Tax Advice: Middle Class Tax Shelters Everyone Can Use, Many Don’t
Many people lose money for years to landlords because they mistakenly believe they cannot afford to buy a home. However, in most cases, these renters are where they are only because they are unaware of all their other options. Most people know that it’s better to put your money into a house that you own than into a rent check you never see again. Some are aware that mortgage payments could actually be fairly close to what they currently pay in rent.
What few people realize are the tax benefits stemming from owning a home can actually save them hundreds of dollars each month. After taking into account these additional savings, which would you choose: giving up a large chunk of your paycheck each month to a landlord for a small apartment, or, for significantly less money, having not just your own home, but also the freedom to take your money out again in the future?
How Tax Benefits Work
Tax benefits from home ownership come in the form of deductions. Come tax time, the amount of money you spent on tax-deductible expenses related to your home financing (many of which are outlined below) is subtracted from the total amount of taxes you owe. Depending on how much you owe and how much you put into your home over the course of a year, home financing could actually result in zero tax liability. That means that your new home may actually bring you a refund check!
For example, assume you owe $12,000 in taxes for the past year, and your mortgage payment is $1,000 per month. In the early years of a mortgage, payments are usually almost entirely for the interest you owe on your home loan. Mortgage interest payments are tax-deductible, so from this one deduction alone, you now owe $12,000 less in taxes—which brings the total amount you owe the government to zero. If your employer withholds taxes from your paycheck, you will receive a refund check for the tax you overpaid.
Tax Benefits for All Mortgages
– If you own property, then you pay property taxes. These are always fully tax-deductible.
– Points on a home mortgage are fully deductible.
Tax Benefits for New Mortgages
– As mentioned earlier, the payments you make in the early years of a home financing loan generally go straight to interest. The principal, or actual amount of the original loan does not start to go down until later in the loan period. This means that early on, you can deduct most, if not all, of an entire year of mortgage payments.
– Both late and early payment fees charged by your lender are considered interest and can be deducted.
– Many tax benefits available in the first year of your mortgage are not available later on. It is always a good idea to go over your situation with an accountant to be sure you do not miss any opportunities for savings. These first-year tax benefits include moving expenses and capital gains.
Tax Benefits for Refinancing a Current Mortgage
– If you are refinancing in order to make improvements to your property, then the interest is deductible. Anything that could reasonably improve your property value—from fixing the driveway to adding on an entire new story—counts.
– Interest on refinanced mortgages that are taken out for expenses not related to home improvement can also be taken as a deduction, but only within certain guidelines. Currently, the maximum deduction for the life of the loan is $100,000. (Married couples filing separately each have a maximum of $50,000.)
– Points on a refinanced home mortgage are still tax-deductible in most cases.
Benefits Beyond Tax Savings
No one would complain over having a few extra dollars in their pocket. Not only can financing your home save money on your next tax return, but it can also save money on purchases made using money received from refinancing a mortgage (or simply money not lost to rent). In fact, paying off credit cards after financing can be one of the smartest financial moves you can ever make—especially if you keep those cards paid off.
Consider that even the worst mortgage interest rates can be at least ten or twenty percentage points lower than those for the average credit card. People with poor credit are often better off with a higher mortgage interest rate if it means their other debt can be reduced, thereby bringing their credit score up. After re-establishing their credit, they can then refinance their home at a better interest rate.