It is true in most cases. When you sell your home, the capital gains on the sale are exempt from capital gains tax. Based on the Taxpayer Relief Act of 1997, if you are single, you will pay no capital gains tax on the first $250,000 you make when you sell your home. Married couples enjoy a $500,000 exemption. There are, however, some restrictions on this exemption.

In order for the sale to be exempt, the home must be considered a primary residency based on Internal Revenue Service (IRS) rules. These rules state that you must have occupied the residence for at least two of the last five years. If you buy a home and a dramatic rise in value causes you to sell it a year later, you would be required to pay capital gains tax on the gain. This rule does, however, allow you to convert a rental property into a primary residence because the two-year residency requirement does not need to be fulfilled in consecutive years. For example, suppose that you invest in a new condo. You live in it for the first year, rent the home for the next three years and, when the tenants move out, you move back in for another year. At the end of this five-year period, you will be able to sell your condo without having to pay capital gains tax.

The other major restriction is that you can only benefit from this exemption once every two years. Therefore, if you have two homes and lived in both for at least two of the last five years, you won't be able to sell both of them tax free.

This act has been beneficial for home owners because it has significantly changed the implications of home sales. Before the act, sellers had to roll the full value of a home sale into another home within two years in order to avoid paying capital gains tax. This, however, is no longer the case, and the proceeds of the sale can be used in any way the seller sees fit.

For more information on useful personal tax tips, check out Tax Tips For The Individual Investor and A Long-Term Mindset Meets Dreaded Capital Gains Tax.

  1. Do financial advisors charge VATs?

    The Personal Finance Society (PFS) and with Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC) have outlined when a value-added tax ... Read Full Answer >>
  2. Does the FHA provide construction loans?

    The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) does provide construction loans for both new construction and rehab projects. The ... Read Full Answer >>
  3. Are Cafeteria plans subject to FICA, ERISA or FUTA?

    Cafeteria plans are employer-sponsored benefit plans that provide both taxable and nontaxable, or qualified, benefit options ... Read Full Answer >>
  4. Can FHA loans be used for foreclosures?

    A buyer can use an FHA-insured loan to purchase a foreclosure as long as the house will be the borrower’s main residence. ... Read Full Answer >>
  5. Are variable annuities tax deferred?

    Variable annuities are tax-deferred. This means an investor does not pay taxes on the interest income from his annuity until ... Read Full Answer >>
  6. Do beneficiaries pay taxes on life insurance?

    Generally speaking, when the beneficiary of a life insurance policy receives the death benefit, this money is not counted ... Read Full Answer >>
Related Articles
  1. Savings

    How Parents Can Help Adult Children Buy a Home

    Owning a home isn't easy thanks to stringent lending standards. Thankfully, there's ways parents can help their kids buy a home.
  2. Taxes

    How & Where to File Form 1040 (And Which Version)

    All taxpayers need to know three things when filing a 1040: which form to use, how to file and where to file. After reading this, you'll know all three.
  3. Savings

    Should You Look at 529 Plans Outside Your State?

    529 savings plans are not restricted by geography. So if your in-state offering has high fees or poor investment choices, look elsewhere.
  4. Retirement

    Pros and Cons of Deferred Compensation Plans

    Learn about the pros and cons of non-qualified deferred compensation (NQDC) plans, including the flexibility of non-ERISA plans and the potential for forfeiture.
  5. Investing Basics

    How to Deduct Your Stock Losses

    Held onto a stock for too long? Selling at a loss is never ideal, but it is possible to minimize the damage. Here's how.
  6. Budgeting

    Basics For Buying An Apartment In Manhattan

    Here's info to help you get the apartment hunt started right.
  7. Taxes

    10 Money-Saving Year-End Tax Tips

    Getting organized well before the deadline will curb your frustration and your tax liability.
  8. Taxes

    End-of-the-Year Checklist to Save on Income Taxes

    From grouping related expenses to factoring in the alternative minimum tax, here are some things you need to keep in mind when doing tax planning.
  9. Taxes

    Before You Visit Your Tax Preparer: Do This

    The earlier you start preparing your tax records and documents, the more likely you are to have a smooth tax return experience – and all the tax benefits you're due.
  10. Options & Futures

    Understanding The Escrow Process

    Learn the 10 steps that lead up to closing the deal on your new home and taking possession.
  1. Taxes

    An involuntary fee levied on corporations or individuals that ...
  2. Wealth Management

    A high-level professional service that combines financial/investment ...
  3. Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS)

    A UK program that helps smaller, riskier companies to raise capital ...
  4. Guideline Premium And Corridor Test (GPT)

    A test used to determine whether an insurance product can be ...
  5. Cash Value Accumulation Test (CVAT)

    A test method used to determine whether a financial product can ...
  6. Capital Growth

    The increase in value of an asset or investment over time. It ...

You May Also Like

Hot Definitions
  1. Black Friday

    1. A day of stock market catastrophe. Originally, September 24, 1869, was deemed Black Friday. The crash was sparked by gold ...
  2. Turkey

    Slang for an investment that yields disappointing results or turns out worse than expected. Failed business deals, securities ...
  3. Barefoot Pilgrim

    A slang term for an unsophisticated investor who loses all of his or her wealth by trading equities in the stock market. ...
  4. Quick Ratio

    The quick ratio is an indicator of a company’s short-term liquidity. The quick ratio measures a company’s ability to meet ...
  5. Black Tuesday

    October 29, 1929, when the DJIA fell 12% - one of the largest one-day drops in stock market history. More than 16 million ...
  6. Black Monday

    October 19, 1987, when the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) lost almost 22% in a single day. That event marked the beginning ...
Trading Center