Didn’t Get Your Economic Stimulus Payment? Maybe the IRS Has the Wrong Address!

The Internal Revenue Service owes nearly $4 million to South Florida residents alone, courtesy of unclaimed tax refunds and economic stimulus checks.  I don’t know what the nationwide number is, but it’s got to be huge.

I cannot for the life of me understand why someone who hasn’t gotten their payment yet isn’t jumping up and down screaming, and trying to find the reason.    For many of those people it’s a pretty stupid reason, too.

Bad mailing addresses.

Come on, people!  We’re talking hundreds, and in some cases thousands of dollars!  If you’ve moved in the past few years MAKE SURE THE IRS KNOWS YOUR ADDRESS!

Excuse me.  Stupidity makes me insane.

And if you’re one of these people, you have Just four days remain to correct an address with the IRS so that the agency can reissue the checks.  Taxpayers expecting an economic stimulus check must have their addresses updated with the IRS by Friday so that the checks can be reissued by Dec. 31. Taxpayers expecting regular refunds have more time to claim their refund but must contact the IRS to update their addresses.

There are ways for taxpayers to update mailing information:

1. Via the IRS Web site: www.irs.gov. Taxpayers without Internet access should call 1-800-234-2942.

2.  Visit your local IRS office.

3.  Check with the United Way in your area to see if they offer taxpayer assistance.

Please, go get your money folks!

Edited to add some helful links:

My Economic Stimulus Check Didn’t Arrive When Promised!

My Economic Stimulus Check Didn’t Include Money for My Kids!

Your Economic Stimulus Check Didn’t Include Money For Your Kids? You’re Getting Another Check!

Didn’t get the amount you were supposed to get for your kids? You may be getting another check! Click here for info!

When will your economic stimulus payment arrive?

Frequently Asked Questions: Received the Stimulus Payment?

Economic Stimulus Calculator – Or How Much to Expect

To List the House or Not List the House, That is the Question

We were sooooooooo close.

We were so close to listing the house.

We’d decided against a realtor and for a listing service, which would give us a realtor-quality listing that would stay up until we sold the house.

We’d started packing and put items in storage to make the rooms feel bigger.

We’d taken the photos of clean and de-cluttered rooms.

We’d snuck onto realtor.com looking at houses in Georgia.

We’ve even come up with a list of Twenty Things to Do Before We Buy a House.

We were one day away from listing the house when the floor – a.k.a. the economy, fell out from under us.

Banks aren’t lending money. Credit card companies are reducing credit limits, affecting credit scores for even those with excellent credit histories.

Car dealerships are closing because no one is spending money to buy cars, and banks won’t give car loans to those few who do.

Now we’re unsure what to do. If we find someone willing to buy our house they probably won’t be able to get a loan, at least until banks start lending money again.

And if we do sell the house Husband has to find a job in Georgia before we buy a new place. After all, no lender is going to give us a mortgage with no income. And in this economy advertising agencies are laying people off, not doing much in the way of hiring…

On the other hand, no one’s going to even want to buy our house if they don’t know it’s for sale. I’m also thinking that sitting on the market for awhile will not have the same stigma it has had in the past. Almost all houses are languishing, aren’t they?

So, what’s the smart decision? Do we list the house and take those risks? Do we put it on the market even though no one is buying and we’re uncertain about the future of everything?

Or do we wait, for our home value to decrease more, staying in a place we don’t want to be, and wait for things to get better while we sit here uncertain about the future of everything?

Stay tuned.

The IRS Increases Business, Moving and Medical Expense Mileage Rates

I may faint.

The IRS actually saw a need to provide some tax relief and it didn’t take an act of Congress to implement it.

Starting July 1st, the IRS is increasing the the allowable business deductible for business vehicles from 50.5 to 58.5 cents per mile.  The optional business standard mileage rate is used to compute the deductible costs of operating an automobile for business use in lieu of tracking actual costs. This rate is also used as a benchmark by the federal government and many businesses to reimburse their employees for mileage.

The IRS is also going to raise the rate for calculating computing deductible medical or moving expenses from 19 cents to 27 cents a mile, also starting July 1st. The rate for charity services, requiring an act of law to change it, remains at 14 cents per mile.  Hey, nobody’s perfect.

Mileage Rate Changes

Purpose

Rates 1/1 through 6/30/08

Rates 7/1 through 12/31/08

Business

50.5

58.5

Medical/Moving

19

27

Charitable

14

14

Taxpayers always have the option of calculating the actual costs of using their vehicle rather than using the standard mileage rates.

For more information read the IRS press realease.

As always, please remember that I am not an expert on finance, or an accountant. I’m just an accountant’s daughter. So, please, please, please contact your accountant for expert advice.

Your Economic Stimulus Check Didn’t Include Money For Your Kids? You’re Getting Another Check!

The IRS has updated it’s FAQ’s to provide information for those whose Economic Stimulus Check didn’t include money for their kids, or sent the incorrect amount.  This is right from the IRS website:


Q. I received my stimulus payment and it didn’t include money for my kids. Does the IRS plan to send me an additional check?

A: Yes. The Internal Revenue Service will mail out approximately 350,000 additional economic stimulus payments starting in early July after discovering that some tax returns were improperly filed and did not capture the information needed to generate the $300 in qualifying child payments.

In some instances, taxpayers did not check the proper box to trigger the $300 child payment. In other instances, a few tax software products primarily used by tax professionals did not capture the proper information needed for issuing the child stimulus payment.

To fix the problem, the IRS is taking extra steps to identify the affected taxpayers and send them separate checks to cover their qualifying children. The IRS emphasized that the corrected checks will be mailed automatically, and taxpayers don’t need to call or take any additional steps.

The vast majority of tax returns with child payments were completed accurately by taxpayers, tax professionals and software providers. The IRS estimates that more than 99 percent of nearly 36 million returns eligible for child stimulus payments were filled out accurately by taxpayers, meaning that less than 1 percent will need the additional check mail-outs.

The additional payments involving qualifying children will be made starting in early July. These payments will be made by paper check, even if people received their regular tax refund or initial stimulus payment by direct deposit.

Taxpayers in this situation received — or will receive in the next few weeks — stimulus payments falling $300 short per eligible child.

The additional checks will be mailed as the regular weekly round of stimulus payments wrap up in early July. The regular stimulus payment timetable will not be affected by these additional checks.

The issue with the child payments involves the Child Tax Credit checkbox on line 6c, column (4) on Form 1040 and Form 1040A.

For the stimulus payments, IRS systems look for information in the checkbox area to generate the $300 qualifying child stimulus payment. In instances involving paper returns, taxpayers did not check this box when completing their return. In some instances, tax software may not have checked this box, meaning the $300 payment was not triggered.

The IRS has worked closely with the two affected software vendors on this. The IRS appreciates the willingness of these firms to help identify the problem. They have reported to the IRS that their software has been corrected.

The majority of the tax software issues involve commercial versions used by tax professionals and tax preparers. Included are Petz Enterprises’ professional and on-line software as well as ProSystems fx Tax software and on-line CompleteTax software from CCH.

Taxpayers with questions about whether they are affected can contact their tax preparer or software provider.

For taxpayers who haven’t filed a tax return yet, the IRS urges them to update their tax software before filing to ensure proper handling of their economic stimulus payment. Paper filers should make sure to review the eligibility requirements for qualifying children and check the box on line 6c, column (4) if appropriate.

I understand that kinks have to be worked out, and mistakes happen.  But mistakes cost money, both to the government (and, ultimately, you and me) as they correct them, and to the taxpayers who took the word of their government and counted on the money being there when their government said they would.

This is why I don’t count my chickens before they’re hatched.

My Economic Stimulus Check Didn’t Include Money for My Kids!

Many of you reading my article My Economic Stimulus Check Didn’t Arrive When Promised are saying that you did receive your Economic Stimulus check, but it didn’t include the $300 per child at all, or it didn’t give you $300 for every child you have.

The IRS has now acknowledged that this is in fact a “systemic” error, meaning it a problem with the way the affected returns were processed, and that it affects many taxpayers.

The IRS says the problem occurs when taxpayers complete their return incorrectly or a glitch in some tax software programs.

The IRS frequently asked questions page has been updated with this news:

Q. I received my stimulus payment and it didn’t include money for my kids. Does the IRS plan to send me an additional check?

A: Yes. The Internal Revenue Service will mail out approximately 350,000 additional economic stimulus payments starting in early July after discovering that some tax returns were improperly filed and did not capture the information needed to generate the $300 in qualifying child payments.

In some instances, taxpayers did not check the proper box to trigger the $300 child payment. In other instances, a few tax software products primarily used by tax professionals did not capture the proper information needed for issuing the child stimulus payment.

To fix the problem, the IRS is taking extra steps to identify the affected taxpayers and send them separate checks to cover their qualifying children. The IRS emphasized that the corrected checks will be mailed automatically, and taxpayers don’t need to call or take any additional steps.

The vast majority of tax returns with child payments were completed accurately by taxpayers, tax professionals and software providers. The IRS estimates that more than 99 percent of nearly 36 million returns eligible for child stimulus payments were filled out accurately by taxpayers, meaning that less than 1 percent will need the additional check mail-outs.

The additional payments involving qualifying children will be made starting in early July. These payments will be made by paper check, even if people received their regular tax refund or initial stimulus payment by direct deposit.

Taxpayers in this situation received — or will receive in the next few weeks — stimulus payments falling $300 short per eligible child.

The additional checks will be mailed as the regular weekly round of stimulus payments wrap up in early July. The regular stimulus payment timetable will not be affected by these additional checks.

The issue with the child payments involves the Child Tax Credit checkbox on line 6c, column (4) on Form 1040 and Form 1040A.

For the stimulus payments, IRS systems look for information in the checkbox area to generate the $300 qualifying child stimulus payment. In instances involving paper returns, taxpayers did not check this box when completing their return. In some instances, tax software may not have checked this box, meaning the $300 payment was not triggered.

The IRS has worked closely with the two affected software vendors on this. The IRS appreciates the willingness of these firms to help identify the problem. They have reported to the IRS that their software has been corrected.

The majority of the tax software issues involve commercial versions used by tax professionals and tax preparers. Included are Petz Enterprises’ professional and on-line software as well as ProSystems fx Tax software and on-line CompleteTax software from CCH.

Taxpayers with questions about whether they are affected can contact their tax preparer or software provider.

For taxpayers who haven’t filed a tax return yet, the IRS urges them to update their tax software before filing to ensure proper handling of their economic stimulus payment. Paper filers should make sure to review the eligibility requirements for qualifying children and check the box on line 6c, column (4) if appropriate.

So, there’s an answer for you. I hope your check arrives quickly!

And in other IRS snafu news, Apparently the IRS may have deposited your payment into someone else’s account. Sorry, but if you got someone else’s payment you do not get to keep it. You should contact the IRS immediately.

They make lots of other errors, too.

The IRS has gotten the vast, vast majority of checks to people when they’re supposed to get there. If you’re not one of that vast, vast majority, though, that’s no comfort, is it?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Update 6.16.2008 – The IRS knows it messed up on the kids.  They’re sending out more checks.  Click here for more info!

My Economic Stimulus Check Didn’t Arrive When Promised!

Every morning this week I’ve turned on my computer and immediately went to my bank’s website to see if our Economic Stimulus check was deposited yet (Is that anal? My friend says it is. I don’t think so. Do you?). Every morning I’ve been disappointed. Well, except for Wednesday when our tax refund was deposited. I did a little happy dance that day.

Husband was irritated because we “should have been in the first wave,” but I reassured him that the published schedule promises our payment no later than May 2nd. There’s still time.

Yesterday morning I went through the same routine but could not connect to my bank’s website. Their server must have been temporarily down – all those people checking to see if their money arrived. I had to leave home to do the World’s Biggest De-cluttering Job to get my Dad’s house ready for it’s first official showing, so I wasn’t near a computer again until 8pm last night.

As expected, the first thing I did when I sat down at my computer was to check to see if our Economic Stimulus check was deposited yet.

It wasn’t.

Dadgummit!!! Where the heck is our money?

So I did a little research and found out:

If you file your taxes after April 15th yours will not go out until at least May 9th.

Well, I filed before the 15th.

If you had any fees taken out of your initial refund (like their processing fee like many people do), you’ll get a paper check.

Nope. No fees. It pays to be The Accountant’s Daughter.

Then I found this little tidbit on the Stimulus Payment Schedule:

“A small percentage of tax returns will require additional time to process and to compute a stimulus payment amount. For these returns, stimulus payments may not be issued in accordance with the schedule above, even if the tax return was processed by April 15.”

Aha! There’s an exception to every rule. Apparently I’m it.

(Why can’t I be the exception for something fun? For example, why can’t I be the one who can eat and eat and not gain weight? Why can’t I be the one who can wear really high heels and not have them kill my feet? Why can’t I be the one that enjoys cleaning? Noooooooooo. I get to be the one who doesn’t get my money when almost everyone else does. Lucky me.)

The delay is likely because even though I am a Stay at Home Mom I did do some work last year and earned about $2000. And I declared it as income to our freelance Sole Proprietorship, so my situation may not easily fit into one of their computation formulas.

It’s great to be special.

But wait!

I went to the IRS website again this morning because PaidTwice mentioned in a post that you can go there to find out when to expect your Economic Stimulus check.

I found on the IRS website, but in a different spot than the above info (and wouldn’t it be nice if all of the pertinent information was in the same location?):

In general, the payment schedule only applies if your return was received and the IRS finished processing your return before April 15. If you filed your return on time, but close to the April 15 deadline, the IRS may not have finished processing it before April 15.

Processing times for tax returns and stimulus payments vary. If you are getting a regular income-tax refund, the IRS will send you that refund first. Normally, your stimulus payment will follow one to two weeks later.

Ahhh. Well, I did file before April 15th. On the 13th, to be exact.

So it looks like my little morning ritual will have to last awhile longer. And I’ll lose out on a little interest income.

But I’m still special, right?

~

Edited to add some helful links:

Didn’t get the amount you were supposed to get for your kids? You may be getting another check! Click here for info!

When will your economic stimulus payment arrive?

Frequently Asked Questions: Received the Stimulus Payment?

Economic Stimulus Calculator – Or How Much to Expect

I am a Stay at Home Mom. Here’s How I Finagled My Finances to Make It Happen.

The biggest decision Husband and I have made regarding our lifestyle and finances was for me to stay home with Son. That meant a 50 percent cut in our income, but we thought about it quite a bit before Son was even a twinkle in Husband’s eye, and we planned ahead.

Here’s how we made it happen:

1. We did the math. We thought out what expenses we’d be able to cut/save if I stayed home and which would go up. Daycare was easily the biggest expense we’d be able to forgo. We’d also save on gas to and from work, eating out (lunches and dinner) dry cleaning and income taxes (hello lower tax bracket!). We’d see an increase in electricity, water and groceries (now that I’d be cooking more), not to mention all of the new expenses for the baby (healthcare, food, diapers, etc.). Having more than one child can have a huge impact, too. My income was such that we’d still be losing a huge chunk of income, but for some people I know staying home made very little difference in their bottom line. Check out this great second income calculator to help you figure out how much your second salary really brings.

2. Cut unnecessary expenses. I stopped getting my nails done and cut out my daily Dunkin’ Donuts coffee stop. We both started bringing our lunch to work more, and we looked to cut our cable bill and other bills to get what we wanted, but not more than we needed.

3. Started to live just on Husband’s income. Since we knew we wanted to start trying for kids right away we began doing this a few months after we were married (I wish I’d started sooner). We did (do) dip into it occasionally, but we wanted to get used to the idea of living just on his income.

4. Changed our insurances. Instead of the better PPO health plan we went with the HMO, saving us several hundred dollars per month. And we pray for no serious health issues.

5. Paid off or set aside money for big recurring expenses. While I was still working we paid off some life insurance we had so we wouldn’t get that bill when I wasn’t working, and we got a discount on the premiums by doing so (and an extra tax bill, but still worth it). We set aside three years’ property tax payments and a few other once-a-year payments (just in case).

6. Made sure cars and appliances were in good condition. We didn’t want to be saddled with a car payment or large appliance replacement at least for the first three years. We had our mechanic check our cars (which were paid off), bought a new dishwasher and set aside money to replace our AC unit (we did have to replace it) and our dryer (still kicking).

7. Decided to stop adding money to retirement plans. Except for Husband’s 401k (he gets matching funds, and we never throw away free money), we stopped contributing to our IRAs. We decided we’d likely need the money to live on, and when son went to school and I started working again during school hours we’d be able to make up for the lost time.

8. Get more freelance work. Husband is a graphic designer, an occupation very conducive to freelancing. This extra income would (has) allow us to make up for any shortfalls, and give us treats such as vacations and iPods and flat screen monitors.

9. Found alternative sources of income. When opportunity knocks we invite it in. I find bargains and re-sell them, take surveys, participate in market research, and took a temporary job working for Husband’s Uncle (very lucrative, but only lasted a few months, dadgummit!). A friend of mine makes extra money providing after school care for neighborhood kids. We also speculated that Husband would be getting a raise or two, but we didn’t count on it. He has gotten several raises and bonuses (though his Christmas bonus this year was a bit unsatisfying), and they’ve certainly helped!

Thanks to this plan we were able to put much of my salary into savings, creating a nice cushion for what we knew would be “the lean years”. Now, nearly four years later, it’s been a rousing success.

If becoming a Stay at Home Mom or Dad is what you want to do, take a look at your own life and see what’s possible.

I highly recommend it.

Twenty Things to Do Before We Buy a House

I’ve spent lots of time thinking about selling our home here and moving to another state. The market is worse here than almost anywhere else in the country (we also boast having the highest foreclosure rate – don’t be jealous!), so it doesn’t look like it’s happening anytime too soon.

Still, it’s good to have a plan, and I have plenty of time to come up with one.

When Husband and I are finally ready to start looking for a house in our new home state there are a few things we will be sure to do, some of which we didn’t do in out first home buying process.

Before We Start Looking

These are things we will do before we actually go see any houses.

1. Familiarize ourselves with the area. We are still debating on whether or not to rent for at least six months first. I know it’s a good idea, but the thought of moving and doing it all again six months or a year later is so unsavory. On the other hand, it would give us time to really know the area, and not have to rely on the recommendations of friends and family whose preferences may not be the same as ours.

2. Know our credit score. We’ll be making sure our credit reports are accurate. We’re not planning on getting pre-approvals, as we don’t want anyone pulling our credit (and thus lowering our credit score) until we’ve chosen a lender. By knowing our score and income, and given our complete lack of debt at that point (our only debt is the mortgage on our house here), we can get a good idea of what interest rate we will realistically qualify for, and what kind of mortgages are available to us.

3. Know how much house we want to buy. We are huge proponents of living below our means, and just because a lender is willing to lend us $300,000 doesn’t mean that’s how much we want to borrow. Our goal is to take the equity (falling every day) we have in our current house and try to keep our mortgage payments about the same as they are now. Our mortgage is currently 12% of Husband’s income, but we know we’ll be taking a pretty big salary cut when we move. We’d like to keep the mortgage at 25% of his income or less. We won’t know our exact numbers until we sell this house and Husband gets a new job.

4. Compile a list of requirements. Our list is broken down into Must Have, Preferred and Wishes. We Must Have at least 3 bedrooms, but a 4th is Preferred. A Den or other Bonus room is one of our Wishes. So is having a laundry room on the second floor. You get the idea.

5. Hire a buyers agent. This is one of the most important things we’ll do this time that we didn’t do last time. There are seller’s agents, buyer’s agents and dual agents (represent both sellers and buyers). When buying a home I’m going to have a buyer’s agent. A buyer’s agent is ethically required to do what’s in our best interest in the real estate transaction. They represent us and only us, and cannot be in collusion with the seller and/or his or her agent. We won’t be afraid to sign a non-exclusive contract, but we’ll be sure to read and understand it first. An experienced buyer’s agent is going to understand the market, know where the bargains are and know how to whittle 1000 possible listings down to the five to ten that most meet our requirements. They won’t try to push their own listings on us; no trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. That will save us tons of time, tons of money, and tons of stress.

6. Do our own research. We’ll look on the internet for information about the neighborhood, schools, crime. Sites like Homefair are chock full of useful information. We’ll also check the property appraisers website to get an idea of property taxes in the area we’re looking. Some areas (like the one in which we live) give homestead exemptions and longevity discounts that can make the current owner’s taxes artificially low, so we’ll want to make sure we’re getting an accurate picture of the taxes we’ll have to pay.

7. Get insurance quotes. They won’t be accurate, but if we can get an agent to give us an idea of the rates for the area we’re considering and the types of policies we’ll need (i.e. is it a special flood hazard area, necessitating flood insurance?) we can use the information as a factor in our decision.

Items to Bring When Looking At Houses

1. A Scorecard. We’ll use our Required/Preferred/Wish lists to make a scorecard for each house to help us keep track of the houses we’ve seen and for comparison purposes later.

2. A digital camera, an extra data card and extra batteries. We’ll take pictures of the neighborhood, the outside, views from the front and back doors, interior features we like, interior features we don’t like.

3. A cell phone charger. We can use this small electrical appliance to test electrical outlets. Oh, yes.

4. A tape measure. Will our furniture fit? How much wall space is there? How big of a refrigerator can I buy for the space? All good things to know.

5. Bottled Water. I don’t want to waste time having to stop for drinks.

6. Hand Sanitizer. I’m allergic to cats. And if a house looks dirty I’ll definitely want to use some. Blech.

Before We Put An Offer In

We hope to narrow it down to three houses, depending on the market and what’s going on with it. In some cases we may do these things after we put in the offer, but only if we have sufficient “outs” built into the contract.

1. Visit the neighborhood at different times of day. A neighborhood that seems quiet at 11am might transform into a noisy, motorcycle club and roving-teen-filled mecca at night. We’ll check out the neighborhood at random times of day -and week – to make sure it fits with our preferences. Another thing we’ll do is look for all of the ways to access the neighborhood so we can see the surrounding areas and any potential problem areas.

2. Talk to our prospective neighbors. We’ll go up and knock on the door. It’s not a time to be shy. These people will be living next to us for many years to come, and if they open the door and clouds of marijuana pour out we may want to reconsider our choice. You may not. Different strokes. We’ll ask about crime, difficult neighbors, renters, worrisome animals (a friend lives next door to a menagerie of very stinky, more-comfortable-on-a-farm-than-in-a-subdivision-type animals). What do they like best about the neighborhood? Worst?

3. Do more of our own research. We’ll check out the property appraiser’s website to get information about taxes and home sale prices. We can find out how many times the house has changed hands and how much was paid, and lots of other useful information that’s all available for free. Knowing how much someone paid for a home can be extremely useful when negotiating price.

4. Check with the city to see if there are any pending land use changes. A good friend bought a large home on a very nice piece of land, only to have a huge chunk taken away under eminent domain for a sewage system. The pending plan would have been useful to know before buying, methinks. The forty acres of woods behind our dream home could wind up being razed to make way for a WalMart. Zone changes happen, but we at least can protect ourselves as much as possible.

5. Check to make sure any renovations have received the proper permits and inspections. I know several people who were fined and/or had to rip out renovations, wiring and plumbing that were done without proper permits and were not up to code. If the homeowner can’t provide proof we’ll contact the city. If not permits were obtained that will affect our offer.

6. Check to see if there is a Homeowners Association. If there are, what are the fees? What services are provided for the fees? We’ll get a copy of the community rules, and decide if we can live with them. Is participation compulsory? My sister’s community has several homeowners refusing to pay their share, and the last treasurer embezzled funds. Oy.

7. Bring in the expert. Before I bought my current house I brought my stepmother (the most critical person I know) and my best friend (the most observant person I know) to get their opinions. It was my first house and I was nervous about taking such a big step. Next time we’ll bring a friend who is a building contractor to see the house, just to get an opinion on the construction and any issues we might have that way.

I hope there’s time to do all of these things. The market and other factors will dictate if we’ll get to each step, but I hope we do. Once the offer is accepted and we have a deal we’ll of course have lots more to do, which will be the subject of another post.

Great News on PMI from The Accountant’s Daughter

A friend of mine over at This Wasn’t In the Plan posted today about how she wants to pay down her mortgage so she can eliminate PMI (Private Mortgage Insurance) payments from her mortgage. A great idea that reminded me I’d heard a very quick blurb on the news about PMI and taxes that I hadn’t heard before, so I’m guessing many others haven’t either.

For those who don’t have it – or who have it and don’t understand it – PMI is extra insurance that lenders require from most home buyers who take out mortgage loans that are more than 80 percent of their new home’s value. It protects lenders against losing their shirts if a borrower defaults on a loan. The PMI company line is that they enable borrowers with less cash to have greater access to homeownership. With this type of insurance, it is possible for you to buy a home with as little as a 3 percent to 5 percent – even 0% down payment.

While this means that people can buy a home sooner without waiting years to accumulate a large down payment, these low/no-money-down loans are part of the reason for the sub-prime mortgage crisis, as many people bought homes they just could not afford (and adjustable mortgages that were no good for them).

But I digress.

These loans are riskier for the lenders because people are more likely to default on a loan in which they have very little money invested. PMI doesn’t protect you – it supposedly protects the bank if you default. In foreclosures the bank must sell the house and then get reimbursed for the difference, if any, between the sale price and the loan balance by the PMI insurer. The PMI insurer can then come after you for what they had to pay the bank – which doesn’t seem fair at all, does it?

(I don’t have any idea if these PMI insurers are/have been paying off the lenders during this mortgage crisis or not, but it would be interesting to find out… )

The bottom line is that buyers with less than a 20 percent down payment are normally required to pay PMI. In recent years savvy mortgage brokers and buyers have turned to piggyback loans in an attempt to avoid the PMI requirement. Blended mortgages allow borrowers without a 20 percent down payment to take out a home equity line or a traditional second mortgage simultaneous with their first mortgage to provide the necessary down payment, avoiding PMI. It’s even more of a moneysaver because the interest on second mortgages and home equity lines is almost always tax deductible.

That cost the PMI industry to lose a lot of business. So they’ve pushed to make PMI premiums tax deductible, and it seems they’ve been successful.

Yes, PMI is now tax-deductible. So, while it sucks that you have to pay it, at least your tax bill this year could be smaller.

Let the festivities ensue!

As always, please remember that I am not an expert on finance, or an accountant. I’m just an accountant’s daughter. So, please, please, please contact your accountant for expert advice.

The Accountant’s Daughter’s 2007 Year End Tax Tips

The end of the year is one of the most important times in our financial year. Besides putting our money and time budgets to the test with all of the holiday gifts and parties and travel, tax planning should also be a money and time priority.

Being the daughter of an accountant, there’s a few things I’ve learned over the years. The first is to always hire a tax professional to get correct advice, and to minimize your tax liability. Now that my husband and I have a small business we’ve discovered the minefield that is deductible small business expenses , and we’ve gotten invaluable advice on how to use those deductions correctly (for example, we decided not to deduct our home office), minimizing the risk of an audit. Even if you do them yourself, I’d at least get the return reviewed before submitting it to the IRS. Often communities will offer free or low-cost tax preparation assistance, so check in your area.

Still, even as laymen, there are things we should know about, even if only to ask our accountant. Here are a few things I’ve been doing or considering as the calendar and tax year comes to a close. I hope they are of help to you.

The bottom line when it comes to taxes is that you want to delay paying taxes on your income as long as possible, and pay expenses as soon as possible. By deferring income you in effect get the use of that money for an additional year before having to pay income tax – a year when you could make that money work for you. And by paying expenses NOW you get to deduct that which is deductible now, reducing your tax liability.

Delaying Income

1. Defer your compensation – If possible, defer your last paycheck or any bonuses due you until after the first of the year. When it comes to income, it’s always better to put off until tomorrow what is due you today. Try to get your job-related expenses reimbursed before the end of the year instead of your regular paycheck, if possible. That way you can still get some cash, and it’s not taxed as income.

2. Make additional allocations to your 401k or IRA – Deductions to some retirement accounts are made with pre-tax dollars, reducing your taxable income. You can contribute up to $15,500 per individual to a 401k (plus an extra $5000 if you’re over 50) or up to $400o per individual to an IRA ($4500 if you’re 50 or over), so max these out of you can. Even if you can’t max it out, even an extra $100 helps you now and in the future. A nice bonus – IRA contributions for 2007 don’t need to be made until April 15, 2008. There are also ROTH IRAs to consider. Though not tax deductible they may be better for you in the long run. There are also SEPs and Keoughs which have various rules, so check with your accountant to see what would be best for you.

3. If you have a small business, wait until January to bill your clients – a few weeks delay on you having that money is the same as deferring salary for others.

Expenses to Pay Now

1. Pay your property taxes early – If you do not escrow for your taxes and are responsible for paying them yourself (along with homeowners insurance something I highly recommend – why should you pay them a year in advance through your mortgage payments?), you may get a discount by paying them early. I save about $200 by paying them in November instead of waiting until March. That’s a pretty good savings.

2. Make your January mortgage payment a few days early – This way you can take advantage of the additional mortgage interest in this tax year instead of next. Note: It must reach them by December 31st to qualify.

3. Consider selling losing stocks – You can use the loss to offset some of the capital gains from your better-performing investments. Note: There are some tax changes coming next year which may make this not the right choice for you – check with your accountant.

4. Make charitable contributions – Generosity is tax-deductible. Make your contributions now, but please keep in mind that they’ve really tightened the requirements for appraising the value of non-cash donations. Money is easy, but you’ll need an appraisal by an expert for any contribution over $5000 (so if you’d planned on donating to charity the car that died 5 years ago that’s been sitting up on blocks in your back yard, you’re probably going to be out of luck).

5. Now is a better time for pricey medical procedures – Well, really never is a good time for this, but if you have any procedures you need done in the near future try getting them done before the end of the year if the costs will exceed 7.5% of your adjusted gross income. Another tax deduction awaits. Then again, who wants to do this around the holidays?

6. If you have a small business pay any deductible subscriptions, dues, invoices now – Again, better to take the deduction this year and reduce the tax due in April.

7. Make that big purchase – in my state we get to deduct sales tax, but that deduction may end this year. So if you live in one of the states without a state income tax (Alaska, Florida, Nevada, South Dakota, Texas, Washington or Wyoming) now is a great time to buy a car, a $6000 Apple computer, or a huge screen plasma HDTV television (hello, Super Bowl!).

8. For any deductible purchases you make this month, use your credit card – this way you get the item/benefit this year, get the tax benefit this year, but don’t actually have to pay for it until next year. When you can use that income you deferred. Hey, every penny counts, people!

Which brings us to an excellent point. Every year brings changes to tax laws. This may be the last year for several deductions (like the $250 supply deduction for teachers and the college tuition deduction). Please take advantage of them now. Also, the new tax year will bring new rules, so in some cases you’re better off trying to have some things fall under the 2008 tax year. Again, your tax advisor can help you wade through the muck.

As always, please remember that I am not an expert on finance, or an accountant. This is nowhere near a complete list. I’m just an accountant’s daughter. So, please, please, please contact your accountant for expert advice.

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