Real estate investors are generally very good at keeping records of income and expenses, including improvements, for their annual tax returns. However, homeowners can be less diligent when it comes to recordkeeping.
Homeowners cannot deduct the expenses of home ownership while they are living in the home. When they sell the home and move all the improvements and capital expenses, such as a new roof, can be added to the original purchase price of the home which increases their cost basis. Keeping good records on all the improvements over the years can add up to a large amount the longer you live there. If you bought a home for $100,000 thirty years ago and over the years you put another $150,000 into it, when you sell it your cost basis is now $250,000. If you sell the house today for $800,000 your gain would be $550,000. For a married couple who lived there for over two years, $500,000 of the gain is not taxable. For single owners, $250,000 of the gain is tax-exempt.
Keep a file of all the expenses, with receipts, and discuss them with your CPA when you move; having good records can save you a lot of money. You'll be glad you did and your beneficiaries too.