Public Service Announcement: There Is No Health Care Tax on Home Sales
The 2010 health reform legislation introduced a new 3.8% tax on the net investment income of high-income taxpayers. That tax, which I suspect you will hear more about in coming months, goes into effect on January 1, 2013. This tax raises important policy issues, not least of which is whether Congress should give the name “Unearned Income Medicare Contribution” to an investment tax whose proceeds have nothing to do with Medicare.
The most pernicious myth, however, is that this new tax will apply to home sales. Not True!
As Howard Gleckman explains over at TaxVox:
Yes, the health law will impose a 3.8 percent tax on investment profits and other non-wage income starting in 2013. But that tax applies only to couples with adjusted gross income of $250,000 (or individuals with AGI [adjusted gross income] of $200,000). About 95 percent of households make less than that, and will be exempt from the law no matter what.
In addition, couples who sell a personal residence can exclude the first $500,000 in profit from tax ($250,000 for singles). That would be profit from a home sale, not proceeds. So a couple that bought a house for $100,000 and sold it for $599,000 would owe no tax, even under the health law.
If that couple had AGI in excess of $250,000 and made a profit of $500,010, it would owe the new tax. On ten bucks. That would be an extra 38 cents.
The Tax Policy Center figures that in 2013 about 0.2 percent of households with cash income of $100,000-$200,000 would pay any additional tax under this provision. And they’d pay, on average, an extra $235. Keep in mind that is added tax on all sources of non-wage income, not just home sales.
In short, the tax applies to capital gains, not home sales. Most capital gains on primary residences are exempt from tax. And it only hits high-income taxpayers. That doesn’t mean you have to like it.
Top 10 Things You Need to Know About the 3.8% Tax
- When you add up all of your income from every possible source, and that total is less than $200,000 ($250,000 on a joint tax return), you will not be subject to this tax.
- The 3.8% tax will never be collected as a transfer tax on real estate of any type, so you’ll never pay this tax at the time that you purchase a home or other investment property.
- You’ll never pay this tax at settlement when you sell your home or investment property. Any capital gain you realize at settlement is just one component of that year’s gross income.
- If you sell your principal residence, you will still receive the full benefit of the $250,000 (single tax return)/$500,000 (married filing joint tax return) exclusion on the sale of that home. If your capital gain is greater than these amounts, then you will include any gain above these amounts as income on your Form 1040 tax return. Even then, if your total income (including this taxable portion of gain on your residence) is less than the $200,000/$250,000 amounts, you will not pay this tax. If your total income is more than these amounts, a formula will protect some portion of your investment.
- The tax applies to other types of investment income, not just real estate. If your income is more than the $200,000/$250,000 amount, then the tax formula will be applied to capital gains, interest income, dividend income and net rents (i.e., rents after expenses).
- The tax goes into effect in 2013. If you have investment income in 2013, you won’t pay the 3.8% tax until you file your 2013 Form 1040 tax return in 2014. The 3.8% tax for any later year will be paid in the following calendar year when the tax returns are filed.
- In any particular year, if you have no income from capital gains, rents, interest or dividends, you’ll never pay this tax, even if you have millions of dollars of other types of income.
- The formula that determines the amount of 3.8% tax due will always protect $200,000 ($250,000 on a joint return) of your income from any burden of the 3.8% tax. For example, if you are single and have a total of $201,000 income, the 3.8% tax would never be imposed on more than $1,000.
- It’s true that investment income from rents on an investment property could be subject to the 3.8% tax. But: The only rental income that would be included in your gross income and therefore possibly subject to the tax is net rental income: gross rents minus expenses like depreciation, interest, property tax, maintenance and utilities.
- The tax was enacted along with the health care legislation in 2010. It was added to the package just hours before the final vote and without review. NAR strongly opposed the tax at the time, and remains hopeful that it will not go into effect. The tax will no doubt be debated during the upcoming tax reform debates in 2013.