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Homeowner's Taxes: FAQs

  1. Are taxes on a second home deductible?
  2. How do I save on taxes?
  3. How do property taxes work?
  4. Are property taxes deductible?
  5. Where can I learn more about appealing my property taxes?
  6. What home-buying costs are deductible?
  7. Can you deduct the cost of home improvements?
  8. Are the costs of natural disasters deductible?

Are taxes on a second home deductible?

Mortgage interest and property taxes are deductible on a second home if you itemize. Check with your accountant or tax adviser for specifics.

How do I save on taxes?

  • Mortgage interest on loans up to $1 million is completely deductible for the year in which you pay it to buy, build or improve your principal residence plus a second home.
  • Points, or loan origination fees, also are deductible no matter who pays them, the buyer or the seller.
  • Most homeowners, except the wealthy and those living in high-priced markets, no longer need to worry about capital gains taxes. The exemption has been raised to $500,000 for married couples and $250,000 for single owners. It can be taken every two years. Homeowners should always keep all receipts of permanent home improvements and of mortgage closing costs. If you do have to pay capital gains taxes, these costs can be added to your adjusted cost basis. Consult your tax adviser for more information.

How do property taxes work?

Property taxes are what most homeowners in the United States pay for the privilege of owning a piece of real estate, on average 1.5 percent of the property's current market value. These annual local assessments by county or local authorities help pay for public services and are calculated using a variety of formulas.

Are property taxes deductible?

Property taxes on all real estate, including those levied by state and local governments and school districts, are fully deductible against current income taxes.

Where can I learn more about appealing my property taxes?

Contact your local tax assessor's office to see what procedures to follow to appeal your property tax assessment. You may be able to appeal your assessment informally. Mostly likely, however, you will have to go through a formal tax-appeal processes, which begin with an appeal filed with the appropriate assessment appeals board.

What home-buying costs are deductible?

Any points you or the seller pay to purchase your home loan are deductible for that year. Property taxes and interest are deductible every year.

But while other home-buying costs (closing costs in particular) are not immediately tax-deductible, they can be figured into the adjusted cost basis of your home when you go to sell (any significant home improvements also can be calculated into your basis). These fees would include title insurance, loan-application fee, credit report, appraisal fee, service fee, settlement or closing fees, bank attorney's fee, attorney's fee, document preparation fee and recording fees. Points paid when you refinance an existing mortgage must be deducted ratably over the life of the new loan.

Can you deduct the cost of home improvements?

What you spend on permanent home improvements, such as new windows, can be added into your home's cost basis, or amount of money invested in a home, which reduces capital gains when it comes time to sell. Capital gains are determined by the difference in price from the time a home is purchased and the time it is sold, minus the cost of any permanent improvements.

However, the 1997 tax changes virtually eliminates the capital gains tax for most homeowners (the exemption is $250,000 for single homeowners and $500,000 for married homeowners.).

Still, it is worthwhile to save all receipts for permanent home improvements just in case. They also can be useful documentation when it comes to marketing your home when you sell.

Are the costs of natural disasters deductible?

Damage, destruction or loss of property from fires, floods, earthquakes and other disasters are deductible from both state and federal income taxes. In such a case, the IRS only allows a deduction less than or equal to the fair-market value of the property before the disaster.

Losses on the sale of your own home are not deductible, though they are deductible for rental properties.