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How to Determine a Gain or Loss on Sale of Personal Residence

Question:

Does a minister need to report the gain or loss on the sale of his personal residence?

Answer:

IRS Publication 523 has complete details on Selling Your Home, but we will provide a quick overview.

The minister must know the selling price, the amount realized, and the adjusted basis in order to determine the gain or loss. The following formula can be used by a resident to determine his or her gain or loss:

  Selling Price
- Selling Expenses
= Amount realized
- Adjusted basis
= Gain or loss

The selling price is the total amount the minister receives for the home.

The amount realized is found by subtracting selling expenses from the selling price. Some common selling expenses include commissions and fees that were directly related to the sale of the home.

The adjusted basis consists of the increases or decreases of value that the home has incurred over the period of ownership by the resident. Look at IRS Publication 523 for instructions on how to determine the adjusted basis of a home.

The gain or loss is the difference between the amount realized and the adjusted basis. If the difference is a positive number, then there is a gain; if the difference is a negative number, then there is a loss. Generally, a gain on the sale of a home is taxable while a loss is not deductible. However, like most tax rules, there are exceptions!

According to 26 U.S. Code § 121, “Gross income shall not include gain from the sale or exchange of property if, during the 5-year period ending on the date of the sale or exchange, such property has been owned and used by the taxpayer as the taxpayer’s principal residence for periods aggregating 2 years or more.”

The code goes on to explain that a single individual can exclude the gain up to $250,000, while a husband and a wife who file a joint return can exclude up to $500,000 of the gain.

In order to qualify for this special exclusion of gain, residents must meet the ownership test and the use test. This means that during the 5-year period ending on the date of the sale, the resident must have owned the home for at least two years (the ownership test) and lived in the home as a main home for at least two years (the use test). Also, the resident must not have excluded gain from the sale of another home during the 2-year period ending on the date of the sale. Details and exceptions to these tests can be viewed in IRS Publication 523.

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