U.S. taxpayers have enjoyed specific tax benefits for home ownership since personal income tax was introduced by the 16th amendment in 1913. While these benefits may not be the primary reason that motivates a person to buy a home, they are still tangible and not available to tenants.
The exclusion of capital gains tax on the profit made from a home is unique from other investments and provides homeowners significant savings. Single taxpayers can exclude up to $250,000 gain and married taxpayers up to $500,000 gain. During the five-year period ending on the date of sale, a taxpayer must have: owned the home for at least two years; lived in the home as their main home for at least two years; and, ownership and use do not have to be continuous nor occur at the same time.
Gain on the sale of a principal residence in excess of the allowed exclusion are taxed at the lower long-term capital gain rate of the owner.
A homeowner may take the standard deduction or itemized deductions in any tax year based on which will create the largest deduction. Property taxes and qualified mortgage interest are allowable itemized deductions.
Qualified mortgage interest is acquisition debt plus home equity debt not to exceed the maximum amounts. Acquisition debt is the amount of debt incurred to buy, build or improve a first and second home up to $1,000,000. Home equity debt is limited to $100,000 over the current acquisition debt on the combination of a first and second home and may be used for any purpose.
For more information, see your tax advisor or see IRS Publications 523, Selling Your Home and 936, Home Mortgage Interest Deduction.
A homeowner’s tax savings benefit is generally realized when they file their federal income tax return after the money has been spent for the interest and property taxes. Some people look forward to the refund as a means of forced savings but some people need to realize the savings during the year.
It is possible to adjust the deductions being withheld from the homeowner’s salary so they realize the benefit of the savings prior to filing their tax returns in the form of more money in their pay checks. Employees can talk to their employers about increasing their deductions stated on their W-4 form.
By increasing the exemptions or deductions, less is taken out of the check and the employee will receive more each pay period. If a person over-estimates their exemptions and therefore, underpays their income tax, they might incur interest and would have additional tax to pay when they filed their tax return.Buyers considering this strategy should seek tax advice and discuss it with their human relations department at work. Additional information is available on the Internal Revenue Service website about Completing Form w-4 and Worksheets.