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Serving South Florida

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For over 35 years

Overlooked Home Tax Deductions for 2011

Many tax breaks accompany homeownership, and noting each can add thousands of dollars to an IRS tax refund.

There are a wide variety of tax breaks available to existing homeowners and first-time homebuyers, says Mark Steber, chief tax officer, Jackson Hewitt Tax Service, Inc. Speaking with a local, knowledgeable tax preparer can help ensure taxpayers take advantage of all the home ownership-related credits and deductions for which they are eligible.

There are several tax breaks available covering home-related areas:

Mortgage Interest:

The amount of mortgage interest paid on a principal residence or second home is deductible and generally reported on Form 1098. Taxpayers can also deduct all the points paid to purchase or refinance the residence, even if the seller has paid some.

If certain requirements are met, the points may be deducted in full in the year paid. Otherwise, they may be deducted over the life of the mortgage. Seller-paid points that taxpayers claim as an itemized deduction reduce the cost basis of the home.

Home Basis:

Most of the expenses incurred when buying a home are not deductible. However, there are certain closing costs that can be added to the basis of a residence. Keeping track of the basis is important because, when selling, it’s needed to calculate any gain or loss.

Property Taxes:

Taxpayers may deduct real estate property taxes in the year paid. Taxpayers may also be able to deduct some of the taxes paid during closing. The taxes must be the responsibility of, and paid by, the taxpayer.

Energy Credits:

Taxpayers get energy credits available for making energy efficient changes to a home. For 2011, the credit is limited to 10 percent of the cost of improvements, up to a lifetime total of $500. The credit will be further limited for each category of Improvement.

Home Improvements:

Home improvements are not generally deductible on a tax return. However, the cost of improvements is added to the basis of the home and helps keep any gain, at time of sale, below the $250,000 ($500,000 if married filing jointly) exclusion amount.

Short Sales and Foreclosures:

There are also tax breaks for owners facing a foreclosure or short sale. Foreclosures and short sales are treated as both a home sale and a canceled debt. When the house is a taxpayer’s primary residence, and they have lived in and owned the home for two of the last five years, any gain up to $500,000 on the disposition is tax-exempt. In addition, the canceled debt (mortgage still owed) is excluded from taxable income for 2011, as long as it is less than $2 million and is for the taxpayer’s principal residence.

It is best to consult with your tax professional about which deductions you can claim for this year.