WalletPop experts take on your questions, from capital gains to back taxes

The Internal Revenue Service collected $56.4 billion from "enforcement efforts" in 2008. Peter Pappas of The Tax Lawyer's Blog expects the figure for 2009 to be even higher. Don't be another auditing statistic. WalletPop experts are on hand to answer some of your burning questions, from capital gains on property sales to back taxes on a business.

Question:

If my wife and I sold our two family houses of 25 years and had a rental 10 of those years, how much capital gains are we allowed to claim?

---Charlie

Answer from Barbara Weltman of the J.K. Lasser Institute

A two-family home can be treated as one or two separate properties for purposes of a sale, depending on the facts. This is important, because only a home used as your principal residence for at least three of five years before the date of sale can qualify you to claim an exclusion of up to $500,000 of gain on the sale (a $250,000 limit applies to singles). If rental use was longer than three years within this five-year period, then any gain related to this portion of the home will be taxable and won't qualify for the home sale exclusion. Any depreciation claimed on the rental portion of the home after May 6, 1997, is subject to "recapture," which means this amount is taxed at a 25% rate; the balance of your gain is taxed at a 15% rate. And even if rental use during the five years doesn't exceed three years, any gain related to rental use after 2008 won't qualify for the home sale exclusion.

Your resource on tax filing
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