Clearing the air on 2013 real estate tax

High-income sellers could face new 'Medicare contribution'

DEAR BENNY: You recently wrote about the new 3.8 percent tax that can be imposed on home sales. You indicated it would not impact most homeowners who are selling their homes. However, you failed to mention that this tax apparently will be affixed to any and all sales that are not sales of primary residences occupied by the owners for two of the preceding five years. Can you explain? –Larry

DEAR LARRY: That’s not exactly true. The tax is based on income and profit, and even if you have not lived in your house for a long time, you still may not have to pay this tax. Rumors are flying all over the country, claiming that the health reform legislation Congress recently enacted includes a sales tax on all real estate sales. While there is a tax, it does not apply to everyone.

The Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010 became law on March 30, 2010. It is a comprehensive and extremely complex piece of legislation. One section (1402) is entitled "Unearned Income Medicare Contribution" and does impose a 3.8 percent tax on any profit on the sale of real estate (residential or investment). But it is aimed at high-income consumers, who comprise a small majority of American citizens. And in any event, it does not take effect until Jan. 1, 2013.

Let’s look at the true facts of this new law.