#TaxTipTuesday-Be sure to claim all the home-related tax breaks you’re entitled to

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Saving tax with home-related deductions and exclusions

Currently, home ownership comes with many tax-saving opportunities. Consider both deductions and exclusions when you’re filing your 2016 return and tax planning for 2017:

Property tax deduction. Property tax is generally fully deductible — unless you’re subject to the alternative minimum tax (AMT).

Mortgage interest deduction. You generally can deduct interest on up to a combined total of $1 million of mortgage debt incurred to purchase, build or improve your principal residence and a second residence. Points paid related to your principal residence also may be deductible.

Home equity debt interest deduction. Interest on home equity debt used for any purpose (debt limit of $100,000) may be deductible. But keep in mind that, if home equity debt isn’t used for home improvements, the interest isn’t deductible for AMT purposes.

Mortgage insurance premium deduction. This break expired December 31, 2016, but Congress might extend it.

Home office deduction. If your home office use meets certain tests, you generally can deduct a portion of your mortgage interest, property taxes, insurance, utilities and certain other expenses, and the depreciation allocable to the space. Or you may be able to use a simplified method for claiming the deduction.

Rental income exclusion. If you rent out all or a portion of your principal residence or second home for less than 15 days, you don’t have to report the income. But expenses directly associated with the rental, such as advertising and cleaning, won’t be deductible.

Home sale gain exclusion. When you sell your principal residence, you can exclude up to $250,000 ($500,000 for married couples filing jointly) of gain if you meet certain tests. Be aware that gain allocable to a period of “nonqualified” use generally isn’t excludable.

Debt forgiveness exclusion. This break for homeowners who received debt forgiveness in a foreclosure, short sale or mortgage workout for a principal residence expired December 31, 2016, but Congress might extend it.

The debt forgiveness exclusion and mortgage insurance premium deduction aren’t the only home-related breaks that might not be available in the future. There have been proposals to eliminate other breaks, such as the property tax deduction, as part of tax reform.

Whether such changes will be signed into law and, if so, when they’d go into effect is uncertain. Also keep in mind that additional rules and limits apply to these breaks. So contact us for information on the latest tax reform developments or which home-related breaks you’re eligible to claim.

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6 financial tips to follow when a spouse dies

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The death of a spouse is emotionally and financially devastating. Making decisions of any kind is difficult when you’re vulnerable and grieving, but having a plan to follow may help. Here are suggestions for dealing with financial tasks.

 
1. Wait to make major decisions. Put off selling your house, moving in with your grown children, giving everything away, liquidating your investments, or buying new financial products.

 
2. Get expert help. Ask your attorney to interpret and explain the will and/or applicable law and implement the estate settlement. Talk to your accountant about financial moves and necessary tax documents. Call on your insurance company to help with filing and collecting death benefits.

 
3. Assemble paperwork. Documents you’ll need include your spouse’s birth certificate, social security card, insurance policies, loan and lease agreements, investment statements, mortgages and deeds, retirement plan information, credit cards and credit card statements, employment and partnership agreements, divorce agreements, funeral directives, safe deposit box information, tax returns, and the death certificate.

 
4. Determine who must be paid, and when. You’ll need to notify creditors and continue paying mortgages, car loans, credit cards, utilities, and insurance premiums. Notify health insurance companies and the Social Security Administration, and cancel your spouse’s memberships and subscriptions.

 
5. Alert credit reporting agencies. Request the addition of a “deceased notice” and a “do not issue credit” statement to the decedent’s file. Order credit reports, which will provide a complete record of your spouse’s open credit cards.

 
6. Determine what payments are due to you, such as insurance proceeds, social security or veteran’s benefits, and pension payouts. File claims where needed.

Why record keeping is a good idea when renting all or part of your home

bookkeepingAre you thinking of signing up with one of those websites that link travelers to property owners with space to spare? If you plan to offer for rent all or part of your main home, establishing sound recordkeeping procedures from day one is a good idea.

 
In addition to a bookkeeping system to track the income and expenses related to your rental, a calendar detailing the days your home was rented will be useful at tax time. The reason? Deductible expenses may be limited when rented property is also your personal residence. Having a written record helps determine which tax-reporting rules apply.

 
For example, say you rent your primary home to a vacationer for 15 days or more during a year. All of the rental income is taxable. However, expenses such as interest, property taxes, utility costs, and depreciation are split between the time your property was rented for a fair rental price and the days you used it personally. The portion related to the rental is deductible up to the amount of your rental income.

 
What if you have rental expenses in excess of your rental income? You may be able to carry them forward to next year.

 
Different rules apply when your home is rented for less than 15 days, and when the property you offer for rent is your vacation home or timeshare. Please contact our office. We’ll help you plan a tax-efficient rental program.