Stand up for the facts!
Misinformation isn't going away just because it's a new year. Support trusted, factual information with a tax deductible contribution to PolitiFact.
I would like to contribute
If Your Time is short
Joe Biden would increase capital gains taxes for Americans who make more than $1 million per year.
Homeowners must pay capital gains taxes if they sell their homes for a $250,000 profit, if single, or a $500,000 profit, if married and filing jointly.
If Joe Biden wins this year’s presidential election, you may have a big tax bill coming your way should you decide to sell your home — at least, that’s according to some folks on social media.
An Oct. 12 text post on Facebook claims the Democratic presidential candidate would dramatically increase capital gains taxes, affecting anyone who sells their home.
"Biden’s capital gains tax means that when you sell your home you’ll owe taxes of 40% of your profit!" the post says over a background of poop emoji. "Let that sink in."
The post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)
The source of the post is a Trump-supporting real estate agent based in Eugene, Ore. We reached out to her for evidence to back up the post, but we haven’t heard back. So we looked into it.
(Screenshot from Facebook)
Biden would increase capital gains taxes for Americans who make more than $1 million per year. Those taxes apply to home sales if sellers make hundreds of thousands of dollars in profit.
First, let’s review what capital gains taxes are.
A capital gain is the difference between what someone paid for an asset, also known as the "basis," and what they sold it for. The capital gains tax is the main federal tax that the Internal Revenue Service imposes on real estate.
For example, if you purchased a house for $250,000 and sold it for $300,000, your capital gain would be $50,000. However, the IRS typically lets sellers deduct up to $250,000 in capital gains if they’re single and $500,000 if they’re married and file joint tax returns, so you probably wouldn’t owe anything.
On his official campaign website, Biden says he would double the long-term capital gains rate from 20% to 39.6%. His administration would use that money to help pay for Biden’s health care plan.
However, the 39.6% tax rate would only apply to those making more than $1 million per year. That means Biden’s proposal would not affect the vast majority of people — 8.5% of Americans make more than $200,000 annually.
According to the Internal Revenue Service, the capital gains tax rate "is no higher than 15% for most individuals."
"Some or all net capital gain may be taxed at 0% if your taxable income is less than $78,750," the agency says. "A capital gain rate of 15% applies if your taxable income is $78,750 or more but less than $434,550 for single; $488,850 for married filing jointly or qualifying widow(er); $461,700 for head of household, or $244,425 for married filing separately."
What does that look like in practice? Let’s break it down.
Let’s pretend you’re married and file taxes jointly. You and your partner’s combined annual income is $650,000, putting your household in the IRS’ top federal income tax bracket. You decide to sell your house, which you purchased for $400,000. To your surprise, you get your full asking price of $700,000.
Your capital gain would be $300,000 on the home — several times higher than the nationwide average. Since your household’s annual income is less than $1 million, Biden’s proposed capital gains tax rate would not apply to you. And since you’re married and file taxes jointly, you probably wouldn’t owe the IRS capital gains taxes anyway.
So in what real estate scenario would Biden’s proposed capital gains tax rate kick in?
First, your household would have to make more than $1 million per year. Then, if you’re single, you’d have to sell your house for at least a $250,000 profit. If you’re married and jointly file taxes, you’d have to make $500,000 on a home sale.
For the vast majority of Americans, that is unlikely — and far from a blanket tax on home sales, as the Facebook post says.
We reached out to the Biden campaign for a comment, but we haven’t heard back.
The Facebook post contains an element of truth but ignores critical facts that would give a different impression. We rate it Mostly False.
Associated Press, "False claims about Biden’s tax plan spread online," Oct. 13, 2020
ATTOM Data Solutions, "Average U.S. Home Seller Profits Hit $65,500 In 2019, Another New High," Jan. 23, 2020
CrowdTangle, accessed Oct. 15, 2020
Facebook post, Oct. 11, 2020
Facebook post, Oct. 12, 2020
Internal Revenue Service, IRS provides tax inflation adjustments for tax year 2020, accessed Oct. 15, 2020
Internal Revenue Service, Topic No. 409 Capital Gains and Losses, accessed Oct. 15, 2020
JoeBiden.com, HEALTH CARE, accessed Oct. 15, 2020
Lead Stories, "Fact Check: Biden's Capital Gains Tax Does NOT Mean That When You Sell Your Home You'll Owe Taxes Of 40% Of Your Profit," Oct. 13, 2020
Nerdwallet, "Selling a House? Avoid Taxes on Capital Gains on Real Estate in 2020," Aug. 5, 2020
PolitiFact, "No, Joe Biden doesn’t want to impose a federal tax on homes," Sept. 8, 2020
Reuters, "Fact check: Biden will only tax capital gains at 40% for those earning over $1 million annually," Oct. 14, 2020
Tax Policy Center, "An Updated Analysis of Former Vice President Biden's Tax Proposals," Oct. 15, 2020
U.S. Census Bureau, INCOME IN THE PAST 12 MONTHS (IN 2019 INFLATION-ADJUSTED DOLLARS), accessed Oct. 15, 2020
Read About Our Process
In a world of wild talk and fake news, help us stand up for the facts.