Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Coming: A "Medicare Tax" If You Sell Your Property

WSJ explains:

The housing market may indeed be recovering, as many experts suggest, but investors are still struggling to understand what, if any, taxes they'll owe upon selling their homes.

At issue is how the new "Medicare tax" will apply to real-estate transactions.

Passed in 2010 to help fund the health-care overhaul, this 3.8% surtax kicks in next year on many forms of investment income—including some interest, dividends, rents and capital gains.

While its effect on home sales won't be as far-reaching as many fear, the Medicare tax could pack a punch for certain investors. It is not a sales tax. And it won't apply to home-sale gains excluded from income under current law. But it could affect investors with outsize gains or gains from the sale of a vacation home or investment property.

Determining whether you will be subject to the tax is no easy matter.

"The confusion lies in the fact that it's not a yes or a no," says Melissa Labant, director of tax for the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. "It's a sometimes or a maybe."

"We're waiting for guidance from the IRS on a lot of specific issues," she adds. "We don't have all of the answers yet."

Here's what we do know:

The new tax will hit individuals with more than $200,000 in adjusted gross income, and married couples with adjusted gross income above $250,000 ($125,000 for married taxpayers filing separately). These thresholds are not indexed for inflation, so more people may be affected over time.

Specifically, the tax will apply to either your net investment income or the amount that your adjusted gross income exceeds the threshold—whichever is less.

Moreover, any gain from the sale of a principal residence that is less than $250,000 (for individuals) or $500,000 (for married taxpayers filing jointly) will continue to be excluded from income, and anything that's excluded for income-tax purposes also is excluded for Medicare-tax purposes.

So, the Medicare tax will apply primarily to higher-income earners who realize gains that aren't sheltered by the exclusion amounts.

The National Association of Realtors provides these examples:

Primary residence

Say a married couple gets lucky and sells their principal residence for a $530,000 profit. Their taxable gain would be $30,000 ($530,000 minus $500,000). If their adjusted gross income, including the gain, is $180,000, they won't owe any surtax because their income falls under the $250,000 threshold.

If their adjusted gross income is $290,000, however, the surtax will be assessed on the $30,000 gain, because that is less than the $40,000 that their income exceeds the threshold ($290,000 minus $250,000).

What if their taxable gain on the sale of the house is $50,000? The surtax will be assessed on the $40,000 excess above the threshold, because $40,000 is less than $50,000.

Read the rest here.


  1. This is exactly the kind of trap I see being laid for current and new homeowers.

    With the incrementalism that is SOP with goberment it's easy for this program to morph out and snare a lot more people.

    A tax to keep people in their homes could be similar. What better way to keep the supply of homes OFF the market?
    Not that it would work, but when did that ever stop them from trying?

  2. Bullish for accountants and attorneys. BS for everyone else.

  3. My uncle who lives abroad tells us that he has adjusted to the current tax in his country thanks to some accountants in Perth.

  4. I'm not in the least worried about it yet (maybe not yet). So long as the taxes collected for this one can cut the costs of hoodia and similar OTC drugs, I'm good with it.

  5. Is this true? That even online doctor prescriptions will require us tax deduction?I've never heard about this before.

  6. Great. First they makes us worry about the rising pharmacy bills, then this? And I thought healthcare would get a revamp.