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Basis is your starting point for figuring a gain or loss if you later sell your home, or for figuring depreciation if you later use part of your home for business purposes or for rent.
While you own your home, you may add certain items to your basis. You may subtract certain other items from your basis. These items are called adjustments to basis and are explained later under Adjusted Basis.
It is important that you understand these terms when you first acquire your home because you must keep track of your basis and adjusted basis during the period you own your home. You must also keep records of the events that affect basis or adjusted basis. See Keeping Records, later.
Figuring Your Basis
How you figure your basis depends on how you acquire your home. If you buy or build your home, your cost is your basis. If you receive your home as a gift, your basis is usually the same as the adjusted basis of the person who gave you the property. If you inherit your home from a decedent, the fair market value at the date of the decedent's death is generally your basis. Each of these topics is discussed later.
Fair market value. Fair market value is the price that property would sell for on the open market. It is the price that would be agreed on between a willing buyer and a willing seller, with neither having to buy or sell, and both having reasonable knowledge of the relevant facts.
Property transferred from a spouse. If your home is transferred to you from your spouse, or from your former spouse as a result of a divorce, your basis is the same as your spouse's (or former spouse's) adjusted basis just before the transfer. Publication 504, Divorced or Separated Individuals, fully discusses transfers between spouses.
Cost as Basis
The cost of your home, whether you purchased it or constructed it, is the amount you paid for it, including any debt you assumed.
The cost of your home includes most settlement or closing costs you paid when you bought the home. If you built your home, your cost includes most closing costs paid when you bought the land or settled on your mortgage.
Purchase. The basis of a home you bought is the amount you paid for it. This usually includes your down payment and any debt you assumed. The basis of a cooperative apartment is the amount you paid for your shares in the corporation that owns or controls the property. This amount includes any purchase commissions or other costs of acquiring the shares.
Construction. If you contracted to have your home built on land that you own, your basis in the home is your basis in the land plus the amount you paid to have the home built. This includes the cost of labor and materials, the amount you paid the contractor, any architect's fees, building permit charges, utility meter and connection charges, and legal fees that are directly connected with building your home. If you built all or part of your home yourself, your basis is the total amount it cost you to build it. You cannot include the value of your own labor or any other labor you did not pay for.
Real estate taxes. Real estate taxes are usually divided so that you and the seller each pay taxes for the part of the property tax year that each owned the home. See the earlier discussion of Real estate taxes paid at settlement or closing, under Real Estate Taxes, to figure the real estate taxes you paid or are considered to have paid.
If you pay any part of the seller's share of the real estate taxes (the taxes up to the date of sale), and the seller did not reimburse you, add those taxes to your basis in the home. You cannot deduct them as taxes paid.
If the seller paid any of your share of the real estate taxes (the taxes beginning with the date of sale), you can still deduct those taxes. Do not include those taxes in your basis. If you did not reimburse the seller, you must reduce your basis by the amount of those taxes.
Example 1. You bought your home on September 1. The property tax year in your area is the calendar year, and the tax is due on August 15. The real estate taxes on the home you bought were $730 for the year and had been paid by the seller on August 15. You did not reimburse the seller for your share of the real estate taxes from September 1 through December 31. You must reduce the basis of your home by the $244 [(122 ÷ 365) × $730] the seller paid for you. You can deduct your $244 share of real estate taxes on your return for the year you purchased your home.
Example 2. You bought your home on May 3, 2001. The property tax year in your area is the calendar year. The taxes for the previous year are assessed on January 2 and are due on May 31 and November 30. Under state law, the taxes become a lien on May 31. You agreed to pay all taxes due after the date of sale. The taxes due in 2001 for 2000 were $520. The taxes due in 2002 for 2001 will be $565.
You cannot deduct any of the taxes paid in 2001 because they relate to the 2000 property tax year. You did not own the home until 2001. Instead, you add the $520 to the cost (basis) of your home.
Because you owned the home in 2001 for 243 days (May 3 to December 31), you can take a tax deduction on your 2002 return of $376 [(243 ÷ 365) × $565] paid in 2002 for 2001. You add the remaining $189 ($565 - $376) of taxes paid in 2002 to the cost (basis) of your home.
Settlement or closing costs. If you bought your home, you probably paid settlement or closing costs in addition to the contract price. These costs are divided between you and the seller according to the sales contract, local custom, or understanding of the parties. If you built your home, you probably paid these costs when you bought the land or settled on your mortgage.
The only settlement or closing costs you can deduct are home mortgage interest and certain real estate taxes. You deduct them in the year you buy your home if you itemize your deductions. You can add certain other settlement or closing costs to the basis of your home.
Items added to basis. You can include in your basis the settlement fees and closing costs you paid for buying your home. A fee is for buying the home if you would have had to pay it even if you paid cash for the home.
The following are some of the settlement fees and closing costs that you can include in the original basis of your home.
If the seller actually paid for any item that you are liable for and that you can take a deduction for (such as your share of the real estate taxes for the year of sale), you must reduce your basis by that amount unless you are charged for it in the settlement.
Items not added to basis and not deductible. Here are some settlement and closing costs that you cannot deduct or add to your basis.
Points paid by seller. If you bought your home after April 3, 1994, you must reduce your basis by any points paid for your mortgage by the person who sold you your home.
If you bought your home after 1990 but before April 4, 1994, you must reduce your basis by seller-paid points only if you deducted them. See Points, earlier, for the rules on deducting points.
If someone gave you your home and its fair market value when it was given to you was equal to or more than that person's adjusted basis (defined later), your basis is the same as that person's adjusted basis. If you received your home as a gift after 1976, add to your basis (the donor's adjusted basis) the part of any federal gift tax paid that is due to the net increase in the value of the home. Figure this part by multiplying the gift tax paid on the gift of the home by a fraction. The numerator (top part) of the fraction is the net increase in the value of the home, and the denominator (bottom part) is the amount of the gift. The net increase in the value of the home is the fair market value of the home minus the donor's adjusted basis. The amount of the gift is its value for gift tax purposes after reduction by any annual exclusion and marital or charitable deduction that applies to the gift.
If someone gave you your home and its fair market value when it was given to you was less than that person's adjusted basis, your basis for figuring gain on its sale is the same as that person's adjusted basis. However, your basis for figuring a loss on its sale is its fair market value when it was given to you.
Publication 551, Basis of Assets, gives more information including examples of figuring your basis when you received property as a gift.
Your basis in a home you inherited is generally the fair market value of the home on the date of the decedent's death or on the alternate valuation date if the personal representative for the estate chooses to use alternative valuation.
If an estate tax return was filed, your basis is the value of the home listed on the estate tax return.
If an estate tax return was not filed, your basis is the appraised value of the home at the decedent's date of death for state inheritance or transmission taxes. Publication 551 and Publication 559, Survivors, Executors, and Administrators, have more information on the basis of inherited property.
While you own your home, various events may take place that can change the original basis of your home. These events can increase or decrease your original basis. The result is called adjusted basis. See Table 3, for a list of some of the items that can adjust your basis.
Improvements. An improvement materially adds to the value of your home, considerably prolongs its useful life, or adapts it to new uses. You must add the cost of any improvements to the basis of your home. You cannot deduct these costs.
Improvements include putting a recreation room in your unfinished basement, adding another bathroom or bedroom, putting up a fence, putting in new plumbing or wiring, installing a new roof, and paving your driveway.
Amount added to basis. The amount you add to your basis for improvements is your actual cost. This includes all costs for material and labor, except your own labor, and all expenses related to the improvement. For example, if you had your lot surveyed to put up a fence, the cost of the survey is a part of the cost of the fence.
You must also add to your basis state and local assessments for improvements such as streets and sidewalks if they increase the value of the property. These assessments are discussed earlier under Real Estate Taxes.
Repairs versus improvements. A repair keeps your home in an ordinary, efficient operating condition. It does not add to the value of your home or prolong its life. Repairs include repainting your home inside or outside, fixing your gutters or floors, fixing leaks or plastering, and replacing broken window panes. You cannot deduct repair costs and generally cannot add them to the basis of your home.
However, repairs that are done as part of an extensive remodeling or restoration of your home are considered improvements. You add them to the basis of your home.
Records to keep. You can use Table 4 (at the end of the publication) as a guide to help you keep track of improvements to your home. Also see Keeping Records, later.
Energy conservation subsidy. If a public utility gives you (directly or indirectly) a subsidy for the purchase or installation of an energy conservation measure for your home, do not include the value of that subsidy in your income. You must reduce the basis of your home by that value.
An energy conservation measure is an installation or modification primarily designed to reduce consumption of electricity or natural gas or to improve the management of energy demand.