From the Patrick Parker Realty Tax Season Blog Series:
7 Ways To Avoid An Audit
Reduce Your Chances of Getting A Second Look From The IRS with Tips From the Pros

tax-dayThat’s it… it’s here… Tax Day is the 15th!

It’s the 1% no one wants to be a part of: the share of Americans who get audited.

The Internal Revenue Service is tracking down people who may be shorting the tax man by understating their income, exaggerating tax breaks and skipping out on other tax liabilities. And it isn’t just the rich and famous that agents are going after. Six percent of the IRS audits conducted on individuals in 2012 were for people who made between $200,000 and $1 million, according to IRS data.

Taxpayers can get flagged for forgetting important forms, mixing up numbers and erroneously claiming tax breaks. Sometimes, one mistake can open the door for the IRS to take a closer look at the rest of the return, tax pros say. “You don’t want to go through that headache,” says Paul Gevertzman, a partner at Anchin, Block & Anchin, an accounting firm in New York City.

That said, most taxpayers can stay in the clear if they report their income honestly and have the proper documentation. And while there is no such thing as “audit-proofing” a return, taxpayers can take steps to reduce their chances of facing extra scrutiny from Uncle Sam.

Here are 7 things you can do to avoid getting audited:

1. Watch what you tweet
Tax officials don’t just scour public records in their efforts to catch tax cheats. They also check Facebook, Twitter and other websites for clues that a person may be lying about the scope of their business and how much they make.

For example, some tax officials may take note if a small business owner boasts online about business projects taking place in multiple states but doesn’t report that income to the IRS and the respective state tax authorities, says Gevertzman. Likewise, taxpayers who claim they are having financial difficulties in an effort to reduce the taxes they owe should not post on social media about how much business is booming.The IRS says audit decisions are based on the information taxpayers provide on their returns, not what they post on social media. The agency, however, might monitor publicly available information to help with an existing case. And agents are not allowed to use fake profiles or deceive people on social media sites to collect information.

2. Report all of your income
Most taxpayers know to report all income stated on their W-2 and 1099 forms, since the IRS has matching software that can help it catch income that was reported under a person’s Social Security number. But even less obvious income should be reported, tax pros say. This includes income earned by self-employed individuals that may not appear on a 1099 form. People should also report gambling winnings, which casinos must generally report to the IRS, says Melanie Lauridsen, a technical manager on the tax staff for the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants.

For instance, winnings of at least $1,200 from a bingo game or slot machine must be reported, according to IRS rules, as well as prizes of more than $5,000 from a poker tournament, though the requirements vary per game. (Gambling winnings can also be offset by losses if taxpayers can provide receipts and other documentation.) People also need to report prizes they don’t realize are taxable, like the baseball fan who catches a home run ball that could be worth hundreds or thousands of dollars, says Lauridsen. Any athletes bringing home medals from the Winter Olympics in Sochi may also have to face the tax man when they return.

3. Don’t mix business with pleasure
Self-employed taxpayers need to be careful when claiming tax breaks and writing off business expenses if they don’t want to get a double-take from the IRS. Taxpayers often forget, for instance, that only 50% of business meal and entertainment expenses can be deducted, and they must be identified as business costs. People looking to write off travel expenses should keep logs of business trips and visits made to clients to work-related travel costs from those incurred on personal trips. And even though the IRS has introduced a simplified option for claiming the home office deduction, the office still has to meet the main requirement of being used exclusively for business and of being the main place of business. That means that if the children are using the room to play games or watch TV, the office gets disqualified, says Lauridsen.

4. Pay your nanny taxes
Families who find they need to hire someone like a nanny or a home health aide may be more focused on their daily chores than the IRS, but the decision could come with added tax responsibilities. Such workers need to be reported properly to the IRS and families may need to pay Social Security and Medicare taxes and to withhold the worker’s share of those taxes just like any employer, says Stephanie Breedlove, vice president of Care.com HomePay, a company that helps families handle payroll taxes and labor law.

The rules apply to anyone who was paid more than $1,800 last year or $1,900 this year. Often, families don’t realize their error until they’ve parted ways with the nanny and he or she tries to file for unemployment benefits and state authorities learn the person was paid off the books, says Breedlove. Those families then need to pay any back taxes and penalties owed and could be found guilty of tax evasion, she says. Families should also avoid incorrectly listing the nanny as an employee of a small business they may own, which could lead to an exaggeration of business credits and deductions.

5. Exaggerating charitable deductions
Tax pros say that many taxpayers forget to write off furniture, clothing and other items they donate to charity. But claiming those items incorrectly or exaggerating their value could get a return flagged by the IRS. Clothes and home appliances must be valued at their thrift store prices and not their original sale prices, says Lauridsen of the AICPA.

“People have a tendency to be emotionally attached to their things so they have a tendency to over value them when they’re doing charitable contributions,” she says. Salvation Army and Goodwill offer guides to help donors determine the value of certain items. Pricier items like paintings, homes and land need to be appraised at the time of donation. Donated cars, which are likely to be sold by charitable organizations, will be valued based on the price that the group gets for selling the car.

6. Don’t try to write off hobbies
Some people may try to write off losses they’ve incurred from a side business like horse breeding or a small business making and selling hand crafted toys. But the IRS requires taxpayers to show they’re going into these ventures with the intention of making a profit. If they lose money year after year, the IRS prohibits taxpayers from using those losses to offset other income unless they can show they made a profit in at least 3 of the last 5 tax years, or 2 of the last 7 tax years.

The IRS also looks to see if taxpayers are making changes to try to make the venture profitable and if they depend on that income to live on. “ You’ve got to show why it’s still a business,” says Gevertzman. Those who don’t make a good case may be suspected of investing in the hobby solely for the purpose of creating a loss that could be used to reduce their tax bill—and they could owe penalties and interest for any taxes they underpaid in the past.

7. Go over the numbers one more time
This sounds like a no brainer but the IRS caught 2.7 million math errors on tax returns in 2012. Taxpayers often make mistakes when calculating how much they owe and how big their refunds should be. Those blunders can get the attention of the IRS, which scans for deductions that seem out of line with a person’s income, says Gevertzman. Some people who accidentally reverse numbers or make enter incorrect Social Security numbers and checking account information could also have their returns held up and their refunds delayed says Lauridsen of the AICPA. Many of these errors can be caught early or avoided through electronic filing. It also helps to use exact numbers, since rounded numbers may give the IRS reason to request more specific figures and documentation.

Keep in mind that this is general information designed to help you put these valuable deductions on your radar. Patrick Parker Realty Agents and Realtors are not certified accountants. Please be sure to check with your tax adviser to see if you qualify for a particular credit or deduction.

_____________________________________________________________________


The Patrick Parker Realty Tax Season Blog Series will cover many topics as they relate to real estate and increasing your income tax refund. Such topics will include Home Ownership Tax Breaks, Hidden Tax Deductions, Deductions on Mortgage Interest, Reporting on the Sale of Your Home, Home Purchase Tax Credits and more. In addition, our Blog Series will explore Tax Incentives as they relate to major transitions and lifestyles; Marriage, Birth, Divorce, Death of Spouse, Health Insurance, Caretaking of Dependents, Business Owners, Commuters and more.

Check in to The Patrick Parker Realty Blog each Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday through Tax Day for new posts. You can also follow The Patrick Parker Realty Tax Season Blog Series on Facebook and Twitter using #taxseasonblog.

More Info About The Patrick Parker Realty Tax Season Blog Series >
Tax Terms Glossary >
More Tax Aspects of Home Ownership >

For more information about paying taxes on the sale or purchase of your home or any other questions you have about this article please speak with your tax professional or visit www.irs.gov.

From the Patrick Parker Realty Tax Season Blog Series
Taxes and The Birth Of A Child

ppre-refundThe birth of a child is not just a blessed event; it’s the beginning of a whole new set of tax breaks for your family. Learn how the newest addition to your family can help trim your tax bill, and how to save for your child’s future in the most tax-efficient manner.

Get a Social Security number
Your key to tax benefits is a Social Security number. You’ll need one to claim your child as a dependent on your tax return. Failing to report the number for each dependent can trigger a $50 fine and tie up your refund until things are straightened out.

You can request a Social Security card for your newborn at the hospital at the same time you apply for a birth certificate. If you don’t, it can be a real hassle. You’ll need to file a Form SS-5 with the Social Security Administration, and provide proof of the child’s age, identity and U.S. citizenship.

If registering newborns strikes you as silly, keep in mind that the aim is to prevent taxpayers from claiming dependents they don’t deserve (think parakeets and puppies). Apparently, it’s working. In the first year the government required Social Security numbers, 7 million fewer dependents were claimed than the year before.

Dependency exemption
Claiming your son or daughter as a dependent will shelter $3,950 of your income from tax in 2014, saving you a quick $975 if you’re in the 25 percent bracket. You get the full-year’s exemption no matter when during the year the child was born or adopted.

$1,000 child tax credit
For 2014, a new baby also delivers a tax credit of up $1,000, even if the child was born late in the year. Unlike a deduction that reduces the amount of income the government gets to tax, a credit reduces your tax bill dollar-for-dollar.

The credit is phased out at higher income levels, and begins to disappear as income rises above $110,000 on joint returns, and above $75,000 on single and head of household returns. For some lower-income taxpayers, the credit is “refundable,” meaning that if it exceeds your income tax liability for the year, the IRS will issue a refund check for the difference. Don’t assume you can’t qualify for the refundable credit just because you didn’t qualify in prior years.

Fix your withholding at work
Since claiming an extra dependent will cut your tax bill, it also means you can cut back on tax withholding from your paycheck. File a new W-4 form with your employer to claim an additional withholding “allowance.”

For a new parent in the 25 percent bracket, that will cut withholding—and boost take-home pay—by about $75 a month.

Filing status
If you are married, having a child will not affect your filing status. But if you’re single, having a child may allow you to file as a head of household rather than using the single filing status.

That would give you a bigger standard deduction and more advantageous tax brackets. To qualify as a head of household, you must pay more than half the cost of providing a home for a qualifying person—and your new son or daughter qualifies.

Earned income credit
For a couple without children, the chance to claim the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) disappears when income on a joint return exceeds $20,020 in 2014. (For single filers the 2014 limit is $14,590.)

Child care credit
If you pay for child care to allow you to work—and earn income for the IRS to tax—you can earn a credit worth between $600 and $1,050 if you’re paying for the care of one child under age 13, or between $1,200 and $2,100 if you’re paying for the care of two or more children under 13. The size of your credit depends on your income and how much you pay for care (you can count up to $3,000 for the care of one child and up to $6,000 for the care of two or more).

Lower income workers with an Adjusted Gross Income of $15,000 or less can claim a credit of up to 35 percent of qualifying costs; the percentage gradually drops to a floor of 20 percent for taxpayers reporting AGI over $43,000.

Child care reimbursement account
You may have an even more tax-friendly way to pay your child care bills than the child care credit: a child care reimbursement account at work. These accounts, often called Flex Plans, let you divert up to $5,000 a year of your salary into a special tax-advantaged account that you can then tap to pay child care bills

Money you run through the account avoids both federal and state income taxes as well as Social Security and Medicare taxes, so it could easily save you more than the value of the credit. You can’t double dip by using both the reimbursement account and the credit. But note that while the limit for Flex accounts is $5,000, the credit can be claimed against up to $6,000 of eligible expenses if you have two or more children. So even if you run $5,000 through a Flex account, you could qualify to claim the 20 percent to 35 percent credit on up to $1,000 more.

Although you generally can only sign up for a Flex account during “open enrollment” in the fall, most companies allow you to make mid-year changes in response to certain “life events,” including the birth of a child.

Adoption credit
There’s also a tax credit to help offset the cost of adopting a child. For 2014, the credit is worth as much as $13,190. If you adopt a “special needs” child, you can claim the full credit amount even if your actual adoption costs are less. For 2014, this credit phases out as Adjusted Gross Income, rises from $197,880 to $237,880.

Save for college
It’s never too early to start saving for those college bills. And it’s no surprise the Congress has included some tax goodies to help parents save. One option is a Section 529 Education Savings Plan. Contributions to these plans are not deductible on your federal taxes, but earnings grow tax-free and payouts are tax-free, too, if the money is used to pay qualifying college bills. (Some states give residents a state tax deduction if they invest in their state’s own 529 Plan. Visit your state’s official website for details.) There are no income restrictions on 529 Plan contributions.

You may also want to fund a Coverdell Education Savings Account (ESA) for your newborn. Up to $2,000 a year can go into an ESA for each child. Again, there is no deduction for deposits, but earnings are tax-free if used to pay qualified education expenses. ESA money can pay for elementary and high school expenses (even a computer used for school and educational software), as well as for college costs. The right to contribute to an ESA phases out as income rises from $95,000 to $110,000 on single returns, and from $190,000 to $220,000 on joint returns.

Kid IRAs
You may have heard about Kid IRAs and the fact that relatively small investments when a child is young can grow to eye-popping balances over many decades. It’s true, but there’s a catch. You can’t just open an IRA for your newborn and start shoveling in the cash.

RELATED: Roth IRAs And Why You Should Open One

A person must have earned income from a job or self-employment in order to have an IRA. Gifts and investment income don’t count. So you probably can’t open an IRA for your newborn (unless, perhaps, he or she gets paid for being an infant model). But as soon as your youngster starts earning some money—babysitting or delivering papers, for example, or helping out in the family business—he or she can open an IRA. The phenomenal power of long-term compounding makes it a great idea.

A Roth IRA is an ideal choice for most kids who are in a low tax bracket, where a tax deduction is of little value. With a Roth IRA there’s no up-front tax break, but their savings will benefit from years of tax-free growth, and withdrawals in retirement are tax-free.

Kiddie Tax
So far, this article has had nothing but good news. But the Kiddie Tax unfortunately is not good news. Here is what you need to know:

The graduated nature of our federal income tax rates—with higher tax rates on higher incomes—creates opportunities for savings if you can shift income to someone (such as a child) in a lower tax bracket. But don’t try to pull any punches. For example, let’s say Dad has $1 million invested in bonds which pay $50,000 of taxable interest each year. As a resident of the 35 percent tax bracket, that extra income hikes his tax bill by $17,500. But if he could divvy up the money among his five children, each of whom earned $10,000, the money would be taxed in the 10 percent bracket and the family could save $12,500 in taxes, right? Nice try—but it won’t work.

To prevent such schemes, Congress created the Kiddie Tax to tax most investment income earned by a dependent child at the parents’ top tax rate. For 2014, the first $1,000 of a child’s “unearned” income (that’s income that’s not earned from a job or self- employment) is tax-free (thanks to the child’s standard deduction) and the next $1,000 is taxed at the child’s own rate (probably 10 percent). Any additional investment income is taxed at the parents’ rate—as high as 39.6 percent. Under current rules, the kiddie tax applies until the year a child turns 19 (or 24 if he or she is a dependent full-time student.)

Nanny Tax
The Nanny Tax is also not good news, but it’s fair. If you lawfully hire someone to come into your home to help care for your new child, you could become an employer in the eyes of the IRS—and face a whole new set of tax rules. If you hire your nanny or caregiver through an agency, the agency may be the employer and have to take care of all the paperwork. But if you’re the employer—and you pay more than $1,900 in 2014—you’re responsible for paying Social Security, Medicare and unemployment taxes for your caregiver, and reporting the wages to the caregiver and to the IRS on Form W-2.

Keep in mind that this is general information designed to help you put these valuable deductions on your radar. Patrick Parker Realty Agents and Realtors are not certified accountants. Please be sure to check with your tax adviser to see if you qualify for a particular credit or deduction.

_____________________________________________________________________

The Patrick Parker Realty Tax Season Blog Series will cover many topics as they relate to real estate and increasing your income tax refund. Such topics will include Home Ownership Tax Breaks, Hidden Tax Deductions, Deductions on Mortgage Interest, Reporting on the Sale of Your Home, Home Purchase Tax Credits and more. In addition, our Blog Series will explore Tax Incentives as they relate to major transitions and lifestyles; Marriage, Birth, Divorce, Death of Spouse, Health Insurance, Caretaking of Dependents, Business Owners, Commuters and more.

Check in to The Patrick Parker Realty Blog each Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday through Tax Day for new posts. You can also follow The Patrick Parker Realty Tax Season Blog Series on Facebook and Twitter using #taxseasonblog.

More Info About The Patrick Parker Realty Tax Season Blog Series >
Tax Terms Glossary >
More Tax Aspects of Home Ownership >

For more information about paying taxes on the sale or purchase of your home or any other questions you have about this article please speak with your tax professional or visit www.irs.gov.

From the Patrick Parker Realty Tax Season Blog Series:
Tax Tips for Short Sales

ppre-refundUnderstanding how a short sale or restructure will be viewed by the Internal Revenue Service can help you plan your tax situation ahead of time.

If you are in a position where you have to sell your house for less than the amount you owe on it or have to restructure your mortgage with the lender in order to avoid foreclosure proceedings, you may face tax implications on the transaction. Understanding how a short sale or restructure will be viewed by the Internal Revenue Service can help you plan your tax situation ahead of time.

What is a short sale?
A short sale happens when you sell your property for less than what you owe on its mortgage(s). A short sale has to be approved by your lender because it will not receive the full amount of the outstanding loans.

After the sale, the loan will still have an unpaid balance, called the deficiency. Depending on the lender and the laws of your state, a short sale can result either in you owing the deficiency to the lender as unsecured debt, or in the lender forgiving the deficiency. A short sale is often negotiated as an alternative to foreclosure, as it often involves fewer costs and fees.

MORE INFO: The Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act and Debt Forgiveness

Tax implications of forgiven debt
If your lender forgives the balance of your mortgage after the short sale, you may not be out of the woods yet. You may have to include the forgiven debt as taxable income in the year of the short sale. The Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act of 2007 exempted that income through 2014 from taxation, up to $2 million, if it was your principal residence, or main home. However, the tax still applies to second or vacation houses as well as rental properties. Beginning in 2015, the exemption is no longer available unless it is reinstated.

Mortgage restructuring
Before seeking a short sale or being forced into a foreclosure, you may be able to negotiate a mortgage restructuring to allow you to stay in your home and to be more able to afford your mortgage’s terms and interest rate. These types of loan modifications can take many forms and may include:

• Reduced interest rates
• A reduction of the loan principal
• Stretching out the payments over a longer time frame to make payments smaller

Of these options, only a principal reduction may have income tax implications. The principal reduction may be considered taxable income to you in the year of the restructure. If the property is your main home, it will fall under the provisions of the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act and will be excluded from taxable income.

Dealing with incorrect 1099-C forms
If your lender has reduced or eradicated your debt under a short sale or mortgage restructure, it will send you IRS Form 1099-C at the end of the year, showing the amount of the debt forgiven and the fair market value of the property. Review the document carefully and compare it to your own figures. If it contains misstatements, contact the lender and attempt to have it correct the form. If it is not able, or not willing, to do that in a timely manner, recalculate the correct figures and provide the IRS with documentation showing how you arrived at your figures when you file your income tax return.

Keep in mind that this is general information designed to help you put these valuable deductions on your radar. Patrick Parker Realty Agents and Realtors are not certified accountants. Please be sure to check with your tax adviser to see if you qualify for a particular credit or deduction.

_____________________________________________________________________

The Patrick Parker Realty Tax Season Blog Series will cover many topics as they relate to real estate and increasing your income tax refund. Such topics will include Home Ownership Tax Breaks, Hidden Tax Deductions, Deductions on Mortgage Interest, Reporting on the Sale of Your Home, Home Purchase Tax Credits and more. In addition, our Blog Series will explore Tax Incentives as they relate to major transitions and lifestyles; Marriage, Birth, Divorce, Death of Spouse, Health Insurance, Caretaking of Dependents, Business Owners, Commuters and more.

Check in to The Patrick Parker Realty Blog each Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday through Tax Day for new posts. You can also follow The Patrick Parker Realty Tax Season Blog Series on Facebook and Twitter using #taxseasonblog.

More Info About The Patrick Parker Realty Tax Season Blog Series >
Tax Terms Glossary >
More Tax Aspects of Home Ownership >

For more information about paying taxes on the sale or purchase of your home or any other questions you have about this article please speak with your tax professional or visit www.irs.gov.

 

From the Patrick Parker Reaty Tax Season Blog Series:
10 Energy-Related Home Improvements and Taxes

Note: The content of this article applies only to taxes prepared for 2010. We are offering it for reference only. As your tax advisor for more information.

ppre-refundHomeowners have a variety of financial incentives to “go green.” There are improvements, small and large, that can make your home more energy-efficient while also saving you money and taxes.

Go Green and Earn Green
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 tripled the financial incentives for making repairs that can significantly reduce your utility bills and contribute to a “green” environment, while helping you save money on taxes.

The incentives take the form of tax credits, which reduce the amount of tax you owe dollar-for-dollar. Moreover, you can claim the credits whether or not you itemize deductions on your federal income tax return. They are available to owners of existing homes through 2010.

Here are 10 eligible home improvements you can make to reduce the transmission of heat and cold, thereby using less energy in your home:

1. Insulation
2. Energy Star exterior doors and windows, including skylights
3. New metal or asphalt roof with appropriate pigmented coatings or cooling granules
4. Electric heat pumps
5. Electric heat pump water heaters
6. Approved central air-conditioning
7. Approved natural gas, propane or oil water heaters
8. Approved natural gas, propane or oil furnace or hot water boilers
9. Advanced main air circulating fans
10. Biomass stoves using “plant-derived” fuel such as agricultural crops, wood pellets, grasses, etc

Meeting Standards
The legislation also tightened performance and quality standards for energy-efficient technology.

Although the federal government website refers taxpayers to Energy Star information (see www.EnergyStar.gov), not all equipment with the Energy Star label qualifies for these credits. Look for the manufacturer’s Tax Certification Statement, either on the manufacturer’s website or on the product packaging, and keep it with your tax records.

Available Tax Credits
For improvements made by December 31, 2010, the credit is 30% of the purchase price and the overall cap on the available credit is $1,500 over both 2009 and 2010.

Spend as little as $5,000 before the end of 2010 on qualifying energy-saving home improvements and you can cut $1,500 from your 2010 federal income tax bill.

To qualify, you must own the home and use it as your principal residence. If you previously claimed the $500 credit available before 2009, you may now make additional energy-focused home improvements and qualify for the entire $1,500 credit.

Depending on where you live, you may also qualify for state and local tax incentives, ranging from tax credits and installation rebates to property tax reductions. Several states provide credits for energy-efficient renovations. Many local utilities offer cash rebates for purchasing energy-efficient equipment. These incentives are in addition to any federal tax incentives you receive.

Residential Alternative Energy Credit
As a separate category, there are tax credits for devices designed to generate energy from alternative sources. These credits may be applied to all homes, including both existing homes and new construction and to principal residences and vacation homes. In calculating your costs for these items, consider both the purchase price and the labor costs associated with installation.

For the 2010 tax year, a nonrefundable tax credit equal to 30% of the full cost may be taken for:

Solar hot water heaters
Geothermal heat pumps

There is also a 30% credit for each:

Half kilowatt of electric capacity generated by a wind turbine—to a maximum of $4,000 per year (previously capped at $500 per half kilowatt)

And there is a 30% credit, to a maximum of $500 per year, for each:

Half kilowatt of electric capacity from fuel cell plants

Keep in mind that this is general information designed to help you put these valuable deductions on your radar. Patrick Parker Realty Agents and Realtors are not certified accountants. Please be sure to check with your tax adviser to see if you qualify for a particular credit or deduction.

 

_____________________________________________________________________

The Patrick Parker Realty Tax Season Blog Series will cover many topics as they relate to real estate and increasing your income tax refund. Such topics will include Home Ownership Tax Breaks, Hidden Tax Deductions, Deductions on Mortgage Interest, Reporting on the Sale of Your Home, Home Purchase Tax Credits and more. In addition, our Blog Series will explore Tax Incentives as they relate to major transitions and lifestyles; Marriage, Birth, Divorce, Death of Spouse, Health Insurance, Caretaking of Dependents, Business Owners, Commuters and more.

Check in to The 
Patrick Parker Realty Blog each Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday through Tax Day for new posts. You can also follow The Patrick Parker Realty Tax Season Blog Series on Facebook and Twitter using #taxseasonblog.

More Info About The Patrick Parker Realty Tax Season Blog Series >
Tax Terms Glossary >
More Tax Aspects of Home Ownership >

For more information about paying taxes on the sale or purchase of your home or any other questions you have about this article please speak with your tax professional or visit www.irs.gov.

 

 

From the Patrick Parker Realty Tax Season Blog Series:
Deducting Mortgage Interest FAQs

ppre-refundIf you’re a homeowner, you probably qualify for a deduction on your home mortgage interest. The tax deduction also applies if you pay interest on a condominium, cooperative, mobile home, boat or recreational vehicle used as a residence.

It pays to take mortgage interest deductions
If you itemize, you can usually deduct the interest you pay on a mortgage for your main home or a second home, but there are some restrictions.

Here are the answers to some common questions about this deduction:

1. What counts as mortgage interest?
2. Is my house a home?
3. Who gets to take the deduction?
4. Is there a limit to the amount I can deduct?
5. What if my situation is special?
6. What types of loans get the deduction?
7. What if I refinanced?
8. What kind of records do I need?

What counts as mortgage interest?
Mortgage interest is any interest you pay on a loan secured by a main home or second home.

These loans include:

• A mortgage to buy your home
• A second mortgage
• A line of credit
• A home equity loan

If the loan is not a secured debt on your home, it is considered a personal loan, and the interest you pay usually isn’t deductible.

Your home mortgage must be secured by your main home or a second home. You can’t deduct interest on a mortgage for a third home, a fourth home, etc.

Is my house a home?
For the IRS, a home can be a house, condominium, cooperative, mobile home, boat, recreational vehicle or similar property that has sleeping, cooking and toilet facilities.

Who gets to take the deduction?
You do, if you are the primary borrower, you are legally obligated to pay the debt and you actually make the payments. If you are married and both you and your spouse sign for the loan, then both of you are primary borrowers. If you pay your son’s or daughter’s mortgage to help them out, however, you cannot deduct the interest unless you co-signed the loan.

Is there a limit to the amount I can deduct?
Yes, your deduction is generally limited if all mortgages used to buy, construct, or improve your first home (and second home if applicable) total more than $1 million ($500,000 if you use married filing separately status).

You can also generally deduct interest on home equity debt of up to $100,000 ($50,000 if you’re married and file separately) regardless of how you use the loan proceeds.

For details, see IRS Publication 936: Home Mortgage Interest Deduction.

What if my situation is special?
Here are a few special situations you may encounter.

• If you have a second home that you rent out for part of the year, you must use it for more than 14 days or more than 10 percent of the number of days you rented it out at fair market value (whichever number of days is larger) for the home to be considered a second home for tax purposes. If you use the home you rent out for fewer than the required number of days, your home is considered a rental property, not a second home.
• You may treat a different home as your second home each tax year, provided each home meets the qualifications noted above.
• If you live in a house before your purchase becomes final, any payments you make for that period of time are considered rent. You cannot deduct those payments as interest, even if the settlement papers label them as interest.
• If you used the proceeds of a home loan for business purposes, enter that interest on Schedule C if you are a sole proprietor, and on Schedule E if used to purchase rental property. The interest is attributed to the activity for which the loan proceeds were used.
• If you own rental property and borrow against it to buy a home, the interest does not qualify as mortgage interest because the loan is not secured by the home itself. Interest paid on that loan can’t be deducted as a rental expense either, because the funds were not used for the rental property. The interest expense is actually considered personal interest, which is no longer deductible.
• If you used the proceeds of a home mortgage to purchase or “carry” securities that produce tax-exempt income (municipal bonds) , or to purchase single-premium (lump-sum) life insurance or annuity contracts, you cannot deduct the mortgage interest. (The term “to carry” means you have borrowed the money to substantially replace other funds used to buy the tax-free investments or insurance.).

What kinds of loans get the deduction?
If all your mortgages fit one or more of the following categories, you can generally deduct all of the interest you paid during the year.

• Mortgages you took out on your main home and/or a second home on or before October 13, 1987 (called “grandfathered” debt, because these are mortgages that existed before the current tax rules for mortgage interest took effect).
• Mortgages you took out after October 13, 1987 to buy, build or improve your main home and/or second home (called acquisition debt) that totaled $1 million or less throughout the year ($500,000 if you are married and filing separately from your spouse).
• Home equity debt you took out after October 13, 1987 on your main home and/or second home that totaled $100,000 or less throughout the year ($50,000 if you are married and filing separately). Interest on such home equity debt is generally deductible regardless of how you use the loan proceeds, including to pay college tuition, credit card debt, or other personal purposes. This assumes the combined balances of acquisition debt and home equity do not exceed the home’s fair market value at the time you take out the home equity debt.

If a mortgage does not meet these criteria, your interest deduction may be limited. To figure out how much interest you can deduct and for more details on the rules summarized above, see IRS Publication 936: Home Mortgage Interest Deduction.

What if I refinanced?
When you refinance a mortgage that was treated as acquisition debt, the balance of the new mortgage is also treated as acquisition debt up to the balance of the old mortgage. The excess over the old mortgage balance is treated as home equity debt. Interest on up to $100,000 of that excess debt may be deductible under the rules for home equity debt. Also, you can deduct the points you pay to get the new loan over the life of the loan, assuming all of the new loan balance qualifies as either acquisition debt or home equity debt of up to $100,000.

That means you can deduct 1/30th of the points each year if it’s a 30-year mortgage—that’s $33 a year for each $1,000 of points you paid. In the year you pay off the loan—because you sell the house or refinance again—you get to deduct all the points not yet deducted, unless you refinance with the same lender. In that case, you add the points paid on the latest deal to the leftovers from the previous refinancing and deduct the expense on a pro-rated basis over the life of the new loan.

What kind of records do I need?
In the event of an IRS inquiry, you’ll need the records that document the interest you paid. These include:

• Copies of Form 1098: Mortgage Interest Statement. Form 1098 is the statement your lender sends you to let you know how much mortgage interest you paid during the year and, if you purchased your home in the current year, any deductible points you paid.
• Your closing statement from a refinancing that shows the points you paid, if any, to refinance the loan on your property.
• The name, Social Security number and address of the person you bought your home from, if you pay your mortgage interest to that person, as well as the amount of interest (including any points) you paid for the year.
• Your federal tax return from last year, if you refinanced your mortgage last year or earlier, and if you’re deducting the eligible portion of your interest over the life of your mortgage.

Keep in mind that this is general information designed to help you put these valuable deductions on your radar. Patrick Parker Realty Agents and Realtors are not certified accountants. Please be sure to check with your tax adviser to see if you qualify for a particular credit or deduction.

_____________________________________________________________________


The Patrick Parker Realty Tax Season Blog Series will cover many topics as they relate to real estate and increasing your income tax refund. Such topics will include Home Ownership Tax Breaks, Hidden Tax Deductions, Deductions on Mortgage Interest, Reporting on the Sale of Your Home, Home Purchase Tax Credits and more. In addition, our Blog Series will explore Tax Incentives as they relate to major transitions and lifestyles; Marriage, Birth, Divorce, Death of Spouse, Health Insurance, Caretaking of Dependents, Business Owners, Commuters and more.

Check in to The 
Patrick Parker Realty Blog each Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday through Tax Day for new posts. You can also follow The Patrick Parker Realty Tax Season Blog Series on Facebook and Twitter using #taxseasonblog.

More Info About The Patrick Parker Realty Tax Season Blog Series >
Tax Terms Glossary >
More Tax Aspects of Home Ownership >

For more information about paying taxes on the sale or purchase of your home or any other questions you have about this article please speak with your tax professional or visit www.irs.gov.

 

From the Patrick Parker Realty Tax Season Blog Series:
Tax Guidelines About Gifting

ppre-refundThe IRS requires you to report all taxable gifts you make during the year and pay the appropriate tax. However, due to the generous exclusions and deductions available, the average taxpayer never files a gift tax return or pays gift tax. The intention of the federal government is to only impose a tax on wealthy individuals who dispose of their wealth by making high-value gifts.

Making tax-free gifts
Most of the gifts you make during the year are of no interest to the IRS. The agency is only interested in collecting revenue on taxable gifts. Generally, taxable gifts exclude all tuition and medical payments you make for someone, anything you give to your spouse, contributions you make to some political organizations and for all other gifts that don’t exceed the annual exclusion amount. The annual exclusion is the maximum value of gifts you can give to each person. For example, during the 2014 tax year, the law allows you to make an unlimited number of tax-free gifts as long as no one receives more than $14,000. Therefore, you can make hundreds of $14,000 gifts without paying a dollar in gift tax as long as each recipient is a different person.

Using your unified credit
If you make a single gift during the year in excess of the annual exclusion amount, the tax law provides you with a unified credit to offset any gift tax you may owe. As you use the credit, the balance decreases.

To illustrate, suppose you make an $114,000 gift to your brother during 2014 for his birthday. You first use the annual exclusion to reduce the gift by $14,000 to $100,000. To avoid paying gift tax on the remaining $100,000, you can use an amount equal to the estate tax on $100,000 of your unified credit. Your unified credit balance then decreases and less is available to offset any future gifts you make during your lifetime.

Taxable portion of gifts
The amount of gift tax you may owe directly relates to the property’s value or the amount of cash you give. When you make a gift other than cash, the IRS requires you to assess the property’s fair market value. The appropriate valuation method depends on the type of property; however, the value must always relate to the price a willing buyer would pay for the item in the open market. The IRS can impose significant penalties if you attempt to minimize your gift tax liability by purposely undervaluing the property.

Preparing a gift tax return
A requirement to file a gift tax return does not always mean you must pay gift tax. The IRS requires all taxpayers who make a gift in excess of the annual exclusion amount to file a return even when eliminating all tax with the unified credit. In the example above, the $114,000 gift you made to your brother requires you to prepare Form 709 even though you don’t owe any gift tax. The IRS requires the return to document your use of the unified credit. However, if your unified credit balance was zero, then the gift tax would be calculated on $100,000 of this gift.

Keep in mind that this is general information designed to help you put these valuable deductions on your radar. Patrick Parker Realty Agents and Realtors are not certified accountants. Please be sure to check with your tax adviser to see if you qualify for a particular credit or deduction.

_____________________________________________________________________


The Patrick Parker Realty Tax Season Blog Series will cover many topics as they relate to real estate and increasing your income tax refund. Such topics will include Home Ownership Tax Breaks, Hidden Tax Deductions, Deductions on Mortgage Interest, Reporting on the Sale of Your Home, Home Purchase Tax Credits and more. In addition, our Blog Series will explore Tax Incentives as they relate to major transitions and lifestyles; Marriage, Birth, Divorce, Death of Spouse, Health Insurance, Caretaking of Dependents, Business Owners, Commuters and more.

Check in to The 
Patrick Parker Realty Blog each Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday through Tax Day for new posts. You can also follow The Patrick Parker Realty Tax Season Blog Series on Facebook and Twitter using #taxseasonblog.

More Info About The Patrick Parker Realty Tax Season Blog Series >
Tax Terms Glossary >
More Tax Aspects of Home Ownership >

For more information about paying taxes on the sale or purchase of your home or any other questions you have about this article please speak with your tax professional or visit www.irs.gov.

 

 

From the Patrick Parker Realty Tax Season Blog Series:
Steps to Claiming an Elderly Parent as a Dependent

ppre-refundThe first thing that often comes to mind when considering dependents is the parent/child relationship. In many cases, parents claim their children as dependents until they become adults. It also works the other way around. If you cared for an elderly parent, your parent may qualify as your dependent, resulting in additional tax benefits for you. Once you determine that both of you meet IRS criteria, you can claim your parent as a dependent on your tax return.

Income imitation
Your parent must first meet income requirements set by the Internal Revenue Service to be claimed as your dependent. To qualify as a dependent, your parent must not have earned or received more than the exemption amount for the tax year. This amount is determined by the IRS and may change from year to year. Current exemption amounts can be found in IRS Publication 501, Exemptions, Standard Deduction, and Filing Information. Generally, you do not count Social Security income, but there are exceptions. If your parent has other income from interest or dividends, a portion of the Social Security may also be taxable.

Support requirement
You must have provided more than half of your parent’s support during the tax year in order to claim them as a dependent. When determining the monetary value of the amount of support you provide, you need to consider several factors.

Calculate the fair market value of the room your parent occupies in your home. Ask yourself how much rent you could charge a tenant for the space.

Next, consider the cost of food that you provide. Don’t forget to include utilities, medical bills and general living expenses that you also pay. Compare the value of support you provide with any income, including Social Security, that your parent receives to determine whether you meet the support requirement. The amount of support you provided must exceed your parent’s income by at least one dollar.

Deducting medical expenses
If you paid for your parent’s medical care, you may be able to deduct the expenses. You can claim medical expenses as an itemized deduction on Schedule A. Itemized deductions are beneficial when they exceed the amount of the standard deduction you are allowed to claim. Total medical expenses, including the cost of prescription drugs, equipment, hospital care and doctor’s visits, must exceed 10 percent of your adjusted gross income for you to claim these medical expenses.

The IRS understands the heavy burden that medical expenses sometimes create and has made an exception for this deduction.

You can deduct your parent’s medical expenses even if she does not meet the income requirement to be claimed as your dependent as long as you provide more that half of their support.

There is a temporary exemption from Jan. 1, 2013 to Dec. 31, 2016 for individuals age 65 and older and their spouses. If you or your spouse are 65 years or older or turned 65 during the tax year you are allowed to deduct unreimbursed medical care expenses that exceed 7.5% of your adjusted gross income. The threshold remains at 7.5% of AGI for those taxpayers until Dec. 31, 2016.

Dependent care credit
The child and dependent care credit is a non-refundable tax credit. It can be claimed by taxpayers who pay for the care of a qualifying individual and meet certain other requirements. If your parent is physically or mentally unable to care for himself, he is a qualifying individual.

In order for you to qualify for the credit, you must meet certain requirements. You need to have earned income and work-related expenses to qualify. This means that the care must have been provided while you were either working or looking for work. In addition, you must be able to properly identify your care provider. This includes giving the provider’s name, address and identifying number (either Social Security number or employer identification number). If you are married but file a separate return from your spouse, you may not claim this credit.
Keep in mind that this is general information designed to help you put these valuable deductions on your radar. Patrick Parker Realty Agents and Realtors are not certified accountants. Please be sure to check with your tax adviser to see if you qualify for a particular credit or deduction.

_____________________________________________________________________

The Patrick Parker Realty Tax Season Blog Series will cover many topics as they relate to real estate and increasing your income tax refund. Such topics will include Home Ownership Tax Breaks, Hidden Tax Deductions, Deductions on Mortgage Interest, Reporting on the Sale of Your Home, Home Purchase Tax Credits and more. In addition, our Blog Series will explore Tax Incentives as they relate to major transitions and lifestyles; Marriage, Birth, Divorce, Death of Spouse, Health Insurance, Caretaking of Dependents, Business Owners, Commuters and more.

Check in to The Patrick Parker Realty Blog each Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday through Tax Day for new posts. You can also follow The Patrick Parker Realty Tax Season Blog Series on Facebook and Twitter using #taxseasonblog.

More Info About The Patrick Parker Realty Tax Season Blog Series >

Tax Terms Glossary >
More Tax Aspects of Home Ownership >

For more information about paying taxes on the sale or purchase of your home or any other questions you have about this article please speak with your tax professional or visit www.irs.gov.

 

From the Patrick Parker Realty Tax Season Blog Series
How Short Sales and Foreclosures Affect Your Taxes

new-jersey-taxesIf you engage in a short sale or your mortgage lender forecloses on your home, there are some important tax implications that you’ll want to consider.

Whenever you sell a home, you need to calculate your capital gains to determine whether you owe any tax. If you engage in a short sale or your mortgage lender forecloses on your home, the Internal Revenue Service treats it just like a sale. Foreclosures and short sales, may also require you to recognize ordinary income if the lender cancels any of your outstanding mortgage balance and you’re ineligible for an exclusion.

Short sales and foreclosures
Both short sales and foreclosures are usually the result of a borrower’s inability to continue making mortgage payments. A short sale is where your mortgage lender allows you to sell the home for less than your outstanding loan balance and cancels your obligation to repay any remaining loan balance.

With a foreclosure, the mortgage lender will take possession of the home if it doesn’t receive scheduled mortgage payments over an extended period of time. Also, in many cases, the lender cancels your outstanding mortgage balance. Sometimes, this debt cancellation is taxable as ordinary income.

Tax on foreclosures
When your foreclosure includes a cancellation of debt, you only have an obligation to report it as ordinary income if you were personally liable for the entire mortgage, despite the security interest your lender takes in the home. This amount will be reported in Box 2 of a 1099-C that the lender will send you.

You also need to calculate the capital gain that results from the foreclosure. To calculate the gain, subtract your tax basis in the home — generally the purchase price plus the cost of home improvements you make — from the home’s fair market value. However, if you’re not personally liable for debt that remains, use the outstanding mortgage balance at the time of foreclosure instead of the home’s fair market value.

Gain on short sales
Similar to a foreclosure, any debt that your mortgage lender cancels because of a short sale is taxable only if the terms of your mortgage hold you personally liable for the full amount of the loan. Regardless of the tax consequences, your lender will report the debt cancellation on a 1099-C form.

For example, if you owe $500,000 to your mortgage lender and short sale the home for $450,000, your lender will report $50,000 of canceled debt on your 1099-C. Since most mortgage lenders wouldn’t agree to a short sale if the value of the home exceeds the outstanding mortgage balance, no capital gains issues exist.

Possible exclusions
Through the end of 2014 you may be eligible to exclude canceled debt from your tax return if it relates to qualified principal residence indebtedness and meets the requirements of he Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act. Mortgages include those you obtain to buy, build or substantially improve a home and for which the lender retains an interest in the home until it’s paid off. You may also be able to exclude the capital gains as well. If you lived in the home and were the owner for a total of two years during the most recent five-year period, you can exclude up to $250,000 of the capital gains or up to $500,000, if filing jointly, in some cases.

Keep in mind that this is general information designed to help you put these valuable deductions on your radar. Patrick Parker Realty Agents and Realtors are not certified accountants. Please be sure to check with your tax adviser to see if you qualify for a particular credit or deduction.

_____________________________________________________________________

Follow The Patrick Parker Realty
 Tax Season Blog Series on Facebook and Twitter using #taxseasonblog.

Check back in with the Patrick Parker Realty Blog each Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday for more Tax Season Blog Series’ Posts and sign up for the monthly Patrick Parker Realty eNewsletter to have updates delivered to your inbox.

The Blog Series will cover many topics such as How do I qualify for a home seller break?, How do I qualify for a home buyer break?, Do I have to report the home sale on my return?, What is the gain on the sale of my home?, What Are Home Renovation Tax Credits?, Deducting Mortgage Interest, Taking the First-Time Homebuyer Credit, How to Avoid Taxes on Canceled Mortgage Debt, Tax Incentives as they relate to Life’s biggest transitions, such as Marriage, the Birth of a Baby, Divorce, or the death of a Spouse and much more. New posts in this Blog Series will be published twice weekly.

More Info About The Patrick Parker Realty Tax Season Blog Series >
Tax Terms Glossary >
More Tax Aspects of Home Ownership >

For more information about paying taxes on the sale or purchase of your home or any other questions you have about this article please speak with your tax professional or visit www.irs.gov.

 

 

 

 

From the Patrick Parker Realty Tax Season Blog Series:
12 Tricky Tax Dependent Dilemmas: Questions & Answers

new-jersey-taxesKnowing when someone qualifies as a tax dependent can be trickier than it seems. These 12 examples help clear up the confusion about who you can and can’t claim as a dependent on your tax return.

Claiming dependents on your tax return can make a big difference in what you pay in taxes (or how big a refund you get). Each child you can claim as a dependent on your 2014 tax return knocks $3,950 off your taxable income, saving $988 in the 25 percent bracket. But children aren’t the only ones you can claim as dependents.

Despite attempts by the IRS to clarify whether or not someone qualifies as a dependent, today’s complex living arrangements often raise questions as to just whom can be claimed on your tax return.

There are now two classes of people who can qualify as dependents:

  • Qualifying children
  • Qualifying relatives

See how the IRS defines dependents.

The following Q&As can also help clear up the confusion about who can and cannot be claimed as a dependent:

Birth of a Child

Q. The rules say a qualifying child must live with you for more than half the year. My daughter was born in October. Does that mean I have to wait until next year to claim her?
A. No. Even a child born on December 31 qualifies as a dependent and earns the full $3,900 exemption. The same rule applies if a child dies during the year. A child who is born or dies during the year is treated as having lived with you all year long.

Living Together I

Q. My girlfriend and I live together. She doesn’t have a job, so I pay for the rent and all the groceries. Can I claim her as my dependent?
A. Perhaps, if she meets the requirements for a qualifying relative. That means you must have lived together all year long, her gross income must be less than $3,900, and you must have provided more than half of her support. One other test: Your living arrangements must not violate local law. The IRS notes, for example, that some states prohibit couples from living together if one party is married to someone else. In such a case, the IRS says, a dependency exemption would be disallowed even if the other requirements are met.

Living Together II

Q. My girlfriend and her two-year-old son live with me and I basically pay all the expenses. Can I claim both of them as my dependents?
A. Yes, if they meet all the IRS requirements for dependents. Did they live with you all year long? Did you provide more than half of their support? Did either of them have gross income of less than $3,900? If you can answer YES to all three questions, then you may claim both your girlfriend and her son as your dependents. (This assumes your living arrangements don’t violate local law. See above.) Until recently, in this situation the boyfriend could not claim the child as a qualifying relative because the child was considered a qualifying child of the mother. However, the IRS now says if the parent’s income is so low that he or she doesn’t have to file a tax return, then the boyfriend who lives with the mother and child all year long can claim the child as a dependent.

Boomerang Children I

Q. After our 28-year-old daughter’s divorce, she and her two young children moved back in with me and my wife. Can we claim all three of them as dependents on our tax return?
A. The answer depends on how much money your daughter made in 2014. If she made less than $3,950 and you provided more than half of her support for the year, then she can be claimed as your dependent as a qualifying relative. The same rules apply to your grandchildren. If your daughter made more than $3,950, she doesn’t qualify as your dependent, but the grandkids might because they can be qualifying children for both you and your daughter. If your daughter agrees to let you claim the children as your dependents, and her Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) is less than yours —assuming doing so will save the family money if you’re in a higher tax bracket—then you may claim them. In that case, of course, your daughter could not claim them. If your daughter’s AGI is greater than yours then she can claim the grandchildren but you cannot.

Boomerang Children II

Q. Our 25-year-old son is back home after completing his college degree. He has a pretty good job, so he makes too much for us to claim him as a dependent. However, we’ve heard that there’s a way he can claim his 16-year-old sister as a dependent, since we all live together in the same house. Is that really possible?
A. The answer is maybe – depending on your income and your son’s. In order for your son to claim his sister as a dependent, his adjusted gross income (AGI) must be higher than any parent who could also claim her as a dependent, regardless of whether you choose to claim her or not. This is called a “tiebreaker” rule, which helps determine who, if anyone, can claim a dependent. Remember, only one person can claim the dependent in any given tax year.

Children of Divorced Parents

Q. My divorce was final last year, and the three kids live with me. Now my ex says that since he’s paying child support, he’s going to claim them as dependents on his return. He says that means I can’t claim them on mine. Is that true?
A. Not unless your divorce decree gives him that right. Since the general rule for qualifying children demands that the child live with you more than half the year, children of divorced parents are usually dependents of the custodial parent. There are exceptions. The custodial parent can release the exemption to his or her ex-spouse by signing a written declaration (Form 8332) that the noncustodial spouse must attach to the tax return each year he or she claims the children as dependents. Or if your divorce decree gives your ex-spouse the right to claim the children, he can do so if he attaches key pages of that document to his tax return. Otherwise, you get to claim the children as your dependents. If your ex-spouse claims them, too, the IRS will step in and likely deny his claim.

Adult Child in Need

Q. Our 30-year-old son has fallen on hard times. Because he lost his job, my spouse and I are basically supporting him, paying rent on his apartment and sending him money for food. Can we claim him as a dependent?
A. Although he’s too old to be your qualifying child, he may qualify as a qualifying relative if he earned less than $3,950 in 2014. If that’s the case and you provided more than half of his support during the year, you may claim him as a dependent.

Elderly Parent

Q. My 83-year-old mother moved in with me when she could no longer live alone. Her only income is her Social Security, so she doesn’t have to file a tax return. Can I claim her as my dependent?
A. Yes, assuming you provide more than half of her support, she can pass the test as a qualifying relative. Tax-free Social Security benefits don’t count as gross income for the $3,900 test. When figuring that portion of her support you provide, include a value for the housing you provide. If someone else helps support your mother—one of your brothers or sisters, for example—and your combined support passes the 50 percent threshold, you may claim your mother as a dependent if you file a Form 2120: Multiple Support Agreement.

RELATED: Taxes After the Death of A Spouse

Child with Scholarship

Q. My daughter won a full-ride scholarship to an expensive college. I’m thrilled, but I think the value of the tuition is more than what it costs me to feed and clothe the young scholar. If I don’t provide more than half of support, do I lose her as a dependent?
A. Don’t worry. First, scholarships are specifically excluded when figuring support. And remember, the test for a qualifying child is no longer that you provide more than half the support, but that she does not provide more than half of her own support. You can still claim her, assuming she’s under age 24.

Child of Separated Parents

Q. My wife and I separated at the end of September. Our 15-year-old son lived with me in October and with his mother the rest of the year. We’ll be filing married-filing-separate returns this year. Who gets to claim our son as a dependent?
A. It’s up to you and your wife. You might decide that the parent who gets the biggest tax benefit (the one in the higher tax bracket) should claim the exemption. If you can’t agree, however, the exemption goes to your wife because your son lived with her for more of the year than he lived with you.

Unmarried Parents

Q. My boyfriend and I live together with our 3-year-old son. Since we’re not married, we can’t file a joint return. Which one of us gets to claim our son as a dependent
A. It’s up to you. Since he qualifies as a qualifying child for each of you, either parent may claim the child as a dependent. If you can’t decide, the exemption goes to whichever of you reports the higher Adjusted Gross Income on your separate tax return.

Child Receives Inheritance

Q. Our 17-year-old received a $100,000 inheritance from his uncle last year. Does that mean we can’t claim him as a dependent on our 2014 return?
A. Not unless he splurged on an expensive car, a lavish trip, or otherwise spent a lot of the money on his own behalf. When it comes to the qualifying child tests, it doesn’t matter how much money a child receives during the year (from work, a gift or inheritance). What matters is if he provides more than half of his own support. Any money he saved doesn’t count toward going toward his support, so you can probably still claim him as your dependent.

Keep in mind that this is general information designed to help you put these valuable deductions on your radar. Patrick Parker Realty Agents and Realtors are not certified accountants. Please be sure to check with your tax adviser to see if you qualify for a particular credit or deduction.

_____________________________________________________________________

Follow The Patrick Parker Realty Tax Season Blog Series on Facebook and Twitter using #taxseasonblog.

Check back in with the Patrick Parker Realty Blog each Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday for more Tax Season Blog Series’ Posts and sign up for the monthly Patrick Parker Realty eNewsletter to have updates delivered to your inbox.

The Blog Series will cover many topics such as How do I qualify for a home seller break?, How do I qualify for a home buyer break?, Do I have to report the home sale on my return?, What is the gain on the sale of my home?, What Are Home Renovation Tax Credits?, Deducting Mortgage Interest, Taking the First-Time Homebuyer Credit, How to Avoid Taxes on Canceled Mortgage Debt, Tax Incentives as they relate to Life’s biggest transitions, such as Marriage, the Birth of a Baby, Divorce, or the death of a Spouse and much more. New posts in this Blog Series will be published twice weekly.

More Info About The Patrick Parker Realty Tax Season Blog Series >
Tax Terms Glossary >
More Tax Aspects of Home Ownership >

For more information about paying taxes on the sale or purchase of your home or any other questions you have about this article please speak with your tax professional or visit www.irs.gov.

From the Patrick Parker Realty Tax Season Blog Series
Caring for a relative? The tax code could help you.

new-jersey-taxesPaying for an older person’s care could earn you deductions, but beware the pitfalls

Caring for an older relative? You might qualify for certain benefits at tax time. If you employ a paid caregiver, you may have certain responsibilities as well. Either way, now’s the time to start grappling with the ways the tax code could affect you.

There are plenty of folks in these positions. In a Pew Research survey last year, 36% of U.S. adults said they provided unpaid care for an adult relative or friend in the past year, up from 27% in 2010. And the number of paid personal care aides is expected to soar 49% between 2012 and 2022, to 1.8 million, growing at a much higher rate than the average profession, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

While it can take time to determine whether you’re eligible for caregiver’s tax benefits, your efforts could yield thousands of dollars in tax savings. At the same time, running afoul of certain tax rules could potentially cost you the same or even more in penalties. Below are some factors to consider when preparing to file federal income taxes for 2014.

Determining dependent status
A good first step is to figure out whether you can claim your loved one as a dependent. For every qualified dependent on your tax return, you reduce your 2014 taxable income by $3,900 and other benefits flow from that determination as well, including whether you’ll be able to deduct medical expenses.

Income.  The person must have no more than $3,900 in gross income a year. This includes any income from pensions, taxable investments and the taxable portion of Social Security payments, if applicable. (Generally, only people with substantial other income must pay federal income taxes on Social Security benefits).

Support.  You must provide more than half of the person’s financial support. This includes fair market value for space in your home if, say, your mom lives with you and doesn’t pay rent.

Relationship.  Parents meet the relationship requirement, as do stepparents and mothers and fathers-in-law, siblings and other close relatives. These relatives do not have to live with you to be claimed as a dependent. For example, if your dad is in a care facility and meets all the other criteria, then he could still qualify as a dependent.

A note for siblings sharing the care of a parent: Only one sibling can claim their parent as a dependent in any given year. The Internal Revenue Service defines “multiple support” as no one person providing more than 50% of the financial support, and everyone providing over 10%. (The multiple siblings together have to provide more than 50% of the parent’s support.) In this scenario, siblings often rotate annually who claims the parent, said Lawrence H. Carlton, a certified public accountant in Bedford, Mass.

Nursing Homes & Assisted Living Facilities
Another big expense that you may be able to deduct, either partially or in full, is the basic monthly cost for a nursing home or assisted living facility. To enable you to deduct the full cost, medical professionals need to deem your loved one “chronically ill.” The IRS defines this as either having severe cognitive impairments that require round-the-clock supervisory care, or needing help with at least two activities of daily living, such as bathing, eating, dressing and using the toilet. Full basic monthly expenses can be deducted for those who meet these definitions. (One example of a charge that might be included in the monthly bill but couldn’t be deducted is personal grooming expenses such as haircuts or manicures.)

If your loved one doesn’t meet either definition of chronically ill, then only the portion of the monthly assisted living fee that goes toward medical expenses can be deducted. The facility should be able to give you a breakdown of the bill. For more information on medical deductions overall, see IRS Publication 502.

Employing Caregiver Help
If you hire a caregiver to help with your loved one, you’re considered an employer. Anyone who paid a caregiver employee more than $1,800 in 2014 should have withheld Social Security, Medicare, federal and state income taxes from the caregiver’s salary each pay period. They also needed to contribute employment taxes, matching the employee’s Social Security and Medicare taxes and paying unemployment taxes. (There are payroll services that will handle this for you for a fee.)

If you paid a caregiver less than $1,800 last year—say you needed one-time assistance to help your parent recover from a fall—you have no responsibilities to report or withhold, said Stephanie Breedlove, vice president of Care.com HomePay, a tax payroll management and support firm.

If you hire a caregiver through an agency, double check that the agency is the caregiver’s employer and as such will handle payroll for you. Beware agencies that call their caregivers “independent contractors,” Breedlove said. This is illegal, as the IRS stipulates that anyone who works in a home is an employee, she noted.

The rules are different when family members decide to pay one member to care for an older relative. You don’t need to withdraw Social Security and Medicare taxes from the paycheck of a family member, and the family doesn’t have to pay unemployment taxes. However, you do need to pay income taxes on those wages at the end of the year, and the family caregiver has to declare the income, Breedlove said.

Payments to a family member are considered wages no matter how they’re labeled. For example, a family could call the monthly payment a rental stipend or a car payment stipend. One exception is health premiums: If a family directly pays the health insurance premiums for a family caregiver, then those payments aren’t taxable to either party, Breedlove said.

What happens if you employed someone in 2014, but didn’t know these rules? Families that didn’t pay their household employees on the books in 2014 can become “compliant in arrears,” Breedlove said. To do that, you pay a lump sum to the IRS for 2014 federal employment taxes, and you also need to file quarterly returns with state employment tax payments (these can be filed together for the year). Penalties and interest will be assessed, although you can apply to have them waived.

Household employers who fail to report their employees’ income face back taxes along with penalties and interest. But compliance reaps benefits beyond avoiding these penalties, Breedlove said: Abiding by the rules shows the caregiver that you’re treating the relationship professionally, and that generally leads to greater employee satisfaction and longer tenure.

A note for single caregivers: If you can’t claim your parent as a dependent based on the above criteria, you may still be able to claim head of household status based on your caregiving relationship, Carlton said. This filing status is more beneficial than the single filing status, in that it allows higher income thresholds for the lower tax brackets.

Deducting Medical Expenses
If you can claim your mother or father as a dependent, then you can write off their eligible medical expenses on your tax return. If they have income exceeding $3,900, but you still provide more than half of their financial support, you can also deduct their medical expenses.

Deducting medical expenses can yield big savings. To claim the deduction, you have to itemize your deductions on your tax return, rather than take the standard deduction. Itemizers ages 65 and over can deduct the amount by which total medical expenses exceed 7.5% of adjusted gross income, while those 64 and under can deduct the amount by which those expenses exceed 10% of income. If you’re 64 or under, claim your parent as your dependent and plan to deduct both your and your parent’s eligible medical expenses, the 10% threshold applies, Carlton said.

Eligible expenses include Medicare Part B and D premiums, as well as coinsurance or copayments you owe the doctor. Many dental expenses can also be deducted, including dentures, a costly item that Medicare doesn’t cover. The same goes for hearing aids. You can also deduct the cost of household modifications that enable an older person to live with you, such as ramps outside the house and grab bars in the shower.

Keep in mind that this is general information designed to help you put these valuable deductions on your radar. Patrick Parker Realty Agents and Realtors are not certified accountants. Please be sure to check with your tax adviser to see if you qualify for a particular credit or deduction.
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The Blog Series will cover many topics such as How do I qualify for a home seller break?, How do I qualify for a home buyer break?, Do I have to report the home sale on my return?, What is the gain on the sale of my home?, What Are Home Renovation Tax Credits?, Deducting Mortgage Interest, Taking the First-Time Homebuyer Credit, How to Avoid Taxes on Canceled Mortgage Debt, Tax Incentives as they relate to Life’s biggest transitions, such as Marriage, the Birth of a Baby, Divorce, or the death of a Spouse and much more. New posts in this Blog Series will be published twice weekly.

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For more information about paying taxes on the sale or purchase of your home or any other questions you have about this article please speak with your tax professional or visit www.irs.gov.

 


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