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A tax basis is essentially the purchase price of a piece of property. Whenever that property is sold, the seller must pay taxes on the difference between the sale price and the original purchase price. This concept applies to all property, including stocks, bonds, vehicles, mechanical equipment, and real estate. If debts are assumed along with the purchase price, the principal amount of the debt will be included in the basis. The basis can be adjusted downwards when a person deducts depreciation costs on his or her income tax returns, and may be increased for capital investments towards improving the property that are not deducted for income tax purposes. Selling a property that has been held for a long time can carry a serious tax burden because of inflation, particularly when real estate prices have increased.

But, when an individual receives property as an inheritance, the tax basis is reset to whatever the fair market value is at the time of death of the decedent. This means that the heir would pay significantly less taxes if that property is sold by the beneficiary than if the original owner were to sell it and devise the money to his beneficiaries. This is a huge thing to consider when a parent wants to donate a home to the children during their lifetime. The children’s cost basis would be the same as the parent. However, if the parent holds onto the property in their name and dies, and by will left the home to the children, then the children get that step up in basis. By doing  so, the children can avoid or greatly reduce a potential capital  gains tax.

If you would like more information, please call us today.

 Vincent B. “Chip” LoCoco

Attorney  (504) 483-2332