Investing in real estate can be quite lucrative, and with plenty of room for profit, it’s easy to see why property ownership remains a popular investment. When it comes time to realize some of this profit, you can be certain that the IRS will expect its cut, and how long you hold onto the property determines how you’ll be taxed on your investment. However, simply owning investment property has tax implications, even if you are planning to hold onto it. Real estate investors also claim losses on the property to help offset their gains. Familiarizing yourself with how your capital gains are taxed goes a long way towards getting the most out of your investment, and reducing your obligation to the IRS at tax time.
Short Versus Long-Term Capital Gains on Investment Property
A capital gain is any profit received from the sale of a capital asset. Capital assets are things such as stocks, real estate, bonds, collectibles or dividends. For tax purposes, profit from the sale of an investment property will be considered either a short-term or long-term capital gain, and the difference between the two is determined by how long you held the asset.
If you hold onto an investment property for less than a year and sell it, then the proceeds from the sale of the property are taxed as income for the year, and are considered short-term capital gains. For short-term capital gains, whatever tax bracket you’re in is the rate at which you’ll be taxed up to the 2017 maximum of 39.6 percent. Also, depending upon your income level, you could be hit with a 3.8 percent Medicare surtax, part of the Affordable Care Act, as well. You report these short-term capital gains on your IRS Form 1040 using Schedule E, "Supplemental Income and Loss."
Long-term capital gains, on the other hand, are the proceeds from the sale of an asset you held for longer than one year, and fare much better as far as taxes are concerned. These gains are generally taxed at 0, 15, or 20 percent for the 2017 tax year, although, certain assets such as collectibles or small-business stocks are taxed at 28 percent. However, If you’re in one of the lower tax brackets, you may find yourself taxed at 0 percent on your long-term gains.
But, in true IRS fashion, there are different tax rules that apply to long-term capital gains from real estate. Investment property capital gains are taxed at 25 percent if you deduct depreciation on your tax return. This is a way for the IRS to recuperate some of the tax breaks and deductions you claim when you depreciate your property. To determine your gains – and subsequently your tax rate – on investment properties, complete Schedule D, "Capital Gains and Losses." The IRS’ website has more information and worksheets to assist, and Publication 544 thoroughly covers how to go about figuring the taxes on your investment property.
Deducting Capital Losses on Investment Property
You can deduct capital losses on your investment properties. These deductions apply to help you offset some of the capital gains you realized, both short and long-term. However, you can only deduct short-term capital gains with short-term capital losses, and the same applies to long-term gains and losses. You can deduct up to $3,000 in any net capital losses against other types of income per year. If you find your capital losses exceeding this $3,000 limit, you may carry over your net losses to the following years, up to this limit. If you’re married and filing separately, then the limit you're able to deduct in capital losses is $1,500 per year.
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