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New York

As Home Sale Prices Surge, a Tax Bill May Follow

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There are steps you may take, nevertheless, to scale back the quantity of your gain that’s taxable.

First, you may subtract costs related to the sale of the home, like real estate commissions and transfer and appraisal fees.

You may as well increase your “basis” — the dollar amount on which the gain relies — by adding to your purchase price the price of any improvements made to your house through the years. The improvements have to be projects that add to the worth of the home and extend its useful life. Replacing the pipes in your own home would qualify, but swapping out a shower head wouldn’t, said Michael Durant, a senior accountant at Prager Metis in Manhattan.

Should you added a room, remodeled your kitchen or replaced a roof, all those costs may be added to your basis, which helps to shrink your gain and the associated tax, said Isabel Barrow, director of monetary planning at Edelman Financial Engines, a financial planning and wealth management firm.

Ms. Barrow suggested that homeowners maintain a spreadsheet showing the date and price of any improvements. Homeowners should save receipts, invoices and design plans to justify a rise of their property’s basis.

Here’s the way it could work, continuing with the hypothetical single seller who exceeds the $250,000 cap by $50,000. Say you paid a 6 percent real estate commission ($36,000). You’ll subtract that from the selling price, reducing it to $564,000. Perhaps you spent $15,000 to upgrade a toilet; you’ll add that to the worth you paid for your house, raising your basis to $315,000. The gain would then be $249,000 ($564,000 minus $315,000), below the exclusion for a single filer — so that you’d owe no tax.

Most individuals who’ve lived in a house for a protracted period have made significant improvements, whether it’s constructing a swimming pool, installing blinds or adding a generator, said Melanie Lauridsen, senior manager of I.R.S. advocacy and relations with the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. The improvements count, she said, “even in the event you paid for it a protracted time ago.”

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