What’s Your Tax Issue? – Renting Out Your Home

The Tax Issue:

I live in Ontario and own a house.  I’m thinking about renting out the house (to supplement my income).  I bought the house in 1986 with my then-husband for $85,000, both of our names were on the deed.  We separated in 2006 with me remaining in the house; then divorced in 2008 at which time I ‘bought him out’ of the house resulting in the house being solely in my name.  The house is currently valued at approx. $260,000.  If I move out, rent it out, then decide to sell it within 1-5 years, how do I calculate the tax I would owe re capital gains?

The Answer:

Your question actually has three “tax events” happening so it’s a good exercise for a 2nd year tax student like me (as I was at the turn of the century 🙂 ).

First, you bought out your husband at the time of your divorce. I’m not sure about the circumstances, but the general rule here is that regardless of the actual price you paid, your husband’s share of the original cost became your cost for tax purposes unless, at the time, you both elected on your tax returns to apply the actual price you paid.

Second, at the time you decide to move out and rent the property, there is “change of use”, which would normally result in a deemed disposition at fair market value. Since the house is your principal residence, your gain is tax-exempt.

Third, once the change of use has occurred, any future increase in value might be taxable when you sell the house. There is a special election you can make under section 45(2) of the Income Tax Act that will allow you to avoid the change in use rules and treat the property as your principal residence for up to 4 years. In order to benefit from this concession, you cannot claim depreciation during the time you rent the property. If you sell the house within the 4-year limit after making the election, then the full amount of the gain will be exempt as a principal residence. However, if you sell after the four years, then the full amount of the increase in value from the time you moved out will be taxable as a capital gain.

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