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When the taxman knocks at the door: advantages of home ownership

by Jeffrey Hammerberg
Nobody looks forward to tax time, especially during times of economic uncertainty, rising interest rates, and shrinking job markets. But for those who understand the tax benefits of owning real estate, the season for giving Uncle Sam his piece of the pie is sometimes full of welcome surprises. Substantial advantages — that translate into savings of significant tax dollars — exist for those who invest in real estate. Today we’ll look at a few of them, to show you how investing wisely now, even as a homeowner in your first home, can provide recurring fringe benefits for many years into the future.

Interest on real estate mortgages
Imagine taking out a loan of a million dollars to buy property, and then deducting the interest you pay on your mortgage. If you borrow money to pay for a first or second home, this dream may come true, because the interest you pay on your mortgage may be entirely deductible. While interest rates rise, so do your tax benefits and this will not only offset the impact of rising rates, but can also provide one of the best tax deductions available.

What about those pesky “points” that mortgage companies charge? We wonder why they don’t just call them “fees,” because unlike in soccer or softball, scoring points when taking out a loan really means you pay anywhere from one to three percent more for the money.

But it doesn’t have to mean you lose the game, because those kinds of expenses normally qualify as totally deductible. Paying points and interest can actually work in your favor, whether you are starting a new loan or refinancing an old one.

Home improvement loans and lines of equity credit
Need to make a capital improvement on your property? Setting up a line of equity credit or taking out other forms of home equity loans may allow you deductions; so be sure to ask your tax preparation professional to explain. If you qualify, you can borrow from the bank, do the special renovations and long-awaited add-ons, and then subtract the cost and wind up with extra room in next year’s budget.

Making work at home work for you
If you work at home, and own your home, you may qualify for a number of deductions for a home office, which can reduce a portion of your overall expenses for such things as insurance and mortgage payments.

Expenses related to selling your home
When you are ready to sell, keep track of all the expenses. Structural inspections, surveys, Realtor commissions, attorney’s fees and other costs (including advertising) may qualify as deductions from the profits you make when you sell.

And if you spiff-up your property to make it have more marketable “curb appeal,” you may be able to also subtract the cost of things like paint, landscaping, interior decorating and floor refinishing. Keep receipts, and keep asking your accountant for other tips.

The deductions are numerous, and many homeowners miss out on the chance to save money because they aren’t aware of them. After all, some of them sound too good to be true. For instance, you may qualify for deductions related to the cost of traveling to view property, moving expenses, and even storage of furniture while you get settled into your next home.

Taxes that save you taxes
If you pay property tax, the amount you pay should be completely deductible. So the more tax you pay, the less you have to pay. How cool is that?

And we saved the best for last
The deduction that makes the most people smile at tax time is a relatively new one, related to capital gains tax. If you have owned your home for a couple of years or more, and it has been your principle residence for at least two years, you can qualify for a total exemption for the gains or profits made on your investment.

Purchase a house, hold it for a couple of years, and sell it for a sweet profit with no chunk taken out at tax time. Then roll your money into another house and do it all over again. Investing was never easier, and some people make enough money to live on, just by buying and selling homes every two years.

With the guidance of an informed tax planner, home ownership or purchase of rental property can be a tremendous advantage, and can afford you a level of financial security not found elsewhere.

The opportunities we touched on are only a sample of some of the potential tax benefits available through ownership of property. Talk to your local tax planner and you may be amazed to learn the many wonderful perks of real estate ownership. But don’t procrastinate, or your castle dreams might get washed away as time, tide and taxes wait for nobody. Plan ahead, and then congratulate yourself on April 15.

— For expertise in all areas of real estate, trust the helpful professionals at www. GayRealEstate.com and www.GayMortgageLoans.com who are fully devoted to serving the global LGBT community.

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