan the sale around the primary residence exclusion rules to maximize your tax-free gains.

1031 Exchange

  • What It Is: A 1031 exchange allows you to defer capital gains taxes by reinvesting the proceeds from the sale into a similar property.
  • Requirements: Strict rules govern the timing and type of replacement property.

Gifting the Property

  • Gift Tax: Gifting your property to a family member can transfer the tax liability. Be aware of gift tax implications and consult with a tax professional.


What is the capital gains tax rate on selling a house?

The rate depends on your income and how long you owned the property. Long-term capital gains are taxed at 0%, 15%, or 20%, while short-term gains are taxed at your ordinary income rate.

How do I qualify for the $250,000/$500,000 exclusion on capital gains?

You must have owned and lived in the home as your primary residence for at least two of the five years before the sale.

Do I have to report the sale of my home to the IRS?

Yes, you must report the sale on your tax return. If you qualify for the exclusion, you may not owe any tax, but you still need to report the transaction.

Can I deduct home improvements from my capital gains?

Yes, capital improvements that add value to the home can be added to your basis, reducing your capital gains.

What is a 1031 exchange, and how does it work?

A 1031 exchange allows you to defer paying capital gains taxes by reinvesting the proceeds into a similar property. There are strict rules regarding timing and property types.

Understanding the tax implications of selling a house can help you make informed decisions and maximize your net proceeds. For personalized advice, consider consulting a tax professional or real estate expert, such as those at Dale McCarthy Real Estate.

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