Owning a home can provide financial and income tax benefits as well as emotional satisfaction. While a home is usually viewed as shelter and a place to live, over the past few decades many homeowners have seen the value of their homes rise significantly and have reaped large gains when they sold their homes. Since most homeowners use mortgages to finance a portion of the cost of the home, their gains were leveraged even more. But remember home values do not always rise.
Income tax laws provide special breaks for homeowners. These breaks are in the form of tax deductions for mortgage interest and property taxes and preferential treatment of gains when the home is sold. As always, you should consult with your tax advisor to get a complete understanding of how the tax laws may apply to your situation.
Many taxpayers find that the interest on their mortgage and the annual property taxes they pay are large enough to enable them to itemize their deductions instead of using what is commonly referred to as the standard deduction. The standard deduction for single filers on their 2008 tax returns is $5,450 and $10,900 for joint filers. For 2009, the standard deductions are increased to $5,700 for those filing single and $11,400 for joint filers. For many homeowners, their interest and property taxes exceed those amounts.
Be sure to keep track of when you pay your property taxes. Some areas have due dates close to the end of the year, and you must have paid the tax before December 31 to get the deduction.
Another way some homeowners are able to get additional deductions is through the use of home equity loans. Since the interest paid on a home equity loan qualifies as a deduction, you may want to consider a home equity loan as a source of funds to pay off credit card debt, where the interest is not deductible.
For many years, the tax laws allowed you to avoid paying capital gains taxes when selling your home only if you rolled over the proceeds into a home that was more expensive. There were also some rules that allowed individuals over the age of 55 to avoid some taxes.
In 1997, those rules were changed. Now the IRS may allow you to exclude any gain on selling your house if you meet certain requirements. Always consult your tax advisor for more details.
The tax benefits of home ownership can be significant. Be sure to keep good records about the purchase price and any improvements you make to the home. Pay attention to when you make property tax and mortgage payments to ensure they fall in the year you want to take them as itemized deductions. Finally, if you have special circumstances (including a potential large gain if selling your home), be sure to get expert advice to make sure you get the maximum benefits allowed under tax laws.