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Tax Law (Questions About Taxes)/estimating rental cost basis


About 30 years ago I began renovating my home to include an apartment and spent a lot of money putting in stairs and bathrooms and all that stuff. I have no receipts from that time. I have a offer to sell and a portion of the house (37%)is business. Can I estimate the cost basis using photos and remortgage papers and a list of improvements? The property is worth less than $100,000.
Thanks, Tim


Thanks for your question.

Estimates cannot be defended if the IRS questions them, so you need to be prepared to justify the numbers you use. The papers you mention may be sufficient, but you need to put up a good defense. However, if this occurred 30 years ago, it is likely that the depreciation would have taken its value to zero, given you no basis in the apartment portion.

Hope this helps.

John Stancil, CPA

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John Stancil, CPA


I can answer questions on personal income taxes, partnerships, and some corporate income taxes. I can deal with some state tax questions. Limited gift and estate tax questions. I am also familiar with ministerial and church tax reporting issues. I am Professor Emeritus at Florida Southern College. Sales taxes and property taxes are state and local issues so I am not likely be be able to give you an in depth answer on those types of taxes. I have maintained a CPA practice, specializing in tax, for over 35 years. I am a member of the National Association of Tax Professionals, The Florida Insititute of CPA's, The NCPE Fellowship. In addition I am a Certified Mentor for SCORE. Visit my website at I also offer seminars and consultations to churches and clergy on their tax issues at Also visit my blog, I am listed on Tax Connections at Prepare and file your own taxes at


I hold a doctorate in Accounting, and am a CPA. My certifications of CIA, CFM, and CMA are inactive. I passed all certification examinations on the first attempt, and received honorable mention for my scores on the CIA exam. I have operated a CPA firm for over 37 years and have taught accounting and tax at the college level for over 35 years.

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