Year?s End Real Estate Tax Tips

Written by admin on May 9th, 2011

While we are immersed in the joys of holiday celebration, tax time stealthily approaches. And although it is said that “time and tide wait for no one”, there are things we can do to prepare ourselves for the tax deadline. Most homeowners operate on a conventional tax schedule, so that regardless of whether they pay taxes on April 15th or take an automatic extension, the taxes are still calculated based on a year that ends with the dropping of the giant disco ball in Times Square. By the time the champagne corks are popped on New Year’s Eve, tax deductions are a done deal and the books are sealed as far as number crunching to reduce tax liability is concerned.

So it is a good idea to take time out from holiday shopping and party-going to double check your taxes – and the potential for real estate related deductions – while there is a chance to take advantage of these. Consult your tax advisor to explore the potential for deductions while you are still within your 2007 tax year. The guidance her or she gives may turn out to the best holiday gift you receive. If you own real estate you are probably entitled to some of the best deductions of all – and if you do not own any property, you might want to buy some, even if you only invest in a house or land for the tax benefits that real estate ownership bestows.

To help inspire you to investigate the subject of real estate tax advantages, you may want to first consider the following information related to taxes and real estate:

• Regardless of whether you own a primary residence, a rental property, or a vacant lot, you probably pay property taxes and dread writing those checks to the tax collector. The good news is that the property taxes you pay on those real estate assets is normally deductible.

• If you pay “points” – those rather high fees charged by lenders in exchange for a lower interest rate – the tax authorities consider those payments a form of prepaid mortgage interest. So if you bought a home in 2007 – or plan to close on one before the New Year – consider buying down your rate and then taking the appropriate deduction.

• Many homeowners refinanced this year, to avoid high adjustable rates. Points paid for those refinanced loans also entitle you to deductions. Rather than taking them in a one-time lump sum, you are allowed to deduct them gradually over the lifetime of the loan. Keep track of those time-released deductions to lower your future tax bills.

• Mortgage interest paid to service the loan on your primary residence is deductible, and you may also qualify for a mortgage interest deduction on a second vacation home as well as any second mortgages or home equity loans you hold.

• Investment property may not qualify for some of the best tax breaks, but it has its own special perks because you can deduct expenses related to your investment business. Keep the receipts for things like repairs, upgrades, or real estate management fees because those may be worth their weight in gold at tax time.

• Perhaps you have a vacation home but rent it out when you aren’t using it. It may qualify as an investment property. For instance, if you only use the home a few days a year, you might be able to deduct the cost of trips to the property. After all, you need to travel to check on the property and its routine upkeep, and those visits may be legitimate deductions – even if they happen to coincide with your vacation time.

• Selling property involves a set of tax rules all its own, and many Baby Boomers are happy to learn about so-called “tax exchanges”. If you sell but quickly reinvest the proceeds to upgrade to a better property, you may be entitled to defer the taxes on those capital gains.

• Another wonderful tax break happens when you buy a home, live in it as your primary residence for at least two years, and then sell for a profit. Learn how to avoid capital gains taxes by timing your moves and you may be able to continually grow your real estate portfolio – while simultaneously avoiding major taxes on equity appreciation.

Plan real estate taxes so that you get the most bang for your buck. For example, you may be able to pay property taxes ahead of time, in order to qualify for the deduction in a year when you need it the most. Or you could schedule the repair of your roof at your beach house or the closing date for your next mortgage, so that it lands within the most advantageous calendar month. Your tax planner can show you ways to deduct and strategies for making taxes work in your favor.

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