Becoming a first-time homeowner is a major deal for everyone. You now have a place to call your own, and with that comes a responsibility to look after your investment for the future. For anyone who’s bought a home for the first time last year, you’ll now be filing taxes as a homeowner this April. This is one of the major benefits of becoming a homeowner, as you’ll now be able to take advantage of several tax breaks. Many homeowners miss out on a number of these every year, which is why it pays to know your situation and what you qualify for.
The sooner you start dealing with this, the better. So, to get you prepared, we’ve outlined below everything you need to know about filing taxes as a first-time homeowner.
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What is a Tax Deduction?What is a Tax Deduction?
Tax deductions allow you to reduce your taxable income with the IRS. This lowers the amount you can be taxed on, thus saving you money. There are two options for how you take tax deductions, itemized deductions or standard deductions. The latter comes with less paperwork and is the simplest to take. However, it usually results in having to pay more in taxes. Itemized deductions are a little trickier but may result in more savings. Before taking any itemized deductions, you would be advised to consult a tax attorney to ensure you qualify and file correctly.
You Can Deduct Mortgage Interest and PMIYou Can Deduct Mortgage Interest and PMI
Your deduction on mortgage interest is one of the most valuable tax breaks you can take advantage of. However, since the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 (TCJA), the amount you can deduct has been reduced. Previously, you could deduct the interest paid on up to $1 million in mortgage debt (up to $500,000 if married and filing separately). If you bought a home on or before December 15, 2017, you are still covered by this limit. But if not, then the new limit is $750,000 ($375,000 if married and filing separately). This deduction can be taken out every year you’re paying a mortgage.
For those who took out a home loan with a down payment of less than 20%, you probably have private mortgage insurance (PMI). This can also be deducted, so long as your gross income is less than $100,000 if married or $50,000 if single.
You can Deduct State and Local Taxes.You can Deduct State and Local Taxes.
State and local taxes (SALT) can be deducted from your federal taxes up to a limit of $10,000 as set by the TCJA. This limit includes property taxes that were withheld from your paycheck or made through estimated payments. For anyone paying their taxes through an escrow account, you’ll see the amount you’re paying on your Form 1098. Those who pay their taxes directly to their municipality should hold onto any records of these payments so they can deduct from them.
One important point, you have to itemize to deduct from your SALT, mortgage interest, and PMI payments. This is likely to be beneficial if you live in an expensive, high-tax area (like NYC).
Do You Qualify for Any Property Tax Exemptions?Do You Qualify for Any Property Tax Exemptions?
Many states allow homeowners to qualify for property tax exemptions if they meet the requirements. Most of these are decided on the local level, so you’ll have to check with an assessor to determine what exemptions might be available to you. In NYS, the most common tax exemptions include senior citizens, veterans, persons with disabilities, and agricultural properties.
There’s a Limited Deduction for Home Equity LoansThere’s a Limited Deduction for Home Equity Loans
If you’ve taken out a home equity loan in the past year, you may be able to deduct some of this. However, there are some important restrictions on this. Previously, you could deduct the interest on home equity loans of up to $100,000, regardless of what you used the money for. Now, you can only deduct this interest if the money was solely used for home improvements. This deduction can be made up to $750,000 of qualified residence loans, including your mortgage and home equity loan.
To qualify for this, the home improvements must have raised the appraisal value of your home. The easiest way to prove this is by having an appraisal done before the improvements were done and then getting another done once they’re complete. Simple maintenance or painting a room won’t qualify for this.
Home Office Deduction for Self-Employed OnlyHome Office Deduction for Self-Employed Only
Another change that the TCJA brought was that it eliminated the deduction for reimbursed home office expenses. This is no longer available for employees who work from home for an employer. However, it is still available for those who are self-employed or have any freelance income. So long as you have a part of your home exclusively used for business, you can take advantage of this deduction. To be eligible for this, you only have to do freelance work as a side hustle, and it needn’t be full-time.
You can take this deduction based on either your actual expenses or as a simplified deduction. If you choose to deduct based on your actual expenses, you can deduct a portion of your rent, mortgage interest, homeowner’s insurance, and utilities based on the percentage of your home used as an office. For instance, if your home office takes up 1/10th of the entire square footage of your home, then you can deduct 10% from those expenses.
For those who choose to take a simplified deduction, the process is easier but may come with a lower deduction. This works by deducting $5 per square foot of office space up to a maximum of 300 square feet or $1,500. Before filing your taxes, you should check with a tax professional to see if you meet the strict requirements to take this deduction. You should also consult IRS Publication 587.
Final ThoughtsFinal Thoughts
While we’ve tried our best to lay out all the deductions that a new homeowner should know about, everyone’s situation will differ. Tax laws change all the time, and what was deductible one year may not be in the following year. One part of the responsibility that you’ll accept when you become a homeowner understanding how the IRS taxes you. If this is your first time filing as a homeowner, we recommend that you consult a tax attorney, financial advisor, or other qualified professional. This costs money, but that’ll come back to you through your federal tax return or savings on your tax bill.