- Days left

How to Do Your Taxes if You're a Homeowner

×
HomeownerBy Alden Wicker

Hey there, homeowner! We're happy you've got a slice of the American dream, and you'll get the tax breaks that go along with it. In fact, some of these tax incentives apply to even a second home. Ooh la la!

Whether you bought, sold or just happily lived in your home this year, we'll walk you through all the tax stuff you need to know.

Just skim the "If you ..." headers to find the sections that affect you.

The Nuts and Bolts

If You Paid Interest on Your Mortgage.
You should have received a form 1098 from your lender, which will tell you how much mortgage interest you paid. You can deduct 100% of your mortgage interest and property taxes, as long as your loan is less than $1 million, ($500,000 if you are married and filing separately). If it's over that, the IRS will limit your deduction. But here's the catch: You have to itemize in order to claim the deduction. This is a choice that takes a little math and thought. But basically, you calculate your total itemized deduction, compare it against the standard deduction and then take the higher deduction.

You can also deduct late payment charges (please don't consider this an incentive to pay late) and pre-payment penalties.

If You Paid Property Tax. (Hint: You Did) The property tax you pay each year is deductible. Usually these property taxes are paid as part of your monthly loan payments, so you can find that information on the annual statement from your lender. Real estate taxes can be deducted on federal returns even though they may not be deductible in the state where the property is situated.

If You Had a Loan Forgiven. Depending on the time of debt, if a lender canceled it, you could be taxed as though that canceled debt were income. For example, if you had a mortgage of $10,000, paid $2,000 and the bank canceled the rest, you would be taxed as though you had $8,000 of income.

However, thanks to the Mortgage Debt Forgiveness Relief Act of 2007, the IRS will not charge income tax on a canceled debt. That means if you got a loan modification, short sale or foreclosure on your primary residence, you won't be hit with a tax bill for it. This applies to up to $2 million in debt ($1 million if you are married, filing separately), that you took on to:
  • Buy your primary home
  • Improve your primary home
  • Refinance the loan for your primary home
This was only in effect through tax year 2012.

If You Made Energy-Efficient Improvements to Your Home. The Nonbusiness Energy Property Credit is for homeowners who made energy-efficient improvements such as installing insulation, new windows or furnaces. For 2012, you can get a credit worth 10% of the cost of the qualified efficiency improvements you made. You can claim up to $500 over your lifetime.

What if your electricity comes from your own green sources? You should check out the Residential Energy Efficient Property Credit. This credit gives homeowners 30% of what they spend on qualifying property such as solar electric systems, solar hot water heaters, geothermal heat pumps, wind turbines and fuel cell property. No cap exists on the amount of credit, except for fuel cell property.

If in this coming year you decide you want to go green for your home, the IRS suggests that you check for a certification statement that the item is eligible for a tax credit before you purchase. This can normally be found on the packaging or the company's website. Full details are available on Form 5695.

If Your Home Was Damaged in a Disaster. If your home was damaged by a disaster like a tornado or fire, you might be able deduct the amount that wasn't reimbursed by insurance. To do so, you need to start with your Adjusted Gross Income (AGI). Then multiply that by 10%, and subtract that plus $100 more from the amount of damage not reimbursed.

Example: Let's say your home sustained $20,000 in hurricane damage, but you were only reimbursed $10,000 by your insurance company. $20,000-$10,000 = $10,000 in unreimbursed damage. If your AGI was $70,000, the calculation is: $70,000 x 10% = $7,000. $10,000 – $7,100 = $2,900 in deductible damage.

Special Note: Should You Take the Home Office Deduction? Provided you are actually eligible for the home office deduction (learn more so you don't get audited), deducting the expense could either be a smart decision or a poor one. That's because once you claim that home office, it doesn't count as part of your private residence anymore. When you sell your house sometime down the line, you'll either make a profit or a loss. If you make a profit, the value of your home office will be taxed as a capital gain, at a maximum rate of 25%, costing you money. If you take a loss selling your home, you can deduct the value of the home office as a loss, making you money.

How the math works out for your depends on your situation, so it's smart to talk to your tax preparer before you deduct your home office.

If You Took Out a Loan ...

If You Paid Property Taxes. (Hint: You Probably Did)
Usually your property taxes are paid to your lender as part of your loan. But if you bought your house this year, you probably paid your fair share of the property taxes upfront. You can find out how much you paid on your settlement documents, and deduct it.

If You Paid Mortgage Discount Points. When you pay a "point" toward your mortgage, that means you paid the equivalent of 1 percentage point of your loan upfront at closing in order to get a lower interest rate. This doesn't go to pay off your loan, but it can save you money in the long run, which is why people do it. If you paid mortgage points, you can deduct them if:
  • The loan is secured by your primary residence
  • The loan was used to buy, improve or build the home
  • Paying points is a common practice in the area of your new home and not more than normally charged
  • The points are calculated as a percentage of the loan principal
  • The points are clearly outlined on the buyer's settlement statement, and
  • The amount of cash you put into the purchase of your home (including down payment, closing costs, etc.) is at least equal to the amount you were charged for the points you paid on the loan
If you paid points to refinance your home instead of buying or improving your home, you deduct a portion of what you paid each year, spread out over the life of the loan. For example, if you paid 1,000 in points to refinance a 10-year loan, then you could deduct $100 each year.

If You Took Out a Personal Home Equity Loan. What if you took out a home equity loan to pay for something other than your home, like tuition or home improvements? Well, it depends. Part or all of the interest you pay on that loan could be deductible for up to $100,000, or $50,000 if you are married filing separately. Here's how the math works when it comes to tuition:

Let's say your home is worth $200,000. You currently have a mortgage worth $150,000. So your home is worth $50,000 more than the mortgage. If you take out a home equity loan to pay for tuition, then you can only deduct the interest on $50,000 of that loan. That number would be the same whether you took a loan out for $60,000 or $200,000-you can only deduct interest on $50,000 of that loan.

If you find yourself getting hit with the alternative minimum tax, then you cannot deduct any portion of the interest on a home equity loan when calculating AMT.

However, if you used that $60,000 loan to build a shed and install a pool, you can deduct all of the interest whether or not you fall under the AMT. That's because you used the loan to improve your property.

If You Sold a Home ...

If You Made a Profit on Your Home.
If you sold your house for more than you paid, you technically made what is called a "capital gain." Usually capital gains are taxed, but the gain you made on your home-up to $250,000 ($500,00 for married couples filing jointly)-is exempt from income taxes. You just need to have:
  • Owned the property for two years, and
  • Lived in it for two out of the last five years before you sold it
If you don't meet these requirements, all is not lost. If you had to sell your home because of:
  • Death
  • Divorce or legal separation
  • Job loss that qualifies for unemployment compensation
  • Employment changes that made it difficult for you to meet mortgage and basic living expenses
  • Multiple births from the same pregnancy
  • Damage from a natural or man-made disaster
  • "Involuntary conversion" by a local government under eminent domain law, for example ...
Then the IRS will cut you some slack and only tax your gain partially. Learn more at the IRS website.

Also, if the gain you made is more than $250,000 (or $500,000 if you're married filing jointly), dig around and see if you can find the receipts for any home improvements you made. That will establish the cost basis for the home as higher. For example, if you bought your home for $300,000 and made $50,000 in improvements, then sold it for $600,000, you can deduct that entire amount ($600,000-$350,000 = $250,000). If you hadn't included those improvements, you would have been taxed on that extra $50,000 that exceeded the limit.

See more on LearnVest:


Increase your money and finance knowledge from home

Introduction to Preferred Shares

Learn the difference between preferred and common shares.

View Course »

Goal Setting

Want to succeed? Then you need goals!

View Course »

TurboTax Articles

What Are the Tax Penalties for Smokers?

Starting in 2014, the Individual Shared Responsibility provision of the Affordable Care Act made you responsible for having minimum essential coverage, or MEC, in health insurance. Otherwise, you need to be eligible for a health care exemption, or you could pay a penalty when filing your income tax return. This requirement for minimum essential coverage applies to smokers and nonsmokers alike. If you're not covered by an employer's health plan and are a smoker, you can go to the health care marketplace to find MEC. If you're still unable to comply, you may have a penalty applied.

5 Steps to Navigate the Healthcare Marketplaces

To navigate the Health Insurance Marketplace, you have to know what you want from a health plan. Have your previous plan handy to make comparisons, as well as household and income information. If this is your first health plan, be aware of your needs and know your tax situation. Eligibility depends on the size of your family and combined income from all sources.

What Is Form 8941: Credit for Small Employer Health Insurance Premiums

Small business owners who subsidize the cost of employee health insurance premiums may be able to get some of that money back by claiming the credit for small employer health insurance premiums on their taxes. Some of the eligibility requirements, however, limit the number of people a business can employ and the average annual wages they earn. Qualifying as a small employer can reduce your tax bill by the amount of the credit you report on Form 8941.

What Is Form 8911: Alternative Fuel Vehicle Refueling Property Credit

In light of rising gasoline prices and environmental concerns, consumers have become more receptive to buying cars and trucks that run on types of fuel other than gasoline. The U.S. government introduced a tax incentive to encourage the installation of facilities to store or dispense alternative fuels in 1992. That incentive has evolved into a tax credit that also applies to equipment that recharges electric cars. If you equipped your home or business to accommodate alternative fuel vehicles, you may be able to use Form 8911: Alternative Fuel Vehicle Refueling Property Credit to reduce your federal tax obligation.

What Is Form 8885: Health Coverage Tax Credit

The health coverage tax credit is a program in place for tax years from 2002 to 2013 to help eligible individuals and families by paying a portion of premiums for qualified health insurance programs. Since the legislation authorizing the credit expired in January 2014, tax returns filed in 2014 for the 2013 tax year represent the last time eligible taxpayers can claim the credit.

Add a Comment

*0 / 3000 Character Maximum