South Orange County Blog from Bob Phillips

5 Important Tips To Save Money On Your Tax Bill

Posted in taxes by southorangecounty on March 1, 2013

Tax Saving Tips For 2012 Tax ReturnApril 15th seems a long way off, but it will be here before you know it.

Now is the perfect time to start getting your paperwork in order.

Owning real estate can make a big difference on your tax return, so make sure that you’re taking advantage of all the deductions you’re entitled to.

We’ve outlined a few below:

Mortgage Interest

Unless you paid cash for your purchase, you probably took out a loan to buy your South Orange County home.

Mortgage interest is one of the best tax deductions available, so be sure to hang on to that 1098 Mortgage Interest Statement from your lender.

You can almost always deduct the entire amount of interest paid per calendar year.

Real Estate Taxes

Depending on where your property is located, you are likely paying real estate tax, either to the state or to a local governing authority.

Taxes based on property value are generally deductible as well. You may have an escrow account to hold these funds during the year, so be sure that you only deduct the amount of taxes you actually paid.

Home Equity Line of Credit

You may deduct home equity line of credit (HELOC) debt interest as long as you are legally liable to pay the interest, the interest is paid in the tax year, and the debt is secured by your home.

The home equity debt has a limit of up to $100,000 ($50,000 if married filing separately).

Mortgage Insurance Premiums

Depending on how your loan is structured, you may have mortgage insurance. With the recently passed American Tax Relief Act of 2012, all mortgage insurance premiums are tax deductible for the 2012 and 2013 tax year. There are some qualifications, so check with your tax advisor.

Mortgage Interest on Land

If you purchased land with the intent to build, the interest you have paid may qualify as deductible mortgage interest as long as the structure becomes your qualified residence within a 24-month period.

This deductibility of bare land mortgage interest is a tricky one. You can see the IRS explanation here.

Your home could be one of your greatest resources for reducing your tax liability. Most times these deductions are itemized on a Schedule A (Form 1040) when you prepare your taxes.

A great next step is to call a qualified tax planning professional.  Please feel free to contact us if you would like a referral.

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Tax Breaks Granted By The 2012 Fiscal Cliff Negotiations

Posted in taxes by southorangecounty on February 6, 2013

Taxes are due April 15, 2013There was plenty of discussion and debate leading up to the New Year’s looming “fiscal cliff”. Ultimately, the event was avoided, but not before legislation was passed which may benefit homeowners in South Orange County and nationwide. 

If you have yet to file your 2012 taxes, take a minute to review the tax limitations and credit extensions, which Congress passed through the HR 8 legislation. You’ll want to ensure you’re paying the proper tax bill come April 15.

Of course, every individual’s tax situation is unique. Review your allowable deductions and credits with your tax preparer.

Energy Updates
The tax credit for homeowners to receive a ten percent deduction, up to $500, for energy efficient improvements to homes is extended for 2013.

Estate Tax
Individual estates valued at up to five million dollars and family estates valued at up to ten million are now exempt from estate tax. After those cutoffs, the rate is 40 percent, which is up from 35 percent.

Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act
This act was also extended through 2013. It means that debt reduced through mortgage restructuring or debt forgiven in the case of a foreclosure may not be taxable.

Mortgage Insurance Premiums
This deduction for those making under $110,000 is extended through 2013. This deduction is also available retroactive for 2012. Mortgage insurance premiums paid as part of a conventional or FHA mortgage are eligible, as are premiums paid to the USDA.

Pease Limitations
These limitations that reduced the value of itemized deductions are permanently repealed for most taxpayers. However, they will be re-instituted for individuals making over $250,000, and for married couples making over $300,000 and filing jointly.

As a homeowner, you get access to special tax breaks which are unavailable to renters throughout California and the country. Don’t leave tax dollars on the table. Speak with your accountant to see what claims you may make.

The deadline for filing 2012 federal tax returns is Monday, April 15, 2013.

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Tax Tips : What To Do With Your Tax Refund

Posted in taxes by southorangecounty on April 12, 2012

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/32545640

The typical U.S. taxpayer will receive roughly $3,000 in federal income tax refunds this year — an average of $250 per month. So, what would you do with an extra $250 monthly? This segment from NBC’s The Today Show offers some advice. 

Whether you’ve already filed your annual taxes for 2011, filed an extension, or will squeak by on the deadline, you could probably be doing more with your taxes. The above video shares some tips. It’s four minutes of solid insight on tax refunds, tax withholdings, and reducing your household’s overall “bad debt”. There’s something for everyone.

Among the points covered in the tax refund piece :

  • Consider changing your personal payroll exemptions so your 2012 refund is $0
  • Remember that refunds are not “free money” — it’s your money. Spend wisely.
  • Use your tax refund to fund retirement accounts

Advice is also shared about how to use your tax refund to fund a reserve account, or emergency fund. As a homeowner or home buyer in Trabuco Canyon , applying tax refunds to a savings accounts in this manner can go a long way. When you’re a homeowner, maintenance costs can be sudden and unexpected. A furnace can explode, for example; or, a roof could spring a leak. Having money set aside for crisis is essential.

Having a savings account will also improve your household’s long-term financial stability. 

As a reminder, in most years, federal income tax is due April 15. However, with Tax Day falling on a Sunday and with the federal government closed for a holiday the following Monday, U.S. taxpayers in California and nationwide get a reprieve until Tuesday, April 17, 2012.

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Federal Tax Deadline Extended To April 17, 2012

Posted in taxes by southorangecounty on February 8, 2012

Tax Day moved to April 17, 2012

Traditionally, federal income taxes must be filed with the IRS on, or before, April 15 each year. The date has become such a part of U.S. culture that many people simply call it “Tax Day”.

This year, however, for the 3rd time in 7 years, your federal income taxes will not be due April 15. Instead, because of a combination of the calendar, a holiday, and tax law, Tax Day 2012 is delayed until Tuesday, April 17.

You will have two extra days to prepare and file your federal income taxes this year. 

Here’s why.

First, April 15 is a Sunday and all federal offices are closed on Sundays. This means that that taxes can’t be filed on April 15, as regularly scheduled. Rather, the tax due date should roll over to the first available business day — Monday.

However, Monday, April 16 is Emancipation Day, a holiday in the District of Columbia since 2005.

Emancipation Day honors President Abraham Lincoln’s April 16, 1862 signing of the Compensation Emancipation Act. All of Washington, D.C. is closed for the local holiday — including the offices of the IRS. Taxes can’t be due on this date because there will be nobody at the Internal Revenue Service to receive them.

Therefore, Tax Day rolls over to the next available business day, and that’s Tuesday, April 17. Despite the 2-day change, as a reminder, the deadline to file a federal tax return with extension has not changed. That filing date remains October 15, 2012. 

Also, note that most states have chosen to mirror the IRS’ tax deadlines this year even though Emancipation Day is a Washington, D.C-specific. Be sure to check with your accountant to confirm your local filing deadline.

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Pay Your Mortgage Early, Boost Your 2011 Federal Income Tax Deductions

Posted in taxes by southorangecounty on December 23, 2011

Increase your 2011 tax deductionsTime is running out to boost to your 2011 federal tax refund. All you have to do is make your January 2012 mortgage payment while it’s still December.

It’s a simple tax strategy that works because of how mortgage interest is paid, and of how the U.S. tax code is written.

Different from rent which is paid for the month ahead (i.e. “you’re paying January’s rent”), mortgage payments are made only after mortgage interest has accrued (i.e. “you’re paying for money you’ve already borrowed from the bank”).

This is called “paying interest in arrears” and U.S. tax code states that the mortgage interest is tax-deductible in its year paid, subject to limitations.

By making the January 2012 mortgage payment in December 2011, therefore, homeowners who itemize their on their tax returns can apply their January mortgage payment’s interest portion to their 2011’s tax returns.

The alternative is to pay the mortgage on schedule, and wait for April 15, 2013 to claim the credit.

If you choose to pre-pay your mortgage and typically send your payment via USPS, give your check ample time to be delivered to your lender, and processed. Mail your check no later than Saturday, December 24.

For Coto de Caza homeowners that pay electronically, the process is simpler. Edit your online bill pay program to have your mortgage payment post no later than Thursday, December 29.

Make note, however. Not all mortgage interest is eligible for tax-deductibility, and not all homeowners throughout the state of California who pay mortgage interest should itemize said interest on their tax returns.

Before prepaying on your mortgage, ask your tax professional for advice.

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Military Members : You Have 3 Weeks To Buy A Home, Claim Up To $8,000 In Tax Credits

Posted in taxes by southorangecounty on April 8, 2011

Military tax credit expirationIf you’re an eligible federal employee or qualified military personnel, you have 3 weeks from this Saturday to use the federal home buyer tax credit, and to claim up to $8,000 in federal income tax credits. 

According to the IRS, eligible persons include members and spouses of the uniformed services, members and spouses of the Foreign Service, and intelligence community employees who served at least 90 days of qualified, extended duty service outside of the United States between January 1, 2009 and April 30, 2010, and their spouses.

Eligible persons must be under contract for a new home on or before April 30, 2011, with the home’s closing occurring on or before June 30, 2011.

The federal home buyer tax credit is a true credit, too. Eligible buyers receive a dollar-for-dollar tax reduction equal to 10 percent of the subject home’s purchase price, not to exceed $8,000 for first-time home buyers, and not to exceed $6,500 for repeat home buyers.

Repeat buyers must have lived in their “main home” through 5 of the last 8 years in order to be eligibke.

Furthermore, both the buyer(s) and the subject property must meet certain minimum eligibility requirements:

  • The home may not be purchased from a parent, spouse, or child
  • The home may not be purchased from an entity in which the seller is a majority owner
  • The home may not be acquired by gift or inheritance
  • The home sale price may not exceed $800,000
  • Buyers may not earn more than $125,000 as single-filers; $225,000 as joint-filers

The complete program description is published on the IRS website.

For additional information regarding your tax credit eligibility, you may want to speak with an accountant or other tax professional. It’s often worth the cost.

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A Potential Surprise Tax Hit on Foreclosures and Short Sales – Oops!

Posted in Foreclosures, short sales, taxes by southorangecounty on June 11, 2010

A Surprise Tax Hit on Foreclosures

For People Who Lose or Walk Away From Their Homes, A Big Tax Bill May Loom

Maxine McDaniel has a message for Americans considering walking away from an unaffordable mortgage: Beware of taxes.

Though not every homeowner who’s underwater on a mortgage need worry, many are finding that a foreclosure or other form of housing loss can lead to a big tax obligation.

In Ms. McDaniel’s case, the 59-year-old in January abandoned the 4,300-square-foot Loveland, Colo., home she and her late husband built. After her husband’s death in July 2008, Ms. McDaniel, who earns about $34,000 a year as a home-health nurse, couldn’t maintain the $3,000 monthly payments necessary on her nearly $500,000 interest-only mortgage. So she stopped making them and moved in with an uncle.

Now, she’s bracing for the next blow: an Internal Revenue Service form detailing as much as $150,000 in debt canceled by the bank when it took control of the house. The canceled debt is a form of income, says the IRS—meaning she’ll owe taxes on it.

“I had no clue this would happen,” says Ms. McDaniel, who, with her husband, had refinanced at least three times, including one cash-out loan. That transaction caused her problems because, while canceled debt originally used to buy or build a house can be exempted from tax filings, debt used for other purposes cannot. “I just thought I’d get out from under the house and that would be that,” she says.

[W.FORECLOSURE]

As the U.S. economy continues struggling with the fallout of the debt-induced housing crisis, millions of homeowners like Ms. McDaniel are discovering that their decision to walk away from a mortgage could result in tax bills running into the thousands or tens of thousands of dollars.

The upshot: anyone weighing whether or not to seek a mortgage modification—or debating whether to abandon a house that is worth less than the mortgage—should consider the tax treatment carefully before making a move. The same holds for any form of consumer debt that a bank ultimately cancels, including credit-card balances or an auto lease.

Federal and state tax laws have long viewed canceled debt as income because consumers who borrow money to buy a house—or who pull money out of their house to buy cars and such—and then don’t pay it back “wind up ahead of where they were,” says an IRS spokesman.

Thus far this year, Michele Knight, a CPA with a high-end clientele in Keystone, Colo., has had five clients owe taxes tied to houses and another five tied to credit cards and auto leases. “They’re calling me in tears and saying, ‘What do you mean I owe taxes?'” she says. “I never would have expected it.”

Dianne Corsbie, a White Plains, N.Y., financial planner, says about 5% of her 200-client practice owes taxes because of a foreclosure, most tied to investment properties. In Napa, Calif., Duane Carey, owner of a Ranch Tax Service, says every fifth person he sees “comes in angry, holding one of these 1099s.”

Overall, the IRS estimates that individual taxpayers will have filed nearly 3.6 million tax returns for 2009 that include income from canceled debt. That’s down a bit from 2008, but up 17% from 2007. The numbers include taxes due on primary homes, vacation and rental property, credit cards, auto leases and other canceled debts. The IRS projects the numbers to rise in coming years.

Part of that rise will likely come as the government expands its mortgage-modification program, including a call in March by the Obama administration for banks to reduce principal as a way to help people remain in their homes. That reduction could lead to tax obligations.

At first the government’s mortgage-modification program focused on primary mortgages, which are tied to the purchase or construction of a primary residence, and which are eligible for exemption under a 2007 Congressional act aimed at helping homeowners avoid the tax implications of a foreclosure.

That act—the 2007 Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act—exempts taxpayers from as much as $2 million in forgiven debt. But the debt had to be acquired before Jan. 1, 2009—and had to have been used solely to buy, build or remodel/repair a primary residence.

The government’s new, expanded modification programs include short sales, in which a bank agrees to accept as full payment less than the value of the mortgage balance; deed-in-lieu transactions, when a homeowner gives the house to the bank instead of repaying the mortgage; and second mortgages such as home-equity lines of credit.

In many of those instances, say Treasury officials, homeowners used mortgage money to fund everything from tuition and medical bills to vacations and cars and even the down payment on a second home or investment property. That debt, however, isn’t eligible for exemption.

Sometimes the tax bills are so high that people can’t afford to pay. In such a situation, the IRS will allow taxpayers to apply for an installment-payment plan.

Some homeowners can avoid the taxes completely if they can prove insolvency, in which the total value of debt exceeds total assets. But even that could leave some owing taxes.

IRS rules stipulate that a taxpayer can escape taxes up to the extent of insolvency, meaning that if one’s liabilities are $500,000 and assets are $300,000, the $200,000 difference is the extent of the insolvency. But if the person has $250,000 in debt canceled, then $50,000 is taxable income.

“People think their house was underwater, so they’re insolvent and can get out of owing taxes,” says Arthur Auerbach, a member of the Individual Income Tax Technical Resource Panel at the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. “But it doesn’t work that way.”

From The Wall Street Journal, By JEFF D. OPDYKE

Write to Jeff D. Opdyke at jeff.opdyke@wsj.com

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Tax credit deadline ignites buying frenzy

Posted in home affordability, Real estate, taxes by southorangecounty on May 2, 2010

April 30th, 2010, · posted by Jeff Collins of the Orange County Register
 

A lot of last-minute homebuying decisions were made Friday as buyers rushed to qualify for a federal tax credit that expired that day.

Buyers needed to have a signed contracts in hand to get a credit of $8,000 for first-time buyers and $6,500 for repeat buyers. They also must close escrow by June 30.

“I think there’s definitely some last-minute scurrying around,” said Tustin agent Charles Folcke. “I’m sure that if some offers are accepted (this weekend), agents are going to backdate it.”

“Lots of quick decisions (were) made this week from our fabulous last-minute type of folks,” added Huntington Beach agent Vivian Young. “I’ve been showing property for lots of clients the entire month to quickly get them under contract before the month ends.”

Broker Steve Thomas of Altera Real Estate reported that the number of deals signed increased 6.2 percent from two weeks ago and 10 percent over the past month.

“Buyers are pushing their way into escrow, but I think the momentum will carry even after the expiration,” Thomas said.

Coto de Caza agent Bob Phillips spent part of Friday dashing from Santa Ana to Capistrano Beach, then to a listing agent’s office to get a signed contract to an East Coast bank in time for its approval.

His clients got outbid Thursday, after offering $11,000 over the asking price on a bank-owned home. His cell phone rang at 6 a.m. Friday with news that the top bidder got cold feet and backed out.

He had to drive to both clients’ work places to get their signatures, then dash over to the listing agent’s office for the bank’s approval.

“I am now going to drive to Dana Point to open the escrow before they close at 5 p.m.,” he said Friday. “It has been an exciting day.”

Several agents noted that buyers stopped looking at homes listed as short sales, or selling below what’s owed the bank, since lenders typically are pokey in responding to offers.

Thomas and others predicted that the $200,000 set aside for the California tax credit likely will be exhausted in a month, rather than in the seven months allotted for it.

“There is still a lot of confusion about the California tax credit, which will last about a minute,” Thomas said. “The first 17,500 lucky first-time home buyers win and everybody else is going to be upset.”

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There will be no California taxes on forgiven distressed mortgage debt

Posted in Foreclosures, home affordability, Loan modifications, Real estate, short sales, taxes by southorangecounty on April 8, 2010

Finally, thousands of people across all of California can relax a little. They no longer face a double whammy of losing their homes – and then a big state tax bill on the forgiven debt.

Hours ago California state lawmakers passed legislation that will exempt borrowers who lost their homes to foreclosure or short sales since January 1st,  2009, or got certain types of loan modifications from state taxes that can run into thousands of dollars. And spokesman Mike Naple, for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, said he will sign it.

Reaction came pretty fast throughout the state.

Sacramentan Debbie Wong, who sold her Elk Grove condo last year in a short sale, said she got a recent state tax bill for $7,500.The forgiven debt on her sale gave her a state taxable income of $108,000 when her salary was $13,000, she said. She’s relieved.

So is Sara Palasch, who sold her Bakersfield house through a short sale last year and lives in Georgia now. Weeks ago, she got a state tax bill for $10,500.

The bill, SB401 by Sen. Lois Wolk, D-Davis, passed 47-24 in the Assembly and 24-9 in the Senate.
 
 We are preparing a detailed primer on the bill and how it affects people for tomorrow’s paper. In the meantime we asked the FTB what people should do now when filing their state taxes:  Here is the word from FTB directly:

  “Once the Governor signs this into law, California taxpayers will not have to do anything. If they qualify for federal relief on the mortgage debt forgiven, then they will also qualify for state income tax purposes. California Form 540 starts with federal adjusted gross income so there will be no adjustment necessary to properly reflect the state adjusted gross income amount for this issue.”

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Don’t Leave Tax Credits On The Table (And How To Get Them Back If You Already Filed)

Posted in Real estate, taxes by southorangecounty on April 8, 2010

Taxes are due April 15 and if you’re among the millions of Americans who wait until the last week to file, below is a linked video interview that could help you reduce your federal tax liability. 

Originally broadcast by NBC’s The Today Show, the 4-minute piece reviews various tax credits and deductions, plus some recent tax law changes.  A few of the topics covered include:

  • Tax filers receiving larger “personal exemptions” in 2009 versus 2008
  • Unemployment income recipients being required pay taxes beyond the first $2,400 received
  • The “first time” home buyer credit being extended to non-first time home buyers for up to $6,500

The interview also talks about how taking a parent, child or other family member into your home may change your tax filing status and reduce your tax liability.

Even if you’ve filed your taxes already, watch the video above. You may find that you missed a potential deduction. If that’s the case, consider filing an amended return with the IRS to recapture the credits you left on the table.  Most times, the benefits of re-filing will outweigh the costs of doing it.

Be sure to talk with your tax professional for personal tax advice.

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