Buying a home is often the biggest purchase we make in our lifetime. It can provide financial and income tax benefits, as well as emotional satisfaction. With the buying season just around the corner, potential buyers should get their finances in order and get pre-approved for a mortgage before starting their hunt.
It’s important for buyers to know the tax implications and deductions of becoming a homeowner. Did you know that buying a house can qualify you for breaks on your income tax like tax deductions for mortgage interest, property taxes, and special treatment of gains when the home is sold? You should consult with your tax advisor to get a complete understanding of how the tax laws may apply to your situation.
Let’s take a quick look at the applicable tax credits and deductions when it comes to owning a home. Keep in mind these rules only apply to a personal residence, not an investment property, vacation home, home office or rental unit.
Even though your down payment is not tax deductible, using cash from your retirement plan to fund the down payment can have tax advantages. When you cash out, let the plan administrator know you intention for the distribution. If you are under age 59 ½, you can avoid the early withdrawal penalty if you are a first-time homebuyer and the funds are used for things like buying, building or rebuilding a first home. Keep in mind that even though you avoid the penalty you will still owe taxes on the amount of the distribution.
Closing costs are not deductible. However, be sure to carefully review the escrow settlement statement for deductible items such as property taxes and loan origination fees (points). Keep track of the closing costs associated with any refinancing as these can lower a profit when you sell the home. Points paid in a refinance can be amortized over the life of the loan and deducted on your tax return.
Repairs, Remodeling, Construction Costs
Any repairs, remodeling, and construction costs made to your home are also not deductible unless they are for major improvement such as a new water heater, roof replacement, additions, kitchen remodels, new windows, etc. Non-deductible items include plumbing repairs, maintenance, painting, and cleaning. Do not dispose of any of these receipts while you own the home as all of these expenses can be added to basis to reduce taxable gains when you sell.
So, What Can I Deduct?
Many homeowners find that the amount they pay in interest on their mortgage and annual property taxes is enough to incent them to itemize their deductions. Should you chose to deduct mortgage interest and property taxes, you can use Form 1098 which you will receive in January of each year, showing how much you paid in mortgage interest. If you have an impound account with your mortgage lender, the total amount paid in property taxes will be reflected on this form as well.
Benefits on the Sale of Your Home
For many years, tax laws allowed you to avoid paying capital gain taxes when selling your home only if you rolled over the proceeds into a home that was more expensive. There were also 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 gains on selling your house if you meet certain requirements. Always consult your tax advisor for more details.
The tax benefits of homeownership can be substantial. Always check with a tax expert prior to purchasing your home to make sure you’re getting the tax benefits you’re expecting. Be sure to keep good records regarding the purchase of the home and any improvements you make. 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), always get expert advice to make sure you get the maximum benefits allowed under tax laws.