Q&A: How to keep tax benefits when renting out your primary residence

Dear Liz: If my wife and I sell our primary residence of 12 years, I understand we can exclude up to $500,000 in home sale profits from taxes. But if we rent it for a year or two, then sell, have we lost that tax break by converting it to income property?

Answer: As long as you lived in the property at least two of the five years before the sale, you can use the home sale exclusion that allows each owner to protect $250,000 of profits from taxation.

You would pay capital gains rates on profits above that amount, but a big home sale profit could have other tax implications.

If you’re covered by Medicare, for example, profits above the exclusion amounts could temporarily increase your monthly premiums. This is because the income-related monthly adjustment amount, which is added to premiums when modified adjusted gross income exceeds $87,000 for singles or $174,000 for married couples.

If you might be affected, you’d be smart to consult a tax professional to see if there’s a way to structure the sale to reduce these effects.

Also, renting property has its own set of tax rules, making it even more important to have a tax pro who can assist you.

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