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Publication 3

Gain or Loss From Sale of Home(p14)

You may not have to pay tax on all or part of the gain from the sale of your main home. Usually, your main home is the one you live in most of the time. It can be a:

How much can you exclude?(p15)

You generally can exclude up to $250,000 of gain ($500,000, in most cases, if married filing a joint return) realized on the sale or exchange of a main home in 2016. The exclusion is allowed each time you sell or exchange a main home, but generally not more than once every 2 years.

What must you do to be eligible for the exclusion?(p15)

You will be eligible for the exclusion if, during the 5-year period ending on the date of the sale, you:

What happens if I don't meet the ownership and use tests?(p15)

If you do not meet the ownership and use tests due to a move to a new permanent duty station, you can exclude gain, but the maximum amount of gain you can exclude will be reduced. See Pub. 523 for more details.

5-year test period can be suspended for members of the Armed Forces.(p15)

You can choose to have the 5-year test period for ownership and use suspended during any period you or your spouse serve on qualified official extended duty as a member of the Armed Forces. This means that you may be able to meet the 2-year use test even if, because of your service, you did not actually live in your home for the required 2 years during the 5-year period ending on the date of sale.


David bought and moved into a home in 2008. He lived in it as his main home for 21/2 years. For the next 6 years, he did not live in it because he was on qualified official extended duty with the Army. He then sold the home at a gain in 2016. To meet the use test, David chooses to suspend the 5-year test period for the 6 years he was on qualifying official extended duty. This means he can disregard those 6 years. Therefore, David's 5-year test period consists of the 5 years before he went on qualifying official extended duty. He meets the ownership and use tests because he owned and lived in the home for 21/2 years during this test period.
Limits on period of suspension.(p15)
The period of suspension cannot last more than 10 years. You cannot suspend the 5-year period for more than one property at a time. You can revoke your choice to suspend the 5-year period at any time.
Qualified official extended duty.(p15)
You are on qualified official extended duty if you serve on extended duty either:
You are on extended duty when you are called or ordered to active duty for a period of more than 90 days or for an indefinite period.

What if the property was used for rental or business?(p15)

You may be able to exclude your gain from the sale of a home that you have used as a rental property or for business. However, you must meet the ownership and use tests discussed in Pub. 523.

What if there were periods when I didn't use the property as my main home and wasn’t on qualified official extended duty?(p15)

If the sale of your main home results in a gain that is allocated to one or more period(s) of nonqualified use, you cannot exclude that gain from your income.
Nonqualified use means any period after 2008 when neither you nor your spouse (or your former spouse) used the property as a main home, with certain exceptions. For example, a period of nonqualified use does not include any period (not to exceed a total of 10 years) during which you or your spouse is serving on qualified official extended duty, discussed above. You will be able to exclude the gain attributable to the period during which you or your spouse served on qualified official extended duty.

Are my losses deductible?(p15)

You cannot deduct a loss from the sale of your main home.

More information.(p15)

For more information, see Pub. 523.