South Orange County Blog from Bob Phillips

GIFTS, WE ALL LIKE TO RECEIVE GIFTS

A longtime friend of mine, Duane Gomer, is a local expert/provider of real estate education.

Below is a recent post of his.

Tax-Saving-Tips-252“There is a lot of misunderstanding about giving someone gifts and the tax consequences. It is not a simple matter and before gifting large sums (not just cash but anything of value) get professional advice. You will be glad you did. Sleeping   at night becomes more difficult during an IRS Tax Audit.

Most people know that you can gift up to a certain amount to someone with no tax problems. Currently, the amount is $14,000 per year and your spouse could also contribute $14,000 per year so in our case with four children we could gift each one $28,000 or a total of $112,000, and we could throw in five grandchildren for another $140,000. That is  $252,000 per year, and you can give the same $14,000 to relatives, parents, friends, etc. with no tax. Wouldn’t take too long to give away  all we have.

You can add even more by making direct tuition payments for students or direct payments of a person’s medical expense. You can even use a 529 plan to give more. Do not do any of these gifting ideas without professional advice to make sure your tracking meets IRS rules.

What if we want to give one child the $252,000? We can do whatever we want, it is our money, but is there any tax to pay that year if this is the first gift that we have ever given. No, No, No. This year the estate tax exemption is $5.43M. You can gift up to that amount in any year without tax to pay, BUT any amount over $14,000 for that year must be reported, and the amount is deducted from the $5.43M for later.

With everyone living to advanced ages, heirs are getting their money late in life and in large amounts. Some money spread to them through the years would be more valuable, and the estate tax impact would not be severe. To give is better than to receive. I am not positive of that, but you should consider this topic before too long. Time is fleeting.” ( End of Duane’s post. Thanks, Duane!)

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Saving on Your Property Taxes

Tax-Saving-Tips-252This is a recent blog by one of my preferred lenders, Kevin Budde, of Prime Lending. Kevin has been doing loans in South Orange County for over 40 years, and I highly recommend him and his team, for any type of residential lending services.

Many Baby Boomers are selling their homes and downsizing these days. A question that is becoming more frequent is, “How do I transfer my current property taxes to a home I wish to purchase?” Most everyone in the real estate industry is aware of Proposition 60/90 but to articulate the guidelines and to not give wrong information is difficult. I find myself referring clients to the County Tax Assessors Office website for the technicalities of the Propositions. 

I decided to furnish the basics below to you and at the very bottom the URL address for the Assessor’s office. This is good information for any of your client’s that are thinking of making a move. If they are unaware of the ability to save on property taxes you might want to share this with them.

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http://ocgov.com/gov/assessor/programs/55plus#470

 

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Ways To Leverage Your Home To Reduce Your Tax Burden For Next Year

It's Tax Time - Here's How You Can Leverage Your Home to Reduce Your Tax BurdenEach year around April, we can find ourselves becoming a little more tense at the thought of what is about to occur: tax time.

Instead of falling into the trap of procrastinating your taxes, however, it’s much more beneficial to face tax time head-on and do your research on your applicable deductions well in advance.

Your home is good for many things, but using your home to reduce your tax burden may be one benefit you haven’t thought of. Here are some tax benefits that can be leveraged with your home, and some ways to lower your tax bill in 2014.

Deduct Interest On Home Loans

Though interest paid on personal loans isn’t deductible on your tax return, interest paid on mortgages is.

Home mortgage interest, for both your primary residence and a second home such as an investment property, can account for a large bill near the end of the year, and can significantly decrease your tax bill for 2014.

Interest paid on a line of credit for your home or a home equity loan is also usually deductible, and you may also qualify to deduct the insurance premiums on your private mortgage if this was a requirement from your lender. Ensure you keep your Form 1098 from you lender, and be sure not to miss each of your interest deductions.

Deducting Points Paid For A Better Rate

If you paid points in order to get a better interest rate on your home mortgage, the IRS will allow you to deduct these, too. If you meet the requirements for this deduction, one of which is that you paid the points in the same year that you purchased your primary residence, be sure to add the points to your list of deductions.

Deduct Property Taxes

Property taxes are also deductible on your tax return, and since they make up a significant portion of your home expenses each year, they certainly shouldn’t be excluded from your list of deductions in 2014.

As an annual deduction for the entire period you own your home, ensure you don’t forget about your first year in your home. If you’ve just purchased your home, the property taxes would have been split between the seller, the previous homeowner, and you, the buyer, at the time of the property transfer. Your portion of your first year’s property taxes for the home is also fully deductible.

Tax-Free Sales Gain

If you’ve owned and lived in your home for a minimum of two years and are ready to sell, you likely qualify for up to $250,000 dollars of tax-free profit, or up to $500,000 for married couples.

If the sale falls short of the two year mark, the IRS provides some tax relief if the sale is due to a list of unforeseen circumstances, such as changes in employment or health. Be sure to see where you qualify, and leverage the sale of your home for tax-free sales gain.

Having the ability to leverage your home in order to lower your tax burden is, of course, another benefit of being a homeowner. Often, reaping the full benefits of tax deductions is a simple matter of doing your research or speaking with a professional to get the information applicable to you.

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5 Worst and Best Ways to Use a Tax Refund

Posted in Budgeting, Household Finances, Personal Finance, Tax Tips, Taxes by southorangecounty on April 12, 2014

By Nancy Zambell, an InvestorPlace Contributor, April 6, 2012

My parents were working people, with five children (deductions!), which meant they received a nice little check each year after filing their taxes. They didn’t have the benefit of a good tax adviser and didn’t understand that it was their money that Uncle Sam was returning to them, year-after-year. In fact, they were giving the U.S. government  a tax-free loan!

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Imagine what that $1,000 or so they received, annually, could have turned into had they been putting it away, instead of being so generous to Uncle Sam.

But that was then, and my folks weren’t any different than most people on our block. But in today’s world, with so much good (and often no-cost) advice, there’s almost no excuse for letting Uncle Sam have free use of your money. All it  takes is a little calculation to determine how much less you should be paying in throughout the year so that you just about break even by Dec. 31.

For many people, it’s this simple: Let’s say you’re getting about $1,000 back every year from your tax refund. Divide that by 12, and you get $83.33 — the amount you should reduce your paid-in taxes by each month. Just call your payroll department, and they’ll give you the right form to do that. Wouldn’t it be better to have that $83.33 in your pocket, instead of lending it to the government each month?

That’s a great strategy for 2012. But if you’re expecting a refund from your 2011 taxes, let’s look at the worst and best ways to spend that windfall:

 The 5 Worst Things to Do With Your Tax Refund

  1. Put it in your checking account, and spend it on a lot of little things. If you do that, you won’t have any idea where your money went.
  2. Go to Las Vegas or buy a lot of lottery tickets, to “leverage” your refund into bigger winnings. Bad idea. Need I say more?
  3. Use it for a down payment for something you should pay cash for (like a vacation, furniture, or swimming pool), and then taking on a financial obligation that you don’t need (exceptions: houses or cars).
  4. Lend it to a relative or friend. Consider those loans as gifts, because, chances are you won’t get your money back.
  5. Spend it all on a luxury vacation (unless you normally take luxury vacations and don’t have any other financial obligations).

Instead of wasting your refund, consider putting it to good use in the following ways:

The 5 Best Things to do with your Tax Refund

  1. Fund a six-month emergency stash. The challenging economy of the last few years took its toll on many folks, but those with an rainy-day fund fared much better than those who were already living paycheck-to-paycheck.
  2. Fund an IRA. If you don’t already have one, this would be a great start. If you’re under age 50, most folks can contribute up to $5,000 this year; over age 50, the “catch-up” contribution rises to $6,000. No matter your age, if you’re still working, saving for retirement is the one of the very best things you can do with any “windfall.”
  3. Start your own business. According to the Kauffman Foundation, more than 543,000 new businesses were created in 2011. If you’ve always wanted to have your own company, the improving economic period we’re in right now is the prime time to begin. If you can’t afford to do it full-time, start out slow.
  4. Invest. If you’re a beginner, start with an exchange-traded fund or a mutual fund. If you currently invest, put more money to work in your existing holdings or supplement your portfolio with some new additions.
  5. Start a 529 (college-investment plan) for your children or young relatives. I did this with my nieces and nephew when they were born, and so far, two out of the three have used the money to help fund their college years.

These are hardly the only great ideas for getting the most from your tax refund, but they’re my favorites. Bottom line — don’t waste the money. And for 2014, change your deductions so that you can turn that extra money in your paycheck into a greater stockpile each and every year — a seed that can grow into a worry-free retirement.

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Four Places To Look For Tax Deductions In Your Home

Four Places To Look For Tax Deductions In Your Home Paying your income taxes each year leave your wallet a bit thin? There may be money hiding in your home that lessens your tax burden. Here are four places to look:

1. Home-Office Deduction

If you work from home, you could qualify for a home-office deduction. Taking the deduction can be a bit complicated; so many people who qualify don’t claim the exemption. An estimated 26 million Americans have home offices, but only 3.4 million claim them on their tax return.

Perhaps that’s why the Internal Revenue Service attempted to simplify the process in 2013.

The write-off takes into account depreciation, utilities, insurance, the amount of square footage dedicated for office space, whether you host clients at your house and other factors.

Because the parameters involved in filing a home-office exemption are rather complicated, it’s best to keep all business-related receipts, records of client meetings and other pertinent information to make things easier when you prepare your return.

2. Casualty Loss

Damage to your home from an act of God or a theft or burglary may qualify you for an income tax exemption. To qualify for the write-off, the causality loss must meet the “sudden event test.” That means it must be sudden, unpredictable, have involved some natural force and occur in a single instance.

To claim thefts and burglaries, you must be able to prove that a wrong doing has actually occurred. It can’t just be a case of a lost item that you suspect was stolen. Proof can come in the form of witness statements, police reports or newspaper accounts.

3. Energy Efficiency Upgrades And Repairs

Upgrading your home with energy efficient improvements can qualify you for a tax deduction. New roofs, insulation, windows, doors and a number of additional items qualify for the deduction. The deductions lets homeowners claim 10 percent of the total bill for energy efficient materials. The maximum credit is $500.

4. Real Estate Taxes And Newly Purchased Homes

New home owners should look at their settlement statement a bit closer. If the previous owner prepaid property taxes that cover any of the time you owned the home, you can include the prepaid taxes in your property tax deduction.

Don’t pay more than you have to when you file your taxes each April. Consider these commonly overlooked deductions that can lessen the amount you have to pay.

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7 Financial Benefits of Home Ownership This Tax Season

An article by Michael Corbett, from Trulia.

tax-time-3The financial benefits of homeownership are evident year round, but particularly around tax time – they seem to jump off the page. Let’s examine how homeownership makes “cents” –  from the tax benefits, to good old fashioned financial stability.

1. Homeownership Builds Wealth Over Time

We were always taught growing up that owning a home is a financially savvy move. Our parents knew it, and their parents knew it. But this past decade of real estate turbulence has shaken everyone’s confidence in homeownership. That is why it’s so important that we discuss this again now that we’re in a ‘new market.’ Homeownership can be a very savvy financial  move – but only if people buy homes they can actually afford. In 2014, this idea of sticking to a home you can afford to gradually build wealth is a “rule” that just happens to be new and old at the same time.

2. You Build Equity Every Month

Your equity in your home is the amount of money you can sell it for minus what you still owe on it. Every month you make a mortgage payment, and every month a portion of what you pay reduces the amount you owe.  That reduction of your mortgage every month increases your equity. That is especially true now with the elimination of risky mortgages like negative amortized and interest-only loans – thanks to the new “Qualified Mortgage” rules. The way mortgages work is that the principal portion of your payment increases slightly every month year after year. It’s lowest on your first payment and highest on your last payment. Thus, as the months and years go by, your equity grows!

3. You Reap Mortgage Tax Deduction Benefits

  • Mortgage deduction: The tax code allows homeowners to deduct the mortgage interest from their tax obligations. For many people this is a huge deduction, since interest payments can be the largest component of your mortgage payment in the early years of owning a home.
  • Some closing cost deductions: The first year you buy your home, you are able to claim the points (also called origination fees) on your loan, no matter whether they are paid by you or the seller. And because origination fees of 1 percent or more are common, the savings are considerable.
  • Property tax is deductible: Real estate property taxes paid on your primary residence and a vacation home are fully deductible for income tax purposes.

4. Tax Deductions on Home Equity Lines

In addition to your mortgage interest, you can deduct the interest you pay on a home equity loan (or line of credit). This allows you to shift your credit card debts to your home equity loan, pay a lower interest rate than the horrendously exorbitant credit card interest rates, and get a deduction on the interest as well.

5. You Get a Capital Gains Exclusion

If you buy a home to live in as your primary residence for more than two years then you will qualify. When you sell, you can keep profits up to $250,000 if you are single, or $500,000 if you are married, and not owe any capital gains taxes. Now, it may sound ridiculous that your house could be worth more than when you purchased it after these past several years of falling house prices. However, if you purchased your home anytime prior to 2003, chances are it has appreciated in value and this tax benefit will come in very handy.

6. A Mortgage Is Like a Forced Savings Plan

Paying that mortgage every month and reducing the amount of your principal is like a forced savings plan. Each month you are building up more valuable equity in your home. In a sense, you are being forced to save—and that’s a good thing.

7. Long Term, Buying Is Cheaper than Renting

In the first few years, it may be cheaper to rent. But over time, as the interest portion of your mortgage payment decreases, the interest that you pay will eventually be lower than the rent you would have been paying. But more importantly, you are not throwing away all that money on rent. You gotta live someplace, so instead of paying off your landlord’s home or building, pay off your own!

As always, you must look very hard at your personal situation before making the big decision to buy.

 

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When Should You Shred Your Financial Documents?

When Should You Shred Your Financial Documents?How do you know what happens to your documents when you put a piece of paper in the trash? It can be difficult to know who is seeing it and what they are doing with it. It isn’t very common to burn trash anymore; therefore you can be sure that your paper garbage or recycling is likely to pass through several hands on its way to a landfill or recycling center.

StepByStep, Your Documents Can Get Pilfered

Every step that occurs once the trash leaves your control has risk that someone will find personal information they can use to cause you harm. One way to safeguard personal information is to shred it before it goes into the trash.

Shredding devices are available at most office supply stores. Cross-cut shredders provide more security than strip-cut shredders. You may want to consider one depending on your level of concern. Shredding services or shredding events are often offered by financial institutions or community organizations.

Properly destroying sensitive personal information is a key step in helping to keep your identity secure. You really should shred any documents containing personal information, but be cautious not to shred financial documents that you may still need.

To Shred Or Not To Shred, That Is The Question…Or Maybe Its When To Shred

The Better Business Bureau offers these guidelines on when to shred:

  • Deposit, ATM, credit, and debit card receipts can be shredded once the transaction appears on your statement
  • Canceled checks, credit card statements, and bank statements with no long-term significance can go through the shredder after one year; if used to support tax returns, keep them for seven years
  • Monthly bill statements can be shredded one year after receiving, to allow for year-to-year bill comparisons (another good way to monitor your budget!)
  • Credit card contracts and loan agreements should be saved for as long as the account is active
  • Pay stubs can be shredded yearly after reconciling with your W-2 or other tax forms
  • Documentation of investment purchases or sales should be kept for as long as you own the investment and then seven years after that; shred monthly investment account statements annually after reconciling with a year-end statement
  • Always shred documents with Social Security numbers, birth dates, PIN numbers or passwords, financial information, contracts or letters with signatures, pre-approved credit card applications, medical and dental bills, travel itineraries, and used airline tickets.

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Federal Income Tax Deadline Extended To April 18, 2011

Posted in Tax Tips by southorangecounty on March 9, 2011

Taxes due April 18 2011

April 15 is the traditional due date for federal income taxes. It’s a deadline so ingrained in the American psyche that the April 15 calendar date is often called, simply, “Tax Day”.

In 2011, however, federal taxes aren’t due April 15. They’re due April 18. It’s because of a combination of holiday, calendars, and tax law.

The change centers on Emancipation Day.

Emancipation Day is a public celebration in the District of Columbia. Named a holiday in 2005, Emancipation Day honors President Abraham Lincoln’s April 16, 1862 signing of the Compensation Emancipation Act.  

Emancipation Day is a non-working day in the nation’s capitol but, this year, Emancipation Day falls on a Saturday. The municipality will observe the holiday Friday instead. This means that all of Washington, D.C. will be “closed” Friday, April 15 — the usual tax filing deadline date.

This includes the IRS.

Therefore, to accommodate Emancipation Day, the government is extending this year’s federal tax filing deadline to April 18, 2011. This year marks the second time Emancipation Day has forced the change of federal tax filing deadlines.

Also, as a non-related coincidence, tax filers in California taking extensions to October 15 will also get a few extra days. October 15 is a Saturday so the extended tax deadline rolls over to the following Monday — October 17, 2011.

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Boost Your 2010 Tax Deductions By Making Your January Mortgage Payment A Little Bit Early

Posted in Tax Tips by southorangecounty on December 8, 2010

Tax deductions Looking for an extra 2010 tax deduction? Consider making your January mortgage payment a few days early.

It’s a simple strategy that works because of how mortgage interest works.

Unlike rent which is paid in advance at the start of a month, mortgage interest is only paid after it’s been borrowed. Your January mortgage payment, therefore, accounts for the interest that accrued in December.

And for a lot of Rancho Santa Margarita homeowners, that mortgage interest is tax-deductible.

By making January’s mortgage payment in December, eligible homeowners can apply the interest paid to 2010’s tax returns instead of waiting to claim the same deduction against 2011. Don’t cut it close, though. It’s best to remit payment prior to the last week of the month, leaving your servicer ample time to receive and process your paperwork.

Most importantly, though, before prepaying on your mortgage, talk to your tax professional.

Not every homeowner is eligible for mortgage interest tax deductions, nor should every homeowner itemize their respective tax deductions. The “pay early” plan could be a wasted effort for you, ultimately, depending on your taxpayer profile.

If you don’t have an accountant that you trust, call or email me anytime; I’m happy to make a recommendation to you.

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The Home Buyer Tax Credit Extension Has Not Been Passed Into Law (Yet)

Posted in Tax Tips by southorangecounty on June 18, 2010

Tax credit was not extended -- yetAs its June 30, 2010 closing deadline approaches, the federal home buyer tax credit is back in the news.

Unfortunately, the headlines are misleading.

Contrary to what you may have read (or heard), the federal home buyer tax credit has not been extended past June 30, 2010. At least not yet. And here’s why there’s confusion.

Look at these headlines from earlier this week:

  • Senate Extends Date On Home-Buying Tax Credit (Philadelphia Inquirer)
  • U.S. Senate Approves Extension Of Home Buyer Tax Credit (NASDAQ)
  • Senate Approves Home Tax Credit Extension (Reuters)

Now, nothing above is factually incorrect, but each neglects a key piece of the country’s law-making process — it takes more than the Senate to pass a law. For a bill to become a law, it must pass the Senate and the House of Representatives and then it must be ratified by the President.

To date, we’ve only cleared just one of those 3 steps.

This means that the federal home buyer tax credit has not been formally extended. As of now, it’s still in discussion.  Ultimately, though, if the extension does pass, it’s expected to extend the closing date deadline for Trabuco Canyon home buyers beyond the original June 30, 2010 date into September 2010.

Homeowners must still have been in contract as of April 30, 2010 to claim up to $8,000 in federal tax credits.

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