A Beginner’s Guide to Tax Credits and Deductions for Homeowners

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It’s tax time and if you’ve purchased a home, there are a few things to know about tax credits and deductions for homeowners.

By Seve Kale

If you’ve recently purchased a home in 2015 or 2016, you’ve probably heard about the tax credits and deductions available for homeowners.

“Tax-wise, this is a good time to buy – homeownership offers tax breaks that renters do not have,” says Yvette D. Best, CEO of Best Services Unlimited LLC, an income tax preparation firm in Fayetteville, Ga.

Though the thought of itemizing your taxes and figuring out what you qualify for may be intimidating, we’ve talked to the experts to come up with this helpful guide.

Mortgage Interest Write-Off

Let’s start with the basics: mortgage interest deductions.

According to TurboTax.com, the biggest tax break for most homeowners comes from deducting mortgage interest.  If you itemize, you can usually deduct the interest on a mortgage used to acquire a main or secondary home.

Mortgage Points

“In addition to the commonly known write-off for home mortgage interest, there are other deductions and credits for new homeowners,” says Amanda Kendall, president of True Resolve Tax, based in Northglenn, Colo. “In some instances, when buying a new home, you pay what is known as points (origination points and discount points), that the IRS views as being prepaid interest. They can be written off along with your mortgage interest,” Kendall says.

This deduction may be worth thousands. “The return on your investment is two-fold — you get to deduct the cost of the points and the amount paid in interest in the same year as the home purchase,” adds Best.

First-Time Buyers

“As a first-time buyer, the IRS will allow you to withdraw an amount up to $10,000 from an IRA (traditional or ROTH) penalty-free to help with the purchase of a home,” says Kendall. If you’re married, you and your spouse can withdraw a total for $20,000 penalty-free. You are also allowed a $10,000 withdrawal to buy or build for a spouse, kids, grandchildren or parents.

Property Taxes

You can also write off property taxes as an itemized deduction. However, if you’re using an escrow account to pay your taxes, you can’t deduct payments into that account as real estate taxes. “Homeowners often make the mistake of deducting the wrong year’s property taxes — this deduction is allowed in the year the taxes are actually paid,” says Kendall.

Energy Incentives

If your new home is built with energy-efficient appliances and/or energy-efficient technology, you are likely eligible for a tax credit. Green technology such as geothermal heat pumps, small wind turbines and solar energy systems make you eligible for a tax credit of 30 percent of their cost, while a credit of up to $500 is available for energy-efficient HVAC systems, windows or doors.

Home Rentals or Improvements

If you’ve done any renovating, keep your receipts. All improvements will be added to the purchase price of your home. If you track your home-related expenses, you can reduce the capital gains amount you must pay tax on when you decide to sell. “These days, with AirBnB, homeowners may rent their home out or rent a room, in which case all expenses related to the house can be deducted against rental income,” says Ryan Saltz, a licensed tax professional at Jacksonville, Fla.-based Tax Defense Network, LLC.

This guide only covers a few of the deductions available to homeowners, so sure to do your research. “If you take a credit you’re not allowed to take, the IRS is going to make you pay it back, but not before they add interest and penalties,” says Kendall. She recommends consulting with a tax professional.

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