Q&A: Taxes on home sales

Dear Liz: I thought that if you occupied a home as your principal residence for two of the last five years that you could exclude capital gains of up to $250,000 if single or $500,000 if married. Someone recently told me that this has been changed to a pro-rata calculation.

Answer: That someone was wrong. The pro-rata calculation applies to people who have not owned and lived in the home for at least two years but who meet other criteria for a partial exemption. The percentage of gains you can exclude from your income is based on the percentage of the two-year requirement you fulfilled.

Let’s say you had to sell the home after a year because your place of employment changed to one at least 50 miles away. You could exclude capital gains of up to 50% of the exemption amount — $125,000 if single or $250,000 if married — from your income.