Tax Rules When Selling Your Home

How the gains from the sale of a primary residence are taxed has changed in recent years. If you have recently sold your home, or are considering doing so, you may want to be aware of these new rules.

Home Sale
If you owned and lived in your home for two of the last five years before the sale, then up to $250,000 of profit may be exempt from federal income taxes. If you are married and file a joint return, then it doubles to $500,000.

To qualify for this exemption, you cannot have excluded the gain on the sale of another home within two years to this sale. Please consult a professional with tax expertise regarding your individual situation.

This profit would be excluded from your taxable income. In fact, the sale may not need to be reported unless you receive a Form 1099-S or do not meet the above requirements.
If you sold your home at a loss, unfortunately, you can’t deduct the loss.

There Are Exceptions
Even if you do not meet the above requirements, you may qualify for this exclusion:

  • If you receive the house in a divorce settlement,
  • If you are able to count short-term absences as time lived in the house
  • If a surviving spouse who has not remarried can count the time that the deceased spouse lived in the house.

The five-year test period can also be suspended for up to ten years in cases where any spouse has served on “qualified official extended duty” as a member of the military, foreign service, or federal intelligence agencies.



Even if you don’t pass the five-year rule test, a reduced exclusion may be available if you have a change in employment or health, or because of unforeseen circumstances, such as divorce or multiple births from a single pregnancy. Please speak with a professional with tax expertise regarding your situation.

IRS.gov, 2016
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