- Days left
While cashing a federal tax rebate check is the easiest way get some of the federal stimulus funds, probably the next easiest is to get a tax rebate for work you were going to do on your home anyway.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 has plenty of energy provisions to save taxpayers money while helping to save the environment, but most look like they're expensive for consumers to afford.

There are tax credits for residential alternative energy equipment, such as solar hot water heaters, geothermal heat pumps and wind turbines. Ever get a quote for a wind turbine? They're not cheap. There are also tax credits for plug-in electric cars, which cost a lot of money, too.

Probably one of the best deals, at least in terms of tax credit for money spent, is getting back 30% of the cost of improvements by homeowners for energy savings, called the Residential Energy Property Credit. The credit applies to improvements such as adding insulation, energy-efficient exterior windows and energy-efficient heating and air-conditioning systems.

The new law increases the credit to up to $1,500 for improvements made in 2009 and 2010, equal to 30% of the purchase price. In other words, you'd need to spend $5,000 on energy-efficient windows, doors, a new heater or whatever to get the full $1,500 tax credit.

It's a credit that not many people know about, although they'll probably learn quickly if they go shopping for windows. And even with the tax break, spending $5,000 or more on windows is still a costly home improvement, although cheaper than buying a wind turbine.

"A whole house replacement is not a cheap alternative," Susan Roeder, corporate affairs manager at Andersen Windows, said of getting new, energy-efficient windows.

Even in a recession, homeowners are still making such large purchases, Roeder said, mainly because the energy-efficient windows will lower summer cooling costs by 70% and lower winter heating costs by 45%.

The Internal Revenue Service offers guidance on how to determine if the windows you're buying meet the federal guidelines for Energy Star efficiency, but Andersen is trying to make it easier with its EcoExcel package of windows and doors that exceed the federal standards.

Its windows, for example, have glass technology that lets sunshine in, keeps heat build-up out and blocks 95% of harmful ultraviolet rays.

If you've ever had new windows installed on your home, as I have, you'll quickly notice the difference in less air spilling out or in, and how much more quiet they'll make your home. Add on a tax break, and it's a good time to do it before the tax break expires at the end of next year.

Aaron Crowe is a freelance journalist in the San Francisco Bay Area. Reach him at www.AaronCrowe.net

Increase your money and finance knowledge from home

Introduction to Preferred Shares

Learn the difference between preferred and common shares.

View Course »

How to Avoid Financial Scams

Avoid getting duped by financial scams.

View Course »

TurboTax Articles

Cities with the Lowest Tax Rates

The total amount of tax you pay reaches far beyond what you owe the federal government. Depending on where you live, most likely you're required to pay additional taxes, including property and sales tax. The disparity between the amount of tax you pay in a low-tax city and that in a high-tax city can be dramatic. Living in any of these 10 cities could save you a bundle, although the exact amount may fluctuate based on your income and lifestyle choices.

Cities with the Highest Tax Rates

Much ado is made in the press about federal tax brackets, but cities can carry a tax bite of their own. Even if you live in a state that has no income tax, your city may levy a variety of taxes that could eat away the entire benefit of living in an income tax-free state, including property taxes, sales taxes and auto taxes. Consider all the costs before you move to one of these cities, and understand that rates may change based on your family's income level.

Great Ways to Get Charitable Tax Deductions

Generally, when you give money to a charity, you can use the amount of that donation as a deduction on your tax return. However, not all charities qualify as tax-deductible organizations. While there are many types of charities, they must all meet certain criteria to be classified by the IRS as tax-deductible organizations. There are legitimate tax-deductible organizations in many popular categories, such as those listed below.

A Freelancer's Guide to Taxes

Freelancing certainly has its benefits, but it can result in a few complications come tax time. The Internal Revenue Service considers freelancers to be self-employed, so if you earn income as a freelancer you must file your taxes as a business owner. While you can take additional deductions if you are self-employed, you'll also face additional taxes in the form of the self-employment tax. Here are things to consider as a freelancer when filing your taxes.

Tax Deductions for Voluntary Interest Payments on Student Loans

Most taxpayers who pay interest on student loans can take a tax deduction for the expense ? and you can do this regardless of whether you itemize tax deductions on your return. The rules for claiming the deduction are the same whether the interest payments were required or voluntary.

Add a Comment

*0 / 3000 Character Maximum