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A viral email continues to circulate indicating that the 3.8 percent tax on some investment income is a tax on all home sales. To help educate REALTORS® and homeowners regarding the 3.8 percent tax passed as part of health care reform in 2010, the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) has developed the following top 10 list:

1. 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.
 
2. 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.

3. 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.

4. 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.

5. 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).

6. 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.

7. 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.

8. 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.

9. 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.

10. 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.

We have been receiving many questions about a federal real estate transfer tax enacted as part of the health care reforms in 2010. THERE IS NO SUCH TAX! Pay no attention to an Internet posting riddled with errors that is being circulated about such a tax. The National Association of REALTORS® has released a new brochure to help REALTORS® understand the facts behind this issue.

FACT: The health care legislation created a new tax that would apply to a portion of the gain on the sale of any capital asset (including real estate), but that tax will apply ONLY to individuals with more than $200,000 Adjusted Gross Income (AGI), or $250,000 AGI on a joint return. The tax does not apply to any amount excluded from taxation under the $250,000/$500,000 principal residence rules. The tax is never imposed directly on the full amount of any capital gain.

The tax is computed under a multi-step formula that captures only a portion of any gain and will only affect those with total AGI above the amounts noted above. Links are provided for a Q&A on the tax and to a brochure with examples of the tax.

The 3.8% Tax: NAR’s Q&A
The 3.8% Tax: NAR’s Brochure

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