8 Tax Breaks Most Homeowners Don’t Realize They Can Get
t’s tax season again, and if you bought a new home in 2016, you want to be sure you don’t miss out on one of the numerous tax deductions you could be eligible for. Even if you aren’t a new homeowner, there could be some deductions you might not be aware of that can help you maximize your tax refund.
We spoke with Mark Luscombe, principal analyst at Wolters Kluwer Tax & Accounting. He reviewed some of the tax deductions home owners should be aware of as they begin working on their tax returns.
1. Mortgage Interest
“In 2016, the IRS acquiesced in the Ninth Circuit Voss case, which changes the way the mortgage interest deduction is calculated,” Luscombe said. “The IRS now says it is allowed on a per taxpayer rather than a per residence basis.”
That means that, if you own a home with an unrelated taxpayer, you are now each entitled to a mortgage interest deduction of up to $1 million of mortgage principal for funds used to purchase, construct or improve a home and an additional $100,000 of principal for a loan secured by the home but where the funds are used for other purposes.
“This also creates another marriage penalty in the Tax Code since, if the two taxpayers get married, then they are just entitled to a mortgage interest deduction up to the $1.1 million limit,” Luscombe added.
2. Mortgage Insurance Premiums & Debt Forgiveness
The deduction for mortgage insurance premiums expired at the end of 2016 but is still available for 2016 tax returns. Likewise, the exclusion for mortgage debt forgiveness also expired at the end of 2016 but is still available for 2016 tax returns.
“In order to try to better determine if taxpayers are claiming the proper amount of mortgage interest deduction, mortgage lenders are now required to report on Form 1098 not only the mortgage interest received for the year but also now the principal amount of the mortgage, the date the mortgage originated, and the address of the property,” Luscombe said. So be sure to download or request a copy of your Form 1098 if you haven’t already received one in the mail.
3. Energy-Related Tax Deductions
There are two energy-related tax breaks that homeowners can qualify for.
- The nonbusiness energy property credit expired at the end of 2016 but is available for 2016 tax returns. This credit is a $500 lifetime credit for improvements such as energy-efficient windows, doors, insulation and roofs, as well as certain home systems.
- There is also a residential energy efficient property credit for items such as solar and wind installations that currently extends through 2021 but is subject to phase-downs over its final years.
4. Capital Gains Exclusion
If you’ve owned and lived in your principal residence for at least two of the last five years, then the exclusion for gain on its sale remains available. The exclusion is up to $250,000 of gain for a single taxpayer and up to $500,000 of gain for joint filers, Luscombe said.
5. Inheritance of Property
When you inherit an asset, the cost basis of the asset is “stepped up to value” on the date of death, which helps you avoid capital gains taxes on that property. Here’s how it works: Let’s say your grandfather just died, leaving a home to you and your siblings. The home is valued at $500,000 at the time of your grandfather’s death, but the original price paid for the home, the basis, when he bought it 30 years ago was $100,000. While you and your siblings may have to pay estate or inheritance taxes depending on the size of the estate, you won’t have to pay capital gains taxes on $400,000 in gains on the house.
“Stepped-up basis on death remains available for a principal residence, as well as other taxpayer assets on death,” Luscombe said. “However, with discussions about eliminating the estate tax and shifting to carryover basis, it is not clear how much longer current law will remain in effect. Stepped-up basis means that the inheritor of the residence who then sells the residence would likely have minimal taxable gain because their basis would be stepped-up to the date of death value of the residence.”
6. Property Taxes
Currently, real estate taxes with respect to a residence may also be deducted, although tax reform proposals being discussed in Congress would eliminate that deduction.
7. Home Office Expenses
If you use part of your home for business operations, you may be able to deduct some of your business expenses. The home office deduction is available for homeowners and renters, and applies to all types of homes, according to the Internal Revenue Service, which provides details and a full explanation of the requirements to claim this deduction on its website.
8. Moving Expenses
If you moved because you changed jobs or your business relocated, or if you started a new job or business, you may be eligible to deduct your moving expenses. The IRS explains that you must meet the following criteria in order to qualify.
- Your move closely relates to the start of work
- You meet the distance test
- You meet the time test
Again, you can find a full explanation of these criteria on the IRS website. And for more answers to all those question bound to pop up between now and April 15, check out our tax learning center.