Selling your home sale could impact your income taxes. You may or may not have to pay income taxes on the gain from the sale of your home.
The gain from the sale of your home may be excluded, either all or in part, from your income tax if you meet the eligibility test. The eligibility test consists of ownership and the use of the home rules. You must have owned and used it as your main home for at least two out of the five years before the date of the sale. Property acquired through a like-kind exchange (1031 exchange) during the 5-year period is not eligible for the exclusion.
The 24 months used as your main home can fall anywhere within the 5-year period and does not need to be consecutive 24 months. Short absences count as time lived at home. Only 12 months of residence will meet the requirement if you are physically or mentally unable to care for yourself. Time spent living in a licensed care facility also counts toward the residency requirement.
Partial exclusion is available if you moved because of work, health or an unforeseeable event. Work-related exception qualifies if your new job is at least 50 miles farther from home than your old work location. Health-related exception qualifies if you moved to obtain, provide, or facilitate diagnosis, cure, mitigation or treatment of disease, illness, or injury for yourself or a family member. Health-related exceptions also include a doctor’s recommendation of a change in residence due to health problems. Giving birth to two or more children from the same pregnancy is one of the situations qualifying as an unforeseeable related exception.
The maximum gain exclusion is $250,000 or ($500,000 if married filing jointly). The eligibility test must be met to qualify for the full or partial exclusion. Check for additional rules and any exceptions that may apply to you. One last note: You must report the sale to claim the exclusion and if you receive a form 1099-S, Proceeds from Real Estate Transactions, even if you have no gain from the sale.
The IRS allows taxpayers to use an optional safe harbor method when claiming a home office deduction.
The safe harbor method saves the taxpayer from having to substantiate, calculate and allocate deductible home office expenses, a procedure that is part of the nightmare taxpayers have to go through if they want to use the old actual expense method.
With the optional method, the taxpayer simply calculates the number of square feet used for the office and multiplies that number times $5. The maximum square footage that can be used is 300, so the maximum home office deduction at the present moment is $1,500.
The IRS can adjust the $5 rate as warranted.
The safe harbor deduction may not exceed the gross income from the business. If it does, the excess may not be carried forward.
Taxpayers using the safe harbor method will not be able to depreciate the portion of their home used in the trade or business. But the advantage is the taxpayer may deduct mortgage interest, real estate taxes and any casualty loss as itemized deductions on Schedule A of Form 1040.
The taxpayer would still be allowed to deduct, to the extent allowed by the Internal Revenue Code and regulations, any trade or business expenses unrelated to the qualified business use of the home for that taxable year. Some examples would be advertising and office supplies.
If reimbursed by an employer for the home office expenses, a taxpayer cannot use the safe harbor method.
The taxpayer may elect from taxable year to taxable year whether to use the safe harbor method or to calculate and substantiate actual expenses for the purpose of the home office deduction. A method is elected simply by using the particular method for that tax year. A method once selected for that tax year cannot be changed. ■
©2014 CPAmerica International
On Tuesday, January 15, 2013 the IRS announced that going forward, there is a simplified option for taxpayers who take the home office deduction. While the credit is capped at $1,500 a year (this may be adjusted in future years), taxpayers choosing this method will not have to deal with complex calculations of allocated expenses, depreciation and carryovers from prior years. What’s that you say? Your amazing CPA does all of these calculations for you so what does it matter? Well most importantly, the safe harbor method is an alternative to the substantiation (i.e. recordkeeping) of actual expenses. That means you don’t have to keep every utility, internet and any other home bill as substantiation for the deduction and in case of an IRS audit.
There are some important factors to consider, however. The allowable square footage used in the calculation cannot exceed 300 square feet. Also, home expenses like utilities, homeowner’s insurance, etc are not deductible under this method. Depreciation is also not allowed. Mortgage interest and real estate taxes would still be fully deductible on Schedule A (rather than apportioning it between the deduction and Schedule A) if you itemize.
The election to use the safe harbor method can be made each year, meaning you can use the safe harbor method in one year and use actual in the next. So if for some reason the filing cabinet with all of your paid bills walks out the door, you could take the safe harbor method that year and still get a deduction. Taxpayers may want to look at what their home office deduction has been in the past and see if this simpler method would be worth it on an annual basis.