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7 Reasons to Own Your Home

1. Tax breaks. The U.S. Tax Code lets you deduct the interest you pay on your mortgage, your property taxes, as well as some of the costs involved in buying your home.

2. Appreciation. Real estate has long-term, stable growth in value. While year-to-year fluctuations are normal, median existing-home sale prices have increased on average 6.5 percent each year from 1972 through 2005, and increased 88.5 percent over the last 10 years, according to the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS . In addition, the number of U.S. households is expected to rise 15 percent over the next decade, creating continued high demand for housing.

3. Equity. Money paid for rent is money that you ll never see again, but mortgage payments let you build equity ownership interest in your home.

4. Savings. Building equity in your home is a ready-made savings plan. And when you sell, you can generally take up to $250,000 ($500,000 for a married couple) as gain without owing any federal income tax.

5. Predictability. Unlike rent, your fixed-mortgage payments don t rise over the years so your housing costs may actually decline as you own the home longer. However, keep in mind that property taxes and insurance costs will increase.

6. Freedom. The home is yours. You can decorate any way you want and benefit from your investment for as long as you own the home.

7. Stability. Remaining in one neighborhood for several years gives you a chance to participate in community activities, lets you and your family establish lasting friendships, and offers your children the benefit of educational continuity.

Online resources: To calculate whether buying is the best financial option for you, use the  Buy vs. Rent calculator at www.GinnieMae.gov.

Reprinted from REALTOR magazine (REALTOR.org/realtormag) with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS .
Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.

Government Rental Assistance Programs

The government has in place several public housing assistance programs designed to provide housing opportunities for low-income households, elderly and persons with disabilities. Section 8 is perhaps the most well-known rental assistance program, but there are others such as public housing, privately owned subsidized housing and rural rental assistance.

These programs usually have long waiting lists and each housing authority has its own system for accepting applications for the rental programs they administer. To apply or get information on any of the programs mentioned below, please contact your local housing authority or the local housing authorities web sites. Another option is to contact the local housing counseling agency for information about the local resources available to help very-low and low-income households and how to use them.

Public housing is low-income housing, operated by your local housing authority. It was established to provide decent and safe rental housing for eligible low-income families, the elderly, and persons with disabilities. Public housing comes in all sizes and types, from scattered single-family houses to high-rise apartments for elderly families.

There are approximately 1.3 million households living in public housing units, managed by some 3,300 Housing Agencies. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) administers Federal aid to local housing agencies (HAs) that manage the housing for low-income residents at rents they can afford. HUD furnishes technical and professional assistance for planning, developing and managing these developments.

Section 8 Housing choice vouchers allow very low-income families to choose and lease or purchase safe, decent, and affordable privately owned rental housing. Below is a list of various types of vouchers.

  • Conversion Vouchers
  • Fair Market Rents
  • Family Unification Vouchers
  • Family Unification/Foster Child Care
  • Homeownership Vouchers
  • HOPE for Elderly Independence (HOPE IV)
  • Housing Choice Voucher Program
  • Income Limits
  • Moving to Opportunity
  • Project Based Vouchers
  • Public Housing Relocation/Replacement
  • Rental Assistance for Non-Elderly Disabled Families in Support of Designated Housing Allocation Plans
  • Tenant Based Vouchers
  • Vouchers for People with Disabilities
  • Welfare-to-Work Vouchers

Privately owned subsidized housing: The government provides subsidies directly to the owner who then applies those subsidies to the rents he/she charges low-income tenants. There are privately owned subsidized housing units for senior citizens and people with disabilities, as well as for families and individuals. In California, there are more than 1,650 participating properties. To apply: visit the management office for the site(s) that interest you.

Rural Rental Assistance Programs: In rural communities, the Department of Agriculture provides rental assistance programs, home improvement and repair loans and grants, and self-help housing loans to low-income individuals and families. Apply online or contact the local Rural Development office (check the Federal Government section of your telephone book).

Help with your utility bills: There are several local programs designed to help renters that meet certain income criteria with the cost of their utility bills. The programs are run by the local utilities agencies. In addition, the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) Block Grant, funded by the federal Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), provides two basic types of services. Eligible low-income persons, via local governmental and nonprofit organizations, can receive financial assistance to offset the costs of heating and/or cooling dwellings, and/or have their dwellings weatherized to make them more energy efficient.

This is accomplished through these three program components: The Weatherization Program provides free weatherization services to improve the energy efficiency of homes, including attic insulation, weather-stripping, minor housing repairs, and related energy conservation measures.

The Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP) provides financial assistance to eligible households to offset the costs of heating and/or cooling dwellings. For more information, call 1-866-675-6623. The Energy Crisis Intervention Program (ECIP) provides payments for weather-related or energy-related emergencies. For information on local programs, consult the Energy Assistance Providers Directory.

The Renter Assistance Program Franchise Tax Board allows a once-a-year payment from the State of California to qualified individuals based on part of the property taxes that they paid indirectly when they paid their rent. The maximum assistance payment allowed is $347.50. You may be eligible to file a 2003 claim for Renter Assistance if you are a United States citizen, designated alien or qualified alien when you file your claim and you met the following criteria on December 31, 2002:

  • You were 62 years of age or older, blind, or disabled,
  • You lived in a qualified rented residence in California,
  • You paid $50.00 or more per month in rent on that residence, and
  • You had a total household income of $37,676, or less.

Education for local tenant rights, laws and protections: Helps renters learn and exercise their tenant rights. It usually offers free counseling, free legal assistance for tenant issues and in some cases, dispute settlement mechanisms.

Promising Program Practices: Welfare to Work Vouchers: HUD s section  Lease up and Rental Assistance lists a number of ideas on how public housing authorities can run a Welfare to Work program effectively using the vouchers to create rental opportunities for its holders. Two programs with innovative ideas about rental security deposits are The Ready to Rent Program and Rent Guarantee Fund in Portland, OR and the Security Deposit Assistance in Marin County, CA.


Cost Segregation and Tax Deductions

By understanding business tax deductions, business owners may enjoy personal benefits from business expenditures – a nice car to drive, a combination business trip/vacation, retirement savings plan – if they follow the myriad tax rules.

The tax code allows deductions from gross income, which reduce income taxes. Increasing tax deductions reduces taxable income and income taxes. Therefore, knowing how to maximize your deductible business expenses enables you to lower taxes.

According to the IRS, trade or business expenses must be ordinary and necessary to be considered a tax deduction. Although the tax code does not specifically define ordinary and necessary tax deductions, these types of expenses are specified in various IRS publications and regulations. Some of the tax deductions business owners can claim fall under categories such as charitable contributions/donation deductions, medical and dental deductions, moving expense deductions, deducting job costs, travel and entertainment expense deductions, casualty and theft losses, depreciation and involuntary conversion deductions.

The wisdom of tax planning is to take advantage of all the benefits Uncle Sam has to offer. An increasingly popular federal tax savings phenomenon is utilizing a cost segregation study (CSS). These studies offer business owners of improved commercial real estate the opportunity to defer taxes, reduce their overall current tax burden, and free up capital by improving cash flow. A CSS study will identify any item that can be depreciated over a shorter period of time. These studies can result in accelerated depreciation deductions for properties including new buildings being constructed, renovations of existing buildings, leasehold improvements, and the purchase of real estate.

The primary goal of cost segregation is to identify building components that can be reclassified from real property to personal property. This results in a substantially shorter depreciable tax life and accelerated depreciation methods. Ordinarily, the cost of real, or section 1250, property is recovered over lengthy periods (27.5 and 39 years for residential and nonresidential property, respectively), using the straight-line method of depreciation. Personal, or section 1245, property is recovered over considerably shorter periods (5, 7 or 15 years), and employs accelerated methods of depreciation, such as 200% or 150% declining balance.

Article Source: http://www.articlesnatch.com

About the Author:
OConnor & Associates is a national provider of commercial real estate consulting services including federal tax reduction, cost segregation, due diligence, renovation upgrading cost analyses, tax return review and apartment inspections.



Read more: http://www.articlesnatch.com/Article/Cost-Segregation—Tax-Deductions–the-Tax-Code-Allows-Deductions-From-Gross-Income-/1211915#ixzz10UEzCiNR
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Two Things You Can t Get Away From TAXES & INSURANCE

When you buy your house, you will be assessed a yearly property tax. Typically, this is calculated at about 1.5% of the purchase price of your home. It is important to figure this cost into your monthly expenses. On a $200,000 home, plan on paying about $3000 a year in property taxes.

There are several ways of paying your property taxes. You can pay them in one lump sum, make semi-annual payments or set up an impound account with your lender. An impound account allows you to pay your taxes in monthly installments. Many firsttime home buyers find this the most convenient thing to do  and may be required to do so by their lender.

Just like your car, you ll need to carry insurance  typically referred to as homeowner s insurance  on your home. This protects your home and its contents from fire, theft and other types of damage. Depending on the area of California in which you live, you may also be required to carry flood insurance and earthquake insurance. And, many first time home buyers will need to budget for and purchase Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI). PMI provides lenders with a financial guaranty against loss in the event that a borrower defaults. While this guaranty is good for lenders, it is also good for borrowers because it means that lenders are more willing to make loans to borrowers who may not otherwise be able to qualify for a home loan.

Insurance rates vary widely depending on the location and value of the property. When purchasing your insurance, review your insurance policy carefully and know what is covered and what is not. Typically, insurance on your home can be paid in a similar fashion as your property taxes. That is, yearly, quarterly or monthly through an impound account. Again, many first-time home buyers choose  or are required by their lender  to use an impound account for these costs.

7 Homeowner Tax Advantages

By: G. M. Filisko

When you’re evaluating how much home you can afford, make sure you factor in the tax advantages of homeownership.

Owning your home not only allows you to build wealth through appreciation, but it can also reduce the amount of income tax you pay every year.

Here are seven tax benefits for homeowners.

1. Homebuyer tax credits
If you purchase your first home before April 30, 2010, you’re entitled to a tax credit of up to $8,000. If you currently own a home, but sell it to purchase another home before April 30, 2010, you’re eligible for a federal tax credit of up to $6,500.

2. Deductions for loan fees
Typically, you can deduct the “prepaid interest” you paid when you got your mortgage loan. That includes points, loan origination fees, and loan discount fees listed on your settlement statement, even if the seller paid those fees for you. Each time you refinance your home, you can deduct prepaid interest fees.

However, you must meet certain requirements to take the prepaid interest deductions when you purchase or refinance your home. Check with your accountant to be sure you’re following the rules.

3. Property tax deductions
In the year you purchase your home, you’re entitled to deduct the real estate taxes you paid at the closing table. You can continue to deduct the property taxes you pay each year.

4. The mortgage interest deduction
Every year, you can deduct the amount of interest and late charges you pay on your mortgage and home equity loans, though there are limitations. If you’re required to purchase private mortgage insurance (PMI) because you made a downpayment of less than 20% on your home, you can also deduct those premiums as mortgage interest expenses.

5. Home office expenses
If you have a home office you use only for business, you may be eligible to deduct the prorated costs of your mortgage, insurance, and other expenses related to that space. The government scrutinizes home-office deductions closely. Be sure you’re entitled to the deductions before claiming them.

6. The costs of selling your home
In the year you sell your home, you can deduct the costs of selling it, including real estate commissions, title insurance, legal fees, advertising, administrative costs, and inspection fees. You can also deduct decorating or repair costs you incur in the 90 days before you sell your home.

7. The gain on your home
If you lived in your home for at least two of the previous five years before you sell it, the government lets you to take up to $250,000 of profit on the sale of your home tax free. That amount is doubled for married couples. This deduction isn’t available on rental or second homes.

The government also allows you to subtract from your home sale profit any amounts you spend on improvements, such as window replacement, siding, or a kitchen remodel. Those deductions are in addition to the tax credits you can receive in 2010 for making energy-saving upgrades. Money invested for routine maintenance and repairs doesn’t count.

This article includes general information about tax laws and consequences, but is not intended to be relied upon as tax or legal advice applicable to particular transactions or circumstances. Consult a tax professional for such advice; tax laws vary by jurisdiction.

More from HouseLogic
More on the mortgage interest deduction
Claiming your homebuyer tax credit (http://www.houselogic.com/articles/claim-your-homebuyer-tax-credits/)

Tips to use when preparing your return (http://www.houselogic.com/articles/tax-tips-homeowners-preparing-2009-returns/)

Other web resources
More information on homeownership deductions (http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/article-29693.html)

IRS information on the mortgage interest deduction (http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p936.pdf)
G.M. Filisko is an attorney and award-winning writer who’s enjoyed the tax advantages of homeownership for more than 20 years. A frequent contributor to many national publications including Bankrate.com, REALTOR® Magazine, and the American Bar Association Journal, she specializes in real estate, business, personal finance, and legal topics.

Visit houselogic.com for more articles like this. Reprinted from HouseLogic with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS
Copyright 2010. All rights reserved.

Understanding Capital Gains in Real Estate

When you sell a stock, you owe taxes on your gain  the difference between what you paid for the stock and what you sold it for. The same holds true when selling a home (or a second home), but there are some special considerations.

How to Calculate Gain
In real estate, capital gains are based not on what you paid for the home, but on its adjusted cost basis. To calculate, follow these steps:

1. Purchase price: _______________________

The purchase price of the home is the sale price, not the amount of money you actually contributed at closing.

2. Total adjustments: _______________________

To calculate this, add the following:
Cost of the purchase  including transfer fees, attorney fees, and inspections, but not points you paid on your mortgage.
Cost of sale  including inspections, attorney fees, real estate commission, and money you spent to fix up your home just prior to sale.
Cost of improvements  including room additions, deck, etc. Note here that improvements do not include repairing or replacing something already there, such as putting on a new roof or buying a new furnace.

3. Your home s adjusted cost basis: _______________________

The total of your purchase price and adjustments is the adjusted cost basis of your home.

4. Your capital gain: _______________________

Subtract the adjusted cost basis from the amount your home sells for to get your capital gain.

A Special Real Estate Exemption for Capital Gains
Since 1997, up to $250,000 in capital gains ($500,000 for a married couple) on the sale of a home is exempt from taxation if you meet the following criteria:
You have lived in the home as your principal residence for two out of the last five years.
You have not sold or exchanged another home during the two years preceding the sale.
You meet what the IRS calls  unforeseen circumstances, such as job loss, divorce, or family medical emergency.

Reprinted from REALTOR magazine (REALTOR.org/realtormag) with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS .
Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.

Real Estate Tax Breaks For Your Home

It is always beneficial during tax season to own real estate, which gives you many annual deductions. If you purchased residential real estate during this year, however, you can look forward to even more generous savings at tax time.

Mortgage Interest
Though there are several real estate deductions you will be able to take this tax year, the largest is the interest you paid on your mortgage. According to Kiplinger’s (August 31, 2006), you may write off up to $1 million in mortgage interest for your primary or secondary home (does not apply to third home real estate, unless it is a business or rental property). This can be an enormous tax savings, especially within the first years of ownership with most of your monthly payments going to interest.

Property Taxes
Each year, you may deduct the property taxes you paid. If you recently purchased your home real estate, you also may deduct any taxes the seller paid in advance that were applied to your property tax debt. This applies even if you did not reimburse the seller for these real estate taxes.

Points Paid for Mortgage
Even if the seller paid your points, you may deduct them on your tax return within the year of purchase of the real estate. Each point is worth one percent of the real estate mortgage. For a loan principal of $250,000, you may deduct $2,500 for each point. For a loan face value of $500,000, you may deduct $5,000 per point.

If you refinanced your real estate, you also may deduct these points paid. However, the deduction must be spread over the life of the loan. If you sell the real estate or pay off the loan early, then the remaining deduction may be taken within the year of sale or loan payoff.

Home Equity Debt
You are allowed to deduct up to $100,000 of home equity debt each year, regardless for what you used the money. This makes home equity loans low-interest alternatives for purchasing cars, paying student tuition, underwriting your dream vacation, and so on.

Home Business Use Deductions
If you run a business out of your home or use the real estate for business purposes, such as rental property, you have many deductions for the use of this space. For home offices, the percentage of space you actually use may incur the same percentage in deductions for mortgage payments, utilities and home insurance. Improvements made to accommodate the business, such as bringing the real estate up to standard as rental property or installing a private bathroom when renting out a room, may qualify for a deduction against your profits.

Property Damage
If you incurred uninsured real estate damage due to a qualifying disaster (especially within a presidential declared disaster area), you may qualify for a tax deduction. There are limitations, however, and the deduction generally must be taken within the year the disaster occurred.

What You Cannot Deduct
If you recently purchased or sold real estate, you incurred many costs but not all may be deducted from your taxes. Examples of nondeductible expenses are closing costs, major home improvements to attain a higher sales price, title insurance, appraisal and inspection fees, or attorney fees.

Don’t forget, deductions that lower your federal tax debt also decrease your state tax obligation! As with all financial advice, always check with a qualified accounting professional.

Article Source: http://www.articlesnatch.com

About the Author:John Harris is an expert researcher and writer on real estate topics such as economics, credit improvement tips, home selling advice and home buying preparations. For more on San Diego Homes for Sale visit http://www.twtrealestate.com

Read more: http://www.articlesnatch.com/Article/Real-Estate-Tax-Breaks-For-Your-Home/101807#ixzz10UDVIg6S
Under Creative Commons License: Attribution No Derivatives

5 Property Tax Questions You Need to Ask

1. What is the assessed value of the property Note that assessed value is generally less than market value. Ask to see a recent copy of the seller s tax bill to help you determine this information.
2. How often are properties reassessed, and when was the last reassessment done In general, taxes jump most significantly when a property is reassessed.
3. Will the sale of the property trigger a tax increase The assessed value of the property may increase based on the amount you pay for the property. And in some areas, such as California, taxes may be frozen until resale.
4. Is the amount of taxes paid comparable to other properties in the area If not, it might be possible to appeal the tax assessment and lower the rate.
5. Does the current tax bill reflect any special exemptions that I might not qualify for For example, many tax districts offer reductions to those 65 or over.

Reprinted from REALTOR magazine (REALTOR.org/realtormag) with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS .
Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.

California 1031 Exchange Audits

If you are attempting a 1031 exchange you need to keep your tax records squeaky clean because one of the top audit issues continues to be like kind exchanges, also known as 1031 exchanges. Under IRC Section 1031 and conforming California laws, if certain conditions are met, taxpayers may defer gain from the sale of property, either in part or full.

There are three general requirements:

  • There must be an exchange, as opposed to a separate sale and reinvestment, by the same taxpayer.
  • The relinquished property and replacement property must be “like kind.”  
  • Both the property given up and the replacement property must be held for investment or for productive use in a trade or business. Property held for personal use or primarily for sale is generally not eligible for nonrecognition treatment.

If at any time during the exchange, the taxpayer or his agent has receipt or control of any portion of the sales proceeds, this will generally result in gain recognition. Along similar lines, if the taxpayer does not reinvest the full amount of proceeds into eligible replacement property, or obtains other property in the exchange (referred to as “boot”), this may also result in gain recognition. If the transaction is done in accordance with IRC Section 1031 regulations, a qualified intermediary will not be considered the taxpayer’s agent.

The source of the original deferred gain on California property will remain with California, regardless of the location of the replacement property. When the replacement property is ultimately sold in a taxable transaction, the gain originally deferred on the California property will have its source in and be taxable by California.

Common Audit Issues

  • Sourcing of gains to California upon disposition of replacement property received in a California deferred exchange.
  • Taxpayer receives other property (boot) in the exchange but does not report the boot on their return.
  • Taxpayers do not meet identification or other technical requirements of IRC Section 1031.
  • Relinquished and/or replacement property are not held for investment or for productive use in a trade or business (i.e. property is used for personal purposes or is held primarily for sale).
  • The taxpayer who transfers relinquished property is a different taxpayer than the party who acquires replacement property.

We also continue to review certain “drop and swap” or “swap and drop” transactions. Not all of these transactions are ineligible due to varying facts and circumstances; however, where the form does not support the economic realities or substance of the transaction, we will recharacterize the taxpayer’s transaction as appropriate.

Recent Developments

Recently, the Board of Equalization decided several notable, although noncitable, like kind exchange cases. The three cases are:

  • Appeal of Frank and Mary Lou Aries, Appeal No. 464475 (swap and drop).
  • Appeal of Gerald J. and Carol L. Marcil, Appeal No. 458832 (different taxpayer acquired replacement property, rehearing granted).
  • Appeal of Howard Brief, Appeal No. 530872 (deemed contribution to a partnership).

The significance of these cases is that we are sustaining a taxable position where we have recharacterized the taxpayer’s transaction to reflect the realities of the transaction.

7 Tips for a Profitable Home Closing

By: G. M. Filisko

Be sure you’re walking away with all the money you’re entitled to from the sale of your home.

When you’re ready to close on the sale of your home and move to your new home, you may be so close to the finish line that you coast, thinking there’s nothing left for you to do. Not so fast. It’s easy to waste a few dollars here and for mistakes to creep into your closing documents there, all adding up to a bundle of lost profit. Spot money-losing problems with these seven tips.

1. Take services out of your name
Avoid a dispute with the buyers after closing over things like fees for the cable service you forgot to discontinue. Contact every utility and service provider to end or transfer service to your new address as of the closing date.

If you’re on an automatic-fill schedule for heating oil or propane, don’t pay for a pre-closing refill that provides free fuel for the new owner. Contact your insurer to terminate coverage on your old home, get coverage on your new home, and ask whether you’re entitled to a refund of prepaid premium.

2. Spread the word on your change of address
Provide the post office with your forwarding address two to four weeks before the closing. Also notify credit card companies, publication subscription departments, friends and family, and your financial institutions of your new address.

3. Manage the movers
Scrutinize your moving company’s estimate. If you’re making a long-distance move, which is often billed according to weight, note the weight of your property and watch so the movers don’t use excessive padding to boost the weight. Also check with your homeowners insurer about coverage for your move. Usually movers cover only what they pack.

4. Do the settlement math
Title company employees are only human, so they can make mistakes. The day before your closing, check the math on your HUD-1 Settlement Statement.

5. Review charges on your settlement statement
Are all mortgages being paid off, and are the payoff amounts correct If your real estate agent promised you extras-such as a discounted commission or a home warranty policy-make sure that’s included. Also check whether your real estate agent or title company added fees that weren’t disclosed earlier. If any party suggests leaving items off the settlement statement, consult a lawyer about whether that might expose you to legal risk.

6. Search for missing credits
Be sure the settlement company properly credited you for prepaid expenses, such as property taxes and homeowners association fees, if applicable. If you’ve prepaid taxes for the year, you’re entitled to a credit for the time you no longer own the home. Have you been credited for heating oil or propane left in the tank

7. Don’t leave money in escrow
End your home sale closing with nothing unresolved. Make sure the title company releases money already held in escrow for you, and avoid leaving sales proceeds in a new escrow to be dickered over later.

Other web resources
(http://www.realtor.com/home-finance/sellers-basics/closing.aspx) Closing costs explained (http://www.homeclosing101.org/costs.cfm)

G.M. Filisko is an attorney and award-winning writer who has survived several closings. A frequent contributor to many national publications including Bankrate.com, REALTOR® Magazine, and the American Bar Association Journal, she specializes in real estate, business, personal finance, and legal topics.

Visit houselogic.com for more articles like this. Reprinted from HouseLogic with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS
Copyright 2010. All rights reserved.

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