Buying Advice

What Is HARPTA? How Much in Taxes Do You Have To Pay at Closing?

Navigating Hawaii’s HARPTA: Unraveling Withholding vs. Taxes at Closing

As you prepare to close on your property in Hawaii, you might be met with an unexpected question: “I gotta pay how much at closing for Hawaii taxes?” But hold on, before you start fretting over a hefty tax bill, let’s clear up the confusion. What you’re actually encountering is HARPTA – the Hawaii Real Property Tax Act. In this blog, we’ll dive into the details of HARPTA, understand why it’s not quite a tax, and explore how you can potentially recoup some to all of the withheld funds.

Demystifying HARPTA: It’s Not a Tax, It’s a Withholding

First things first, – HARPTA isn’t exactly a tax. Instead, it’s a withholding requirement imposed on individuals who don’t reside in Hawaii but are selling property within the state. The concept behind HARPTA is to ensure that a portion of the seller’s proceeds are with held to cover the amount of capital gains tax that you will be responsible for.

Here’s how it works: When a property is sold, 7.25% of the sale price must be withheld and sent to the state to cover potential capital gains taxes. What’s interesting is that the responsibility of withholding this amount falls on the buyer. While it might sound perplexing, this process is typically managed seamlessly by the escrow company.

Understanding Exemptions

You might be wondering if you’re obligated to pay HARPTA. In most cases, if you’re not a resident of Hawaii, paying state sales taxes and living full-time on the island, then the answer is yes. However, there are a few exemptions that can alter this scenario. For instance, if you’re a Hawaii resident, you can file a Form 289 to declare your residency status and become exempt from HARPTA. Additionally, engaging in a 1031 tax-deferred exchange there are a few other more obscure exemptions that you can find in the <link: “State of Hawaii Tax Facts.”

Reclaiming Withheld Funds: Patience or Precedence?

So, what happens when the escrow company withholds those funds? The good news is that you have options to reclaim them. The conventional method involves filing your tax return on January 1st or later of the following year after the sale. By applying your withholding tax to your tax return, you can receive a refund.

But what if you’re looking to get your hands on that money sooner? Here’s where Form N 288c comes into play. You can use this form to request a refund before filing your tax return. However, there’s a caveat – you’ll need to wait until the withholding money has been sent to the state and the escrow company provides confirmation.

Calculating the Complexities

While the process might seem straightforward, there are nuances that can catch sellers off guard. Capital gains calculations and considerations for depreciated income play a role in determining the final amount due or refundable. Depreciated income, accrued over the course of property ownership, might come into play when calculating your refund. Even if you made no money on the sale the recapture of the depreciation of the property over time can become a potential taxable event.

FIRPTA: A Federal Sibling

You might be thinking, “What about FIRPTA?” Well, FIRPTA, or the Foreign Investment in Real Property Tax Act, is the federal counterpart to HARPTA. It applies to non-U.S. citizens selling property in the United States, including the tropical paradise of Hawaii. Similar to HARPTA, FIRPTA involves withholding a portion of the sale price to cover potential tax liabilities. Many of our Canadian and Japanese clients have experienced Firpta and how it affects the sale. Also it is important to know that Both HARPTA & FIRPTA apply for foreign owners.

Navigating HARPTA with Confidence

While the intricacies of HARPTA might seem overwhelming, understanding its nuances are crucial for a smooth real estate transaction in Hawaii. Remember, HARPTA isn’t a tax – it’s a withholding requirement designed to ensure the fulfillment of capital gains tax obligations.

To navigate this process confidently, it’s wise to communicate openly with your real estate agent and the escrow company. They can guide you through the necessary forms, calculations, and timelines, ensuring that you either receive your refund or meet your tax obligations seamlessly.

So, next time you hear about HARPTA, you’ll know that it’s not about paying exorbitant taxes at closing; it’s about ensuring that sellers pay their tax liabilities on the capital gains.

For more information on HARPTA, real estate in Hawaii, or any questions about property transactions, feel free to reach out to me, Tom Tezak, with Hawaii Life. I’m here to provide you with insights and guidance to make your real estate journey as smooth and informed as possible.

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