Here are the common tax mistakes homeowners need to be careful to avoid:
- Deducting the wrong year for property taxes. You deduct for the year in which you pay them. In Utah we pay in November, so this isn’t really an issue here.
- Confusing escrow amount for actual taxes paid. Generally your lender collects more than you pay, so be careful to claim the correct amount.
- Deducting points paid to refinance. This is done over the life of the loan, not up front like a purchase.
- Misjudging the home office deduction. You will definitely want to use a tax professional to make sure you do this one right.
- Failing to repay the first-time home buyer tax credit. You must pay back 1/15th a year over 15 years if you used it and are still in your home.
- Failing to track home related expenses. Always keep records of anything you plan to claim or deduct.
- Forgetting to keep track of capital gains. Remember if you sold your home, you have to pay taxes on any gains over $500,000 if you are married and $250,000 if you are single.
- Filing incorrectly for the energy tax credit. Again, you will need records and probably use a tax professional.
Mortgage Interest DeductionOne of the neatest deductions itemizing homeowners can take advantage of is the Mortgage Interest Deduction, which you claim on Schedule A. To get the Mortgage Interest Deduction, your mortgage must be secured by your home — and your home can even be a house trailer or boat, as long as you can sleep in it, cook in it, and it has a toilet.
Interest you pay on a mortgage of up to $1 million — or $500,000 if you’re married filing separately — is deductible when you use the loan to buy, build, or improve your home.
If you take on another mortgage (including a second mortgage, home equity loan, or home equity line of credit) to improve your home or to buy or build a second home, that counts towards the $1 million limit.
If you use loans secured by your home for other things — like sending your kid to college — you can still deduct the interest on loans up $100,000 ($50,000 for married filing separately) because your home secures the loan.
PMI and FHA Mortgage Insurance PremiumsYou can deduct the cost of private mortgage insurance as mortgage interest on Schedule A — meaning you must itemize your return. The change only applies to loans taken out in 2007 or later.
By the way, the 2013 tax season is the last for which you can claim this deduction unless Congress renews it retroactively, which may happen, but is uncertain.
What’s PMI? If you have a mortgage but didn’t put down a fairly good-sized down payment (usually 20%), the lender requires the mortgage be insured. The premium on that insurance can be deducted, so long as your income is less than $100,000 (or $50,000 for married filing separately).
If your adjusted gross income is more than $100,000, your deduction is reduced by 10% for each $1,000 ($500 in the case of a married individual filing a separate return) that your adjusted gross income exceeds $100,000 ($50,000 in the case of a married individual filing a separate return). So, if you make $110,000 or more, you lose 100% of this deduction (10% x 10 = 100%).
Besides private mortgage insurance, there’s government insurance from FHA, VA, and the Rural Housing Service. Some of those premiums are paid at closing and deducting them is complicated. A tax adviser or tax software program can help you calculate this deduction. Also, the rules vary between the agencies.
Prepaid Interest DeductionPrepaid Interest (or points) you paid when you took out your mortgage is 100% deductible in the year you paid them along with other mortgage interest.
If you refinance your mortgage and use that money for home improvements, any points you pay are also deductible in the same year.
But if you refinance to get a better rate and term or to use the money for something other than home improvements, such as college tuition, you’ll need to deduct the points over the term of the loan. Say you refi for a 10-year term and pay $3,000 in points. You can deduct $300 per year for 10 years.
So what happens if you refi again down the road?
Example: Three years after your first refi, you refinance again. Using the $3,000 in points scenario above, you’ll have deducted $900 ($300 x 3 years) so far. That leaves $2,400, which you can deduct in full the year you complete your second refi. If you paid points for the new loan, the process starts again; you can deduct the points over the term of the loan.
Home mortgage interest and points are reported on IRS Form 1098. You enter the combined amount on line 10 of Schedule A. If your 1098 form doesn’t indicate the points you paid, you should be able to confirm the amount by consulting your HUD-1 settlement sheet. Then you record that amount on line 12 of Schedule A.
Energy Tax CreditThe Energy Tax Credit of up to a lifetime $500 had expired in 2011. But the Feds extended it for 2012 and 2013. If you upgraded one of the following systems this year, it’s an opportunity for a dollar-for-dollar reduction in your tax liability: If you get the $500 credit, you pay $500 less in taxes.
Some of the eligible products and systems are capped even lower than $500. New windows are capped at $200 — and not per window, but overall. Read about the fine print in order to claim your energy tax credit.
- Determine if the system is eligible. Go to Energy Star’s website for detailed descriptions of what’s covered. And talk to your vendor.
- The product or system must have been installed, not just contracted for, in the tax year you’ll be claiming it.
- Save system receipts and manufacturer certifications. You’ll need them if the IRS asks for proof.
- File IRS Form 5695 with the rest of your tax forms.
Property Tax DeductionYou can deduct on Schedule A the real estate property taxes you pay. If you have a mortgage with an escrow account, the amount of real estate property taxes you paid shows up on your annual escrow statement.
If you bought a house this year, check your HUD-1 Settlement statement to see if you paid any property taxes when you closed the purchase of your house. Those taxes are deductible on Schedule A, too.