Client Tip: 5 Tax Deductions to Share With Sellers
Tax deductions when selling a home can amount to sizable savings when a seller files with the IRS. So whether selling a home soon or if your client sold it last year, you’ll want to share all the tax deductions (not to mention tax exemptions or other write-offs) at their disposal.
Here’s a rundown of everything you need to know, plus a preview of what’s in store once the new tax code takes effect next year.
1. Selling costs
“You can deduct any costs associated with selling the home—including legal fees, escrow fees, advertising costs, and real estate agent commissions,” says Joshua Zimmelman, president of a New York tax consulting company. This could also include home staging fees, according to Thomas J. Williams, a tax accountant who operates Your Small Biz Accountant.
2018 tax changes: These deductions are still allowed under the new tax law.
2. Home improvements and repairs
Did you renovate a few rooms to make your home more marketable? Super—they probably helped you fetch a higher sales price, and now you can deduct those upgrade costs as well. This includes painting the house, repairing the roof or water heater, or anything that remains useful past a year.
But there’s a catch, and it all boils down to timing.
“If you needed to make home improvements in order to sell your home, you can deduct those expenses as selling costs as long as they were made within 90 days of the closing,” says Zimmelman.
2018 tax changes: None.
3. Property taxes
If you were dutifully paying your property taxes up to the point when you sold your home, you can deduct the amount you paid in property taxes for the time you owned it.
2018 tax changes: This deduction is still allowed, but your total deductions are capped at $10,000, Zimmelman says. You may be able to avoid this cap if you prepaid your 2018 taxes and if your property was assessed in 2017, but estimated assessments won’t qualify.
4. Mortgage interest
As with property taxes, you can deduct the interest on your mortgage (up to a maximum of $1 million) for the portion of the year you owned your home.
2018 tax changes: New homeowners (and sellers) can deduct the interest on up to only $750,000 of mortgage debt, though homeowners who got their mortgage before Dec. 15, 2017, can continue deducting up to the original $1 million amount, according to Zimmelman.
5. Moving expenses
If you sold your home in 2017 in order to move for a job change, you can deduct those expenses.
2018 tax changes: Lawmakers eliminated this deduction for most of us. However, members of the armed forces on active duty can still take the deduction.
But what’s up with capital gains tax for sellers?
This one isn’t technically a deduction (it’s an exclusion), but you’re still going to like it. As a reminder, capital gains are your profits from selling your home—whatever cash is left after paying off your expenses, plus any outstanding mortgage debt. And yes, these profits are taxed as income. But here’s the good news: You can exclude up to $250,000 of the capital gains from the sale if you’re single, and $500,000 if married. The only big catch is you must have lived in your home at least two of the past five years.
2018 tax changes: None. Lawmakers tried to change this rule, but it managed to survive—so it’s still one home sellers can cherish. However, look for this to possibly change in a future tax bill.
Lawmakers would like to change this so that homeowners would have to live in the property for five of the past eight years, instead of two out of five.