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February 26th, 2011

Homeowners: Are you ready for tax time?

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Mortgage and down paymentWhile there’s still time left to file your taxes, the clock is ticking if you haven’t. It’s pretty well understood that tax time is a season of dread for many Americans, homeowners or otherwise. Whether you consider tax time a breeze, a hassle or one big ball of confusion, every homeowner needs to be well informed as to how their home, and the expenses they pay on it, factor into their tax bill.

HSH.com staff writer Gina Pogol compiled the 10 frequently-asked questions regarding homeowners and their taxes.

Let’s take a look at a few:

1. How much of my mortgage payment is tax deductible?

On a Schedule A, you can deduct the following:

  • Interest on debt used to buy, build or improve your primary or second home (called acquisition debt), as long as mortgages totaled $1 million or less ($500,000 if single or married filing separately).
  • Mortgage insurance (or funding fees for government loans) for loans taken after 2006 as long as your adjusted gross income does not exceed $109,000 for a married couple (half that for singles and those married filing separately).
  • Property taxes on first and second homes. Starting in 2010, however, you must itemize your deductions to get this tax break.

2. I sold my home this year. Will I owe capital gains tax?

As long as the property was your principal residence for at least two of the last five years, you can exclude $250,000 of your profit ($500,000 for married couples) from your taxable income. If you profited less than the $250,000/$500,000 threshold, no extra form is required. You can do this as often as every two years.

For those with profits that cannot be excluded, you’ll report your gain on a Schedule D, Capital Gains and Losses. There are special rules for vacation homes. You may be able to exclude some or all of your gain.

3. I lost money on the sale of my home. Do I get to deduct the loss?

Loss on the sale of a personal residence is treated like a loss on the sale of any personal property. It is not deductible. Losses on investment properties are deductible.

4. I bought or refinanced a home this year. Are my closing costs tax deductible?

You can claim a deduction for real estate taxes you paid as part of your mortgage closing costs. The same goes for prepaid interest. It will be included on the 1098 form your lender sends you. What about points? The IRS has a flowchart that you can use to see when points are and are not deductible. In general, you must have paid points to build, buy or improve your primary residence in order to deduct the entire amount in the year they were paid. Otherwise they may still be deducted but on a prorated basis.

5. What happens with points on a refinance?

This deduction is often overlooked, and it could be worth a lot. When you pay points on a refinance, they have to be prorated. For example, if you pay $3,000 in points on a 30-year mortgage, you can deduct $100 a year for 30 years. But if you refinanced again this year and have prorated points that have not yet been deducted–for example, you are 10 years into a 30-year loan and have only deducted $1,000 of $3,000 in points paid–you can deduct the remaining $2,000 in the year you refinance.

To learn more about how loan modifications, foreclosures, prepayment penalties, and more affect your taxes, be sure to continue reading “10 critical questions for homeowners at tax time.”

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About the HSH Blog

HSH.com's daily blog focuses on the latest developments in the mortgage and housing markets. Our mission is to relate how changes in mortgage rates and housing policy, as well as the latest financial news, impacts consumers, homebuyers and industry insiders alike. Our 30-plus years of experience in the mortgage industry gives us an edge as we break down the latest changes in an ever-changing market.

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Tim Manni

Tim Manni is the Managing Editor of HSH.com and the author of their daily blog, which concentrates on the latest developments in the mortgage and housing markets.

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