Important tax reminders for people selling a home
A lot of families move during the summer. Taxpayers who are selling their home may qualify to exclude all or part of any gain from the sale from their income when filing their tax return. Here are some things that homeowners should think about when selling a home:
Ownership and use
To claim the exclusion, the taxpayer must meet ownership and use tests. During a five-year period ending on the date of the sale, the homeowner must have owned the home and lived in it as their main home for at least two years.
Taxpayers who sell their main home and have a gain from the sale may be able to exclude up to $250,000 of that gain from their income. Taxpayers who file a joint return with their spouse may be able to exclude up to $500,000. Homeowners excluding all the gain do not need to report the sale on their tax return unless a Form 1099-S was issued.
Some taxpayers experience a loss when their main home sells for less than what they paid for it. This loss is not deductible.
Taxpayers who own more than one home can only exclude the gain on the sale of their main home. They must pay taxes on the gain from selling any other home.
Taxpayers who don’t qualify to exclude all of the taxable gain from their income must report the gain from the sale of their home when they file their tax return. Anyone who chooses not to claim the exclusion must report the taxable gain on their tax return. Taxpayers who receive Form 1099-S, Proceeds from Real Estate Transactions must report the sale on their tax return even if they have no taxable gain.
Generally, taxpayers must report forgiven or canceled debt as income on their tax return. This includes people who had a mortgage workout, foreclosure, or other canceled mortgage debt on their home. Taxpayers who had debt discharged, in whole or in part, on a qualified principal residence can’t exclude it from income unless it was discharged before January 1, 2026, or a written agreement for the debt forgiveness was in place before January 1, 2026.
There are exceptions to these rules for some individuals, including persons with a disability, certain members of the military, intelligence community and Peace Corps workers.
Worksheets included in Publication 523, Selling Your Home can help taxpayers figure the adjusted basis of the home sold, the gain or loss on the sale, and the excluded gain on the sale.
Get ready to file taxes:
What to do before the tax year ends
There are things taxpayers can do before the end of the year to help them get ready for the 2021 tax filing season. Below are a few of them.
Donate to charity
There is still time to make a 2020 donation. Taxpayers who don't itemize deductions may take a charitable deduction of up to $300 for cash contributions made in 2020 to qualifying charities. Cash donations include those made by check, credit card or debit card. Before making a donation, people can check the Tax Exempt Organization Search tool on IRS.gov to make sure the organization is eligible for tax-deductible donations.
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act changed this law. The CARES Act also temporarily suspends limits on charitable contributions and temporarily increases limits on contributions of food inventory.
Report any name or address change
Taxpayers who moved should notify the IRS of their new address. They should also notify the Social Security Administration of any name change.
Renew expiring ITINs
Certain Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers expire at the end of this year. Taxpayers can visit the ITIN page on IRS.gov for more information on which numbers need renewal.
Connect with the IRS
Taxpayers can use social media to get the latest tax and filing tips from the IRS. The IRS shares information on things like tax changes, scam alerts, initiatives, tax products and taxpayer services. These social media tools are available in different languages, including English, Spanish and American Sign Language.
Find information about retirement plans
IRS.gov has end-of-year find tax information about retirement plans. This includes resources for individuals about retirement planning, contributions and withdrawals. The CARES Act retirement plan relief waived required minimum distributions during 2020 for IRA or retirement plan accounts. Also, eligible individuals can take a coronavirus-related distribution of up to $100,000 by December 30, 2020 and repay it over three years or pay the tax due over three years.
Contribute salary deferral
Taxpayers can make a salary deferral to a retirement plan. This helps maximize the tax credit available for eligible contributions. Taxpayers should make sure their total salary deferral contributions do not exceed the $19,500 limit for 2020.
Think about tax refunds
Taxpayers should be careful not to expect getting a refund by a certain date. This is especially true for those who plan to use their refund to make major purchases or pay bills. Just as each tax return is unique to the individual, so is each taxpayer's refund. Taxpayers can take steps now to get ready to file their federal tax return in 2021.
Remember these new things when preparing for the 2021 tax filing season
Remember these new things when preparing for the 2021 tax filing season
• Taxpayers may be able to claim the recovery rebate credit if they met the eligibility requirements in 2020 and one of the following applies to them:
- They didn't receive an Economic Impact Payment in 2020.
- They are single and their payment was less than $1,200.
- They are married, filed jointly for 2018 or 2019 and their payment was less than $2,400.
- They didn’t receive $500 for each qualifying child.
• Taxpayers who received a federal tax refund in 2020 may have been paid interest. The IRS sent interest payments to individual taxpayers who timely filed their 2019 federal income tax returns and received refunds. Most interest payments were received separately from tax refunds. Interest payments are taxable and must be reported on 2020 federal income tax returns. In January 2021, the IRS will send a Form 1099-INT, Interest Income to anyone who received interest totaling at least $10.
Apply for or renew your ITIN
Your ITIN may expire before you file a tax return in 2021. All ITINs not used on a federal tax return at least once in the last three years will expire on December 31, 2020. Additionally, all ITINs issued before 2013 with middle digits of 88 (Example: (9XX-88-XXXX) will expire at the end of the year. Those with middle digits 90, 91, 92, 94, 95, 96, 97, 98 or 99, that were assigned before 2013 and have not already been renewed, will also expire at the end of this year.
If you need to file a tax return in 2020, IRS recommends you submit a Form W-7, Application for IRS Individual Taxpayer Identification Number, or Formulario W-7 (SP), Solicitud de Número del Identificación Personal del Contribuyente del Servicio de Impuestos Internos, now to renew your ITIN. As a reminder, ITINs with middle digits 70, 71, 72, 73, 74, 75, 76, 77, 78, 79, 80, 81, 82, 83, 84, 85, 86, or 87 that expired in 2016, 2017, 2018, or 2019 can also be renewed.