The short answer is “yes.” In most cases, the IRS and your local tax agencies expect tax payments for gains received on larger transactions. While the details of private sales transactions may be difficult for tax agencies to track, legally you are obligated to report your capital gains on items you sell and to pay local taxes on items you purchase.
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Tax obligations when you sell a car
If you sell a personal vehicle (car, truck, motorcycle, boat or other vehicle for personal use) for a loss, the IRS is generally not interested in the transaction. However, if you sold the car for a profit, you should report that profit as a capital gain. The gain will be classified as either “short term” or “long term,” depending on how long you owned the vehicle. An IRS Schedule D is used to report your capital gains and includes worksheets to help you determine your adjusted cost basis, so you can properly report net gains or losses. If you put a lot of permanent work into improving the vehicle, you may be able to deduct some of those costs from the gain to help reduce your tax obligation. If you sell quite a few vehicles, the IRS may have reason to believe you are in the professional car sales business. Of course, if you are in the car sales business, you’ll want to report your income taxes, capital gains taxes, and business taxes appropriately to avoid issues with the IRS.
Tax obligation when you buy a car through a private sale
When you purchase a vehicle through a private sale, you must pay the associated local and state taxes. In most states, you’ll need to bring your Bill of Sale and signed title to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) or motor vehicle registry agency to pay your taxes and obtain your registration, new title, and plates. If you purchased the vehicle in another state, you should pay the sales tax in that state and bring proof of payment to the DMV when you register the vehicle in your state. In most cases, that will fulfill your sales tax obligation, although you will be responsible for vehicle registration fees. If you do not bring sufficient documentation of having paid sales taxes in another state, the DMV may ask you to pay sales tax in your state, too.
What are my tax responsibilities if I sell my home privately?
Like most properties, homes are considered an asset and you may have a tax obligation if you sold your home for a gain. There is a capital gains tax exclusion of $250,000 for individuals or $500,000 for married taxpayers filing joint returns. This exemption is available for gains incurred when selling a primary residence, if the transaction qualifies under IRS rules. However, even if you did not sell your house for a gain or used the money to pay off your mortgage, you are still obligated to report the transaction to the IRS. If you sell your second home or vacation home, there may also be associated tax obligations. To learn more about selling your home, see IRS Topic Number 701 – Sale of Your Home.
Do I need to pay sales tax on a house I buy using cash?
If you inherit a home or buy a property using cash, often there is not a sales tax obligation until you sell the property and realize a gain. But you may want to check with a lawyer to find out what (if any) local or state obligations may apply to your situation. Of course, you are obligated to pay associated property taxes.
Do I need to pay taxes if I buy or sell other types of property?
In most cases, the IRS and your local government agencies are interested in any capital gains you realize. Whether everyone claims or tracks them or not is suspect, but in the end, yes, your capital gains may be taxable. If you buy something and sell it for more than you paid originally, that is a gain. In a sense, a private transaction is not much different than a retail store or pawn shop buying low and selling high in the eyes of the IRS. Like other assets, you may also be able to deduct capital losses you incur. So, realistically, unless you are buying or selling volumes of items, your tax obligation will likely be minimal.
If you have questions about your tax obligations after a private property sale, ask a tax lawyer.