Liz Weston: Globe-trotting condo owner wonders how the IRS checks for primary residency
Dear Liz: I was given a condominium, which I’m renting out while I live overseas, traveling from country to country.
I understand that when I sell the condo, I can exclude up to $250,000 of home sale profits if the property is my “primary residence” for at least two of the last five years. But how is primary residence established? I have heard that the IRS looks at the address on your tax returns, on your voting registration and on file with the Department of Motor Vehicles. I list the condo’s address for voter registration but with the IRS and DMV, I use my mail forwarding address. Will that keep me from establishing the condo as my primary residence?
Answer: What’s keeping you from establishing the condo as your primary residence is the fact that it’s not your primary residence. Someone else is living there and paying you rent.
If you want to take advantage of the home sales profit exemption, you need to actually occupy the home. You’re allowed “short, temporary absences” but not the vagabond life.
Dear Liz: I reached my full Social Security age (66) in December 2020. I’ve been waiting until age 70 to start benefits so I can get the 8% annual delayed retirement credits and maximize my benefit. However, if the 2023 cost of living increase will be 10.5%, should I go ahead and start benefits this year, at age 68? Does someone need to be on Social Security for a full year before being eligible for the COLA, or would one month be enough?
Answer: Your benefit will get the cost of living increase whether you’ve started receiving checks or not. In fact, it’s been getting those increases since you turned 62 and became eligible. So applying now just means giving up two years’ worth of delayed retirement credits.
Liz Weston, Certified Financial Planner, is a personal finance columnist for NerdWallet. Questions may be sent to her at 3940 Laurel Canyon, No. 238, Studio City, CA 91604, or by using the “Contact” form at asklizweston.com.