Archive for the ‘Taxes’ Category

THANKS TO BARBARA BOXER

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Barbara Boxer, United States Senator from Cali...

Barbara Boxer, United States Senator from California (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As of Dec 1st both the IRS and Franchise Tax Board have put in writing that they no longer consider “Debt Forgiveness” resulting from a Short Sale to be taxable income under either State or Federal tax laws.

This removes a huge potential problem from anyone going through a short sale. Until now It has been common to receive a tax bill in the tens of thousands of dollars many months after the property has been sold.

Thanks are due to Barbara Boxer for her part in fighting this battle for us.

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MCC. FREE MONEY FROM THE IRS

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Many States, Counties, and Cities have great programs to help 1st Time home buyers, but few if any are better then the Federal Governments Mortgage Credit Certificate (MCC) program.
This turbo charges the existing TAX DEDUCTION for mortgage interest by allowing 15% of it to be taken as a TAX CREDIT.
Here’s an example:
If you pay mortgage interest of $24,000/year you can take 15% of that ($3,600) and deduct it dollar for dollar from your total tax liability.
To put it simply; if your total tax bill was $20,000 it will be reduced to $16,500. You have now got a tax free pay raise of $250/m.
You can now tell your employer to reduce the amount they take from your paystub so you get the benefit of this right away with an extra $250/month in your pocket.
This program is administered by the Counties, and your Mortgage Broker/Bank, but be aware that not all of them are familiar with it. Be prepared to educate them.

FORECLOSURE/SHORT SALE TAX HELP

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In 2007. the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act of 2007 was passed, helping many underwater homeowners avoid taxes on the amount of debt that their lender forgives. Even though the homeowner doesn’t see any of the money from the short sale, the lender’s loss is considered the homeowner’s gain and the lender issues a 1099 reporting that amount as income.

That “income” would ordinarily be taxable, but the 2007 Act wiped out tax liability for many homeowners who short sale their homes between 2007 and 2012.

It is possible that Congress could move to extend the tax protection. However, those who are considering short sales may wish to be cautious and begin negotiating the process now. Listing the home, finding a buyer and negotiating with the short sale can take months.

California Buyers Tax Credit – Good or Bad?

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Speaking as a Realtor I should welcome the new California tax credit for certain homebuyers. Instead I condemn it as nothing more than a subsidy for lenders, the building industry and the brokers/agents (including me) handling their transactions.

California is a virtually bankrupt State with the 3rd worst educational system in the Country.

To be allocating $200 million to such a program, while simultaneously imposing huge cuts on education, seems to me the height of irresponsibility.

In practice this program will chiefly benefit people who would be buying anyway, and steer them toward new construction. I don’t see this as anything Realtors should be cheering about.

Banks and Builders however are welcoming it with huge sighs of relief.

Just my opinion.

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Mortgage Interest Tax Deduction – Goodbye

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I am expecting that one of the major tax breaks in the nation will be hit by our elected representatives once they get back to running the Country (After the Fall elections).

Our dangerous levels of Public Debt are going to have to be dealt with and The Mortgage Interest Tax Deduction is an obvious and inevitable target.

Even as I type this I can hear the screams of “No Way” they’d never dare touch it.

Having lived through the British “phase out” of mortgage tax relief, and observed it’s results, I am convinced that this unfair tax break will soon join the Dodo, and our society will be the better for it’s going; Indeed, the process has already started, as limits on the total dollar amounts, and number of properties eligible have already been implemented over the past few years. Not all at one go, but little by little, so that in a few years it will, just like the smile on the face of the “Cheshire Cat,”  have totally faded away.

What we currently tell our taxpayers is that if they agree to take on one particular type of debt ( a mortgage) we will lower their taxes. If not we will have to increase their income taxes to make up for what we are losing to their more affluent fellow citizens i.e. Mortgage holders.

Is it good to have a high level of home ownership YES. Should it be done by this type of Social Engineering (Socialism) NO.

Could it be posible that one or more of our currently troubled States might be the 1st to take this path?? Perhaps the one that put in that other masterpiece of tax malpractice, Prop 13.

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Mortgage Credit Cerificates (MCC)

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Here is another dynamite program for 1st time home buyers.

Details here are for Santa Clara County but other Counties and Cities also operatate these programs.

The County of Santa Clara has been awarded a new MCC Allocation in the amount of $3,031,944.

This award should serve approximately 70 Households.

MCC Applications will be accepted beginning February 12, 2010, until the allocation is depleted.

MCC PROGRAM: The Mortgage Credit Certificate Program is available for first-time home-buyer’s purchasing their first home in participating cities in Santa Clara County. The Mortgage Credit Certificate Program gives first-time home-buyer’s a federal income tax credit of up to 15% of the interest paid on their first mortgage loan each year the home-buyer keeps the same mortgage loan and lives in the same property as their primary residence.

The Maximum Income Limits for 2010:

Effective February 12, 2010:

1 or 2 person household = $102,500

3 or more person household = $117,875

The Maximum Purchase Price Limits are:

Resale/Existing Units = $570,000 and for,

Newly Constructed Units= $630,000

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EXTRA MONEY FROM SOCIAL SECURITY

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Some retirement decisions are irreversible. But many retirees will be happy to learn that choosing when to start collecting Social Security benefits is not one of them.

When John Rothenhoefer, 70, found out that he could increase his Social Security benefits by about $1,000 a month by taking advantage of a do-over strategy, he thought he’d struck gold. As it turns out, he might as well have won a mega lottery. Out of the 32 million retirees who collect Social Security benefits, Rothenhoefer was one of just 71 people this fiscal year to take advantage of an obscure option that lets you halt your current benefits, pay back all you have collected interest-free, and restart your benefits at a new, higher rate based on your current age.

It’s perfectly legal, says Mark Lassiter, a spokesman for the Social Security Administration. But don’t expect the claims representatives at your local Social Security office or the employees who answer the agency’s toll-free number (800-772-1213) to be familiar with the details. “Our service representatives can go an entire career and never encounter this situation,” says Lassiter. He recommends that you download Form 521 (“Request for Withdrawal of Application”) from the agency’s Web site (www.ssa.gov) and visit your local office in person.

This strategy is just one of four little-publicized ways we uncovered to help you maximize your Social Security benefits. Each tactic applies to a specific situation; if one of them is yours, you could be in the money.

A “sweet deal”

For someone like Rothenhoefer, who had been collecting monthly checks for eight years, the price of repaying Social Security benefits can be steep — $100,000 or more in some cases. But he thinks it’s well worth it. Not only will his monthly check be about 75% larger than his previous benefit, but it will also increase with inflation each year for the rest of his life. And if John dies first, his wife, Charlotte, 67, will collect the same monthly amount as a survivor benefit for as long as she lives.

Here’s how it works: Let’s say you qualify for full benefits of $1,600 a month at your normal retirement age of 66, but you decide to begin collecting your benefits at 62. Your retirement benefits will be reduced by 25% for the rest of your life — to $1,200 a month, in this example — because you’ll be collecting a smaller benefit for a longer period of time.

On the other hand, if you delay collecting benefits, you will receive an 8% credit for every year beyond your normal retirement age until you reach 70, when your maximum benefit will be 132% of what you would have received at age 66. In this example, you would receive about $2,100 a month at 70 — a $900 difference.

Maybe you decided to collect benefits early out of fear that you wouldn’t live long enough to collect the larger delayed benefit. But now that you’ve made it to 70, you may regret your decision and wish you were receiving a larger check.

In order to get one, you must first file Form 521 at your local Social Security office to request a withdrawal of your application for benefits. Your retirement benefits will stop almost immediately — and if your husband or wife receives spousal benefits based on your work record, his or her benefits will stop, too. Then the Social Security Administration will send you a letter telling you how much you need to repay (including any spousal benefits). That process may take several weeks. Once you repay the benefits, you can reapply for new, higher payments based on your current age.

If, for example, you received $1,200 a month starting at age 62, plus annual cost-of-living adjustments through age 70, you would have to repay about $130,000. That’s a lot of money, but for some people it’s worth the price to get an additional $900 a month in retirement. By comparison, it would cost a 70-year-old man about $190,000 to buy an immediate annuity that would provide $900 a month initially, plus annual inflation adjustments and a 100% survivor benefit. That’s 46% more expensive than “buying” a lifetime annuity from Social Security.

Rothenhoefer thinks it’s a “sweet deal.” He concedes the strategy could backfire if both he and his wife were to die before they recoup their investment, which will take about ten and a half years. Still, he says, “it’s worth the gamble,” particularly because his wife stands a good chance of living into her nineties, as her mother and grandmother did.

There’s another financial downside: You may have to go without Social Security benefits for a few months while the agency sorts out how much you have to repay and you reapply for benefits. When your benefits stop, so do the automatic deductions that cover your Medicare premium. You’ll have to pay the Part B premium yourself — currently $96.40 a month for most retirees — until your Social Security benefits resume.

Crunch the numbers

Boston University economics professor Laurence Kotlikoff says repaying and reapplying for Social Security benefits is a “fantastic option” for some people. But it can involve a lot of number-crunching to determine whether it’s the right decision for you. Kotlikoff offers case studies on his Web site, www.esplanner.com. For $149, you can access his sophisticated financial-planning software, which lets you create your own comprehensive retirement plan, including an analysis of the pros and cons of a decision to pay back your Social Security.

John Greaney, who started the Retire Early Web site (www.retireearlyhomepage.com), says that members of his online community were aware of the repayment strategy but treated it as an urban legend. When Greaney took the time to research it last summer, he realized that it was an even better deal than he had first thought. That’s because when you repay your Social Security benefits, you can claim either an itemized deduction or a tax credit (whichever results in bigger savings to you) for the taxes you paid on your benefits in previous years. The calculations are complicated, but you can get all the details in IRS Publication 915, Social Security and Equivalent Railroad Retirement Benefits, at www.irs.gov.

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PAYING DOWN YOUR MORTGAGE. EMOTION vs ECONOMICS

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Is it a good idea to pay off a mortgage as soon as possible. My answer 90% of the time will be NO. It may make you feel good but it is economically foolish for the vast majority of people.

A mortgage is the cheapest form of debt for the average homeowner. This is partly because it has a low interest rate, but also brings with it enormous tax benefits. For most people this lowers the actual interest rate by more than a third. The real after tax rate on a 5.5% mortgage is actually 3.625%.

The vast majority of consumer debt is much higher than this. It seems clear to me that no one should be trying to pay off the mortgage with money which would be far better used to pay off a credit card.

Another major consideration should be whether tying up more money in your house is good for your on-going financial security. Once you make that payment you can never get it back without either selling or refinancing the house. Unless you have enough other assetts to handle job loss or other family emergencies you would probably be better served by investing that money where you can quickly get at it in such circumstances.

For a more detailed conversation on this topic check the following link to the New York Times.

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/20/your-money/mortgages/20money.html?ref=realestate

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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.