Archive for January, 2010

Mortgage Tax Deduction

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Here we are at the start of the annual self flagellation period otherwise know as Tax Preperation Time.
Given the amount of bad/wrong advice freely floating around on this topic you might find it helpfull to see what the rules really are as the I.R.S. sees it.
Check out this link: http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p936.pdf

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The Worst Addiction?

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Drugs, Drink, Gambling. From the clutches of these escape is possible with  sufficient help and hard work. 

From Golf,  NEVER!

Like all other forms of compulsive behaviour, for golfahlics even nine holes is too much, yet 18 holes are not enough to satisfy their insatiable craving for humiliation and self abuse.

Have you ever know a man who gave up golf?

Voodoo Economics

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You probably didn’t see the reports that Goldman Sachs is talking to Fannie Mae about buying, at a discount, $1 billion worth of low-income housing tax credits from the government-controlled Agency.
Fannie Mae can’t use the credits because you have to actually earn money to use such an off-set against profits.
Goldman Sachs on the other hand is making profits hand-over-fist thanks in part to the Taxpayer Funded TARP program.
For the nation’s tax collectors the issue might boil down to this:
if we let Goldman buy the tax credits, that means a Wall Street firm that received Bail Out money, will be able to lower their taxes at a time when Uncle could really use the money.
It’s worth remembering that TARP funds were intended to help the Banks re-start making loans to individuals and small business’s.

1st Time Buyer Tax Credit Form

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The IRS will be releasing a new version of Form 5405, the First-Time Homebuyer Credit Form, for homebuyers claiming the extended housing tax credit. Homebuyers eligible for the tax credit must use this new version if they:

1. Purchased their homes on or after November 7, 2009,

OR

2. Will claim the housing tax credit on their 2009 tax returns, regardless of when the property was purchased.

The new form was due to be published last December. The old form (currently the only one available on the IRS website) will not be accepted for claiming the tax credit under the extended rules.

NOTE: At this time the IRS requires that owners claiming this tax credit 0n their 2009 tax returns must file on paper. Be sure to check this beforehand if planning to file electronically. It may have changed by then.

Reality vs. Partisan Pundits. No Contest

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The Administrations well meant efforts to make it possible for many homeowners to avoid foreclosure has stirred up a hornet’s nest among some media commentators.

The Plan described at http://www.makinghomeaffordable.gov/ uses up to $75 billion to provide incentives to holders of FANIE MAE and FREDDY MAC loans to work with Borrowers to refinance, or modify existing problem loans, rather than simply go ahead and foreclose.

This is a classic version of the glass ½ full, or ½ empty. Typically, in our current exclusively partisan media, the answer is dictated solely by political affiliation regardless of the facts.

This is unfortunate because there are legitimate reasons for supporting, opposing, or, better still, improving the current process.

One the one hand it is a legitimate effort to try to help Joe Public get through a situation brought about by failures in our economic systems. Given the Trillions of dollars being ploughed back to the very people who caused this situation, the $75 Billion allocated to this program is peanuts.

On the other hand there is a valid argument to be made that subsidizing refinances, or modifying problem loans, is simply putting off an inevitable final default. This can often hurt the very people it purports to help by having them use up scarce funds in a doomed attempt to save an impossible situation, rather than simply give the property back to the Lender and getting  on with life.

The December report on the status of this program provides ample ammunition for both schools of thought, and the regulators have shifted emphasis to try to deal with the problems showing up.

The summary shows that 728,000 loan modifications are already in the required trial phase. Unfortunately only 31,382 have completed that phase and have become permanent, saving homeowners an average of $550 per month. The low rate at which Trials become Permanent  is a serious problem raising concerns that a significant number of these modifications are simply allowing the Banks to delay acknowledging the number of bad loans on their books and to avoid taking the losses on to their Balance Sheets.

If that is true then the inevitable result will be a longer period of foreclosed properties coming to market as these failed modifications fall apart.

As with most things there is not a simple answer, but on balance I come down on the side of giving the program a fair shot. This is based mostly on my view that given the countless billions we have poured into supporting the financial institutions that caused the problems,  a little effort to give similar assistance to the victims is not unreasonable.