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Tax Implications of Inherited Property and Capital Gains

People often forget that in cases of inheriting property, one might also inherit liabilities in taxes. Finally, capital gain tax on property can apply to inherited real estate in the United States in the same way as it does for any other asset. This entails that when one inherits real estate and he or she sells it at its exceeding basis value, you may be taxed capital gains on the difference.

Knowing how the capital gains tax on property operates gives you insights to maneuver through these implications and make informed decisions with inherited property.

Key Takeaways:

  • In the United States, capital gain tax on property may apply to inherited property.
  • The rule of step-up in basis may affect the amount of capital gains liability that results when inheriting property
  • One of the major issues in complying with the tax laws is reporting capital gains on inheritance.
  • There may be reliefs or exemptions to lower the capital gains tax of inherited property.
  • State capital gain tax on property regulations may be different.

Understanding Capital Gains Tax

Capital gains tax is a tax imposed on the profits made in selling an asset that increased significantly after its purchase. The tax is levied on the variation between the acquisition price (basis) and selling price of an asset. This tax affects a variety of assets such as stocks, bonds, real estate and other investments and can affect all taxpayers regardless of their income levels.


Regarding the property, capital gains tax might be due upon selling an asset, and it can cover real estate that was inherited, thus exposing the inheritable property to capital gains tax. Nevertheless, determining the right measure of tax can be challenging due to the variations in the rate depending on different factors like holding periods and income tax ranges.

When Does Capital Gains Tax Apply?

In most cases, capital gains tax is triggered by the sale or disposal of property at a higher price than its cost basis. The cost basis, according to the IRS, is usually the price paid for the asset along with any costs associated with acquiring the asset such as taxes commissions and attorney fees.

However, if the cost basis of your asset is lower than its sale price, then you will be required to settle capital gains tax. On the other hand, selling an asset below your adjusted basis can lead to a capital loss that serves as a shield from more profitable gains and may allow you to pay less taxes in total.

Calculating Capital Gains Tax

Type of Gain Taxable Event Tax Rate
Short-term capital gain Asset held for one year or less Ordinary income tax rates
Long-term capital gain Asset held for more than one year 0%, 15%, or 20% depending on income tax bracket


The table above shows the computation of capital gains tax considering the type of gain and how long an asset was owned. The tax rate for short-term capital gains is usually the same as that of ordinary income and long-term depends on your earnings.

For instance, regarding the long-term capital gains tax rate in 2021, individuals who earn less than $40,400 enjoy a zero percent while those earning $ between $40,45 and to $ 39 has an impact of fifteen per cent. Therefore, for people who earn above $445,850 another 20% tax will be imposed on long-term capital gains. However, these rates are subject to alteration with the passage of time and thereby it is necessary to consult a tax professional in order to remain apprised of changing laws pertaining to taxes.

In the following section, we will discuss the actual issues of taxation related to inheriting property and possible capital gains tax.

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Inheriting Property and Capital Gains Tax

In the case that you inherit property or an asset, you may be liable for capital gains tax on any growth in value since its initial acquisition. The tax is computed on the fair market value of the property at time of inheritance less its initial purchase price and improvement, maintenance costs incurred over ownership.

On the sale of inherited property, you will bear capital gains tax on any profit that is generated from this transaction. But if you choose to retain the property, then there will be no capital gains tax until it is sold when the tax liability would be based on the difference between its market value at sale and inherited market value.


It is important to make the point that when you inherit the property from your spouse, you might benefit from a step-up in basis and it can relieve off or eradicate your capital gains tax. This will make the value of property at your spouse’s time of demise be your new cost basis instead purchasing cost. Consequently, if you sell the property for what it was worth at the time of your spouse’s death, no capital gains tax will be owed.


Original Purchase Price Fair Market Value at Time of Inheritance Fair Market Value at Time of Sale Capital Gains Tax Liability
$100,000 $250,000 $300,000 $10,000

In the above example, the capital gains tax liability is calculated as follows:

(Sale price – Fair market value at inheritance) * Capital gains tax rate = ($300,000 – $250,000) * 20% = $10,000

It’s important to consult with a tax professional to determine the best course of action when dealing with inherited property and capital gains tax obligations.

Step-up in Basis for Inherited Asset

When you receive property through inheritance, the basis of such property becomes the value it had on the date of the owner’s death. What is called a “step-up in basis” means the newly assessed value of the property equals its fair market price upon inheritance, not what was paid for it. Therefore, its capital-gains tax liability is lowered if the property is sold at its inherited value.

For instance, if you receive a house that was acquired by the prior owner for $200,000 but valued at death in the amount of $40 and your base is deemed to be $4OO, 1OOk. If in fact, you sell the property for $425,000, then you would only pay capital gains tax on $ 25 , 000 difference between the selling price and stepped up base of $ 4 0 .

However, it is worth mentioning that the step-up in basis refers only to inherited estate rather than to the gifted property during the owner’s lifetime. An increase in the basis may also be subject to certain limitations or exceptions due to factors, such as the type of property received and any changes made after the owner’s death.

Determining Capital Gains on Inherited Property

In case of inheritance, you need to evaluate whether capital gains earned through sale should be paid taxes. Unlike the process for calculating capital gains on property that you bought yourself, this formula is slightly different in computing the amount of capital gain with respect to inherited assets.

To begin with, you should determine the FMV of the property when it was inherited. This price is used as a cost basis at the point of sale in future. Several methods of calculating FMV are provided by the IRS, including appraisal or the fair market value at death.

It is a must to make detailed notes of every alteration or investment made in the property, as they could lower your capital gains after you sell it. Seek the advice of a tax professional to check whether you have calculated correctly your capital gains from the inherited property.

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