Tax Consequences of Converting a Rental Property into a Primary Residence

Do you own a residential rental property that you plan to convert into your primary residence? Are you wondering if by doing so, you could still qualify for the capital gains exclusion on sales of a primary residence, when you do eventually sell? This article will examine these questions, and will explain some of the basic tax rules involved in turning a rental property into a primary residence.

The Capital Gains Exclusion for Sale of a Primary Residence- General Rules

In general, under Internal Revenue Code (IRC) section 121, taxpayers who reside in a primary residence, and who have both owned and lived (or used as a primary residence) in a home for at least two years within a five year period may qualify for the full capital gains exclusion of $500,000 on a joint filed tax return ($250,000 per spouse). However, taxpayers must not have already claimed this exemption within the past two years. Typically, each spouse of a married couple must meet both requirements in order to get the full exclusion. Certain exceptions may be available if the requirements are not met, depending upon the taxpayer’s circumstances. You will need to consult a tax attorney on this issue.

In converting a residential rental property into a primary residence, it should be noted that any depreciation taken while the property was a rental will not qualify for the capital gains exclusion, and will instead be subject to depreciation recapture. Depreciation deducted before May 6, 1997 will reduce the adjusted basis of a rental property, whereas depreciation deducted after that date will be taxed as a capital gain.

Non-qualified use of a Rental Property

In 2008, Congress amended IRC section 121, with the Housing and Economic Recovery Act, to add a limitation of the capital gains exclusion due to “nonqualified” use of a converted rental-to-primary residence. “Qualified” use is defined as any use of the property as a primary residence. “Non-qualified” use is defined as any use of the property other than as a primary residence, such as as a second home, a vacation property, a rental or investment property, or use of the property in a trade or business.

In general, the effect of the change is to limit the amount of capital gains exclusion to an allocation formula dependent upon non-qualified and qualified use of the property. For example, if the property is held for ten years and then sold, and for six of those years it was used as non-qualifying property, then 6/10 of the capital gain, would not be excluded. However, subject to certain exceptions, non-qualified use prior to January 1, 2009 will be ignored for purposes of the section

Contact Sherayzen Law Office For Tax Planning With Respect to Rental-Primary Residence Tax Planning

Taking advantage of the IRC section 121 capital gains exclusion may require detailed knowledge of the relevant tax rules and careful tax planning. Obviously, this article only provides some general background information for education purposes and should NOT be relied upon as a legal advice. Rather, you should contact Sherayzen Law Office to set up a consultation to discuss your particular fact situation. Our experienced tax attorneys will help you determine whether you may be able to take advantage of the IRC section 121 and how to do it.