Inheriting a house can be incredibly overwhelming. While it’s wonderful to know that someone you cared for trusted you enough to appoint you the caretaker of their home after their passing, it can also be a big financial strain.
There are a number of tax implications that come into play when you inherit a house. And they will vary drastically depending upon what you do next. Let’s break down the types of taxes you may be required to pay when you receive or attempt to sell an inherited house.
1. Estate Tax
This tax is thankfully one that most people don’t have to worry about. The current federal minimum for the estate tax to be levied is $11.8 million. In other words, the deceased’s entire estate (including all real estate, cash, and assets like stocks or bonds) has to add up to more than $11.8 million before the federal government will tax it.
A dozen states (Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington) plus the District of Columbia, however, do levy their own taxes on estates as well. The threshold for these is much lower than the federal minimum, but it still floats somewhere around $1 million.
2. Inheritance Tax
This tax is collected only at the state level. It has stipulations, and its application varies from state to state. As of 2018, six states collect an inheritance tax: Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Nebraska, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. The tax rate in each of these states is different and may be anywhere from one percent to 20 percent of the value of the house or other assets you’ve inherited.
There are exemptions, of course, and again, this tax is often not levied on those heirs whose inheritance is valued below $2 million. There are also allowances depending on your relationship to the deceased. No taxes are applied when a spouse inherits a property in one of these states, and of the six listed, only Nebraska and Pennsylvania collect taxes on property that’s passed from a parent to their child or grandchild.
3. Property Tax
When you become the owner of an inherited home, you will, of course, become responsible for the property taxes owed. You’ll keep paying these as long as you own the house. Depending on the location of the inherited home, this could mean having a significant new bill on your plate.
Whenever someone inherits a home (just like if they bought one), the property is reassessed at the current market value to determine what taxes should be paid on it. While many states do cap how much property taxes can rise from year to year, there is a decent chance this reassessment could bring an increased tax burden compared to what your loved one was paying before their passing.
Some states do allow for exclusions for spouses and children or grandchildren. But to receive this often involves reapplying for exemption programs, which can be labor-intensive and cost you quite a bit of time and energy.
4. Capital Gains Tax
Selling any asset for more than you paid for it can trigger capital gains taxes. But what if you didn’t pay for it, but rather inherited it? Unfortunately, you can still be on the hook for taxes if you inherited a house and want to sell it.
What Is Capital Gains Tax?
There is often a false assumption that the capital gains tax only applies to rich people, but in reality, the things many of us own (car, big screen TV, stocks and bonds, home) all count as capital assets. If you ever sell those things for more than you paid to acquire them, you may be facing a tax burden.
This tax comes into play often in real estate transactions. If you bought a home for $100,000 years ago, but the area has become a hot spot and you’re now able to sell it for $400,000, that $300,000 in profit you made will be subject to taxation. Thankfully, there are ways to qualify for exemptions so that you’re not penalized for the entirety of the gain.
Capital gains tax on inherited property behaves a little differently though. Since you didn’t purchase the home in the first place, the calculation for profit is done on what is called a “stepped-up basis.”
Say your Aunt Marge bought the home for $75,000 back in 1950, but you’re able to sell it for $250,000. Instead of being taxed on the full $175,000 difference, you’ll only be taxed on the difference between the sale price and the fair market value at the time of her death.
In order to find out the stepped-up basis of the home, you’ll need to have it appraised as soon as possible after the owner’s death. This will give you an idea of what you’re working with and whether it’s a good idea to hold on to the house or to go ahead and sell it.
What Are the 2019 Rates?
Tax rates change slightly every year based on inflation and other political factors. For the 2019 tax year, the tax percentages on capital gains range from zero percent to 20 percent, depending on the amount of profit you made from the sale.
If you’re single, you won’t be taxed on any gains under $39,375. If you make between $39,376 and $434,550, your rate will be 15 percent. Over $434,551 and you’ll be charged a 20 percent rate.
If you’re married, those thresholds increase, and anything under $78,750 will be exempt. $75,751 to $488,850 will be at a 15 percent rate, and anything over $488,851 will be at 20 percent.
How Can I Avoid It?
Receiving bequeathed property from a loved one, while a beautiful gesture, can be very stressful. You can avoid the capital gains tax by making the home your primary residence for two years, thus qualifying you for the homeowner’s exemption on any gains under $250,000 (if you’re single) or $500,000 (if you’re married).
But if you already have an established home, moving into the house may not be an option. It could be in another neighborhood, city, or even state. It might be too small for your family’s needs, and you may have no interest in maintaining it and renting it out. (Landlord life isn’t for everyone!)
Stay, Rent, or Sell?
When inheriting a property, you have a few options. You can:
- Move into the home and make it your primary residence.
- Rent the home out.
- Sell the home.
Moving in can be a good option if the home is fully paid off and you could use a break from paying rent on your own place. Owning and living in the home, however, does mean you’re on the hook for property taxes and utilities, plus any upkeep. It also may not be an option if the house you inherit is located in a different geographical area than your current job and you’re unwilling or unable to move.
Renting could be a good fit if you already own your own home or you live in a different town or state than the house you’ve inherited. The funds generated from renting the home could offset the cost of upkeep and any tax or mortgage payments. Some people aren’t cut out to be landlords, though, and you’ll run the risk of tenants damaging the home or falling behind on payments.
Selling an inherited home is often the best available route for an heir. As mentioned above, consider how the capital gains tax will affect you before jumping into selling, but if you’re not prepared to live in the home or manage renting it out for the foreseeable future, selling it and getting it off your plate is usually the easiest solution.
The Buy Guys have worked with a number of sellers after they inherited a property. We work exclusively with individuals and can close on your property in just 30 days. If you’ve recently inherited a house and want to sell it, please call us today.