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Mortgage Interest Deduction 2019: Here’s What Qualifies

If you own a home, one of your first questions may revolve around how your home affects your tax filing. While there have been some changes in recent years, come tax time, it’s important to know exactly what qualifies as a deduction (and to consult with your tax advisor) so you can get the most out of your tax write-offs.* What Is the Mortgage Interest Deduction? A mortgage interest deduction is an itemized tax deduction that allows homeowners to deduct the interest paid on a loan used to buy, build, or improve a first or second home. Homeowners who purchased a home prior to December 15, 2017 can deduct interest on the first $1,000,000 of mortgage debt. For those who purchased a home after December 15, 2017, a deduction only applies to the first $750,000 of mortgage debt. How the Mortgage Interest Deduction Works There are many nuances to the mortgage interest deduction, so make sure you keep good records of the interest you’ve paid throughout the year. Here’s a look at some things to watch out for and know as you’re evaluating your deductions. As noted above, you can deduct all the interest you paid on up to $1,000,000 in a mortgage loan, but you can only deduct up to the first $750,000 of home loan debt if you purchased the property after December 15, 2017. So for example, if you bought a home in 2016 and you have $1,000,000 in debt on that home, you can deduct all of your mortgage interest. However, if you bought a home for the same cost in 2018, you can only deduct interest on $750,000 according to the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. However, there is an exception to the new limit. If you entered into a written contract for a property before December 15, 2017 and closed on the property before April 1, 2018, you are exempt and can deduct your interest on up to $1,000,000 in mortgage debt. What Qualifies As Mortgage Interest? The type of mortgage in question (i.e., a first mortgage, second mortgage, or a Home Equity Loan) and what type of property it covers, such as your primary residence versus a rental or investment property, can affect how your mortgage interest deduction works, so you’ll want to know how it relates to your specific case this year. For a complete list of rules and regulations, make sure to check out IRS Publication 936. Here is a brief overview of a few common scenarios below. Mortgage Interest For Your Home In order to deduct the mortgage interest on your home, you must meet a few qualifications. First of all, the home must be a house, apartment, condo, co-op, houseboat, mobile home, or trailer, and it must have sleeping, cooking, and bathroom facilities. The home itself must be collateral for a mortgage loan. If you receive a nontaxable housing allowance via the military or because you’ve done ministry work, you can still deduct interest. If you have taken out another mortgage to buy out a partner in a divorce as part of a mortgage buyout, you can also deduct the interest on that mortgage. Mortgage Interest For Your Second Home You can deduct mortgage interest on your second home, but in order to do so, there are a few rules. You don’t have to use the home during the year, but the home must be collateral for a loan. Also, if you rent out the home and receive rental income on the property, you must be in the house for more than 14 days or more than 10% of the days the home is rented, whichever is longer. Any Points Paid On Your Mortgage If you paid points on your mortgage loan as a way to pay down the amount of your loan interest, you can deduct these either all at once, or over the course of the loan, but there are a few requirements. The loan must be for your primary home, and paying discount points must be a regular practice where you live. Also be aware of the interest rates on the points, and note that they can’t have also been used for closing costs. Your down payment must be higher than your points, and the points must be calculated as a percentage of the loan. Home Equity Loan Interest The interest on your home equity loan is only deductible if you are using the loan to make significant repairs to your property. If you are using the loan for another purpose — a large purchase, paying down debt, etc. — it is not deductible. Late Payment Charges On Your Mortgage If you’re late making a mortgage payment and are charged a late fee, this additional cost counts as part of the mortgage interest deduction. Prepayment Penalties For some lenders, paying off your loan early can result in a prepayment penalty (not however, when you have a loan with PennyMac) because lenders want to ensure they’re getting interest income. If you are charged a prepayment penalty for any reason, you are allowed to deduct this as part of your mortgage interest deduction. What You’re Not Able to Deduct Not all extra costs associated with a mortgage are deductible. Here’s a look at what doesn’t qualify. Mortgage insurance premiums Homeowners insurance Any interest accrued on a reverse mortgage Down payments, deposits, or forfeited earnest money Title insurance Extra principal payments made on your mortgage Settlement costs (typically) How to Claim Your Mortgage Interest Deduction in 2019 Getting ready to prepare your taxes and want to make sure you’re taking full advantage of your mortgage interest deduction this year? It’s important to make sure all your paperwork is in order and follow these steps to take full advantage of the deduction. Look Out For Form 1098 This form shows how much you paid in mortgage interest and any points for the tax year. Your lender will send you the form if you paid $600 or more in mortgage interest, and they will also send a copy to the IRS to match up with your return. This form may also show you the amount of interest you’ve paid on your home loan to date. Can’t find it or not sure if you received it at all? Just contact your lender, and they can provide you with the amount of mortgage interest you paid for the year. Itemize Your Taxes If you want to take advantage of the mortgage interest deduction, you’ll need to itemize your deductions instead of using the standard deduction. Make sure it makes sense to itemize your deductions, as the goal is to take the highest possible deduction available to you. Instances Where You Can Claim the Mortgage Interest Deduction There are some scenarios where you can still claim the deduction even if your situation doesn’t fit the standard requirements exactly. Just make sure you’re keeping extremely accurate records of all of your property costs throughout the year, as well as square footage used for spaces like rentals and home offices, as things can get even more complicated. Here are some cases that would allow you to still claim the deduction. The home was a timeshare You rented out part of your home. You had a home office. (Make sure you track the square footage, and you may even be able to claim an additional deduction using Schedule C.) The home was an apartment co-op. Your home was under construction. Your home was destroyed within the applicable tax year. You and a partner split and you’re now paying a mortgage on a home you both own. Mortgage Interest Deduction 2018 The 2018 U.S. tax bill made significant changes to the mortgage interest tax deduction, as well as other updates for homeowners. Mortgage Tax Bill Changes The mortgage interest deduction allows homeowners to deduct part of the cost of their mortgage on their taxes. The 2018 tax plan now limits the portion of a mortgage on which you can deduct interest to $750,000, as compared to the previous limit of $1 million. Homeowners with mortgages that existed prior to the bill’s passage can continue to receive the current deduction. Property Tax Deduction Changes When looking at the 2018 tax changes, the focus was typically on the mortgage interest deduction changes. The bill has another aspect that affects homeowners: With the changes in property tax deductions, the 2018 tax plan has a limit of $10,000 on the amount of state and local property taxes that can be deducted from a homeowner’s federal taxes. Know Your Tax Advantages With Homeownership Whether you already own a home or are taking your very first steps towards making a smart investment in a home to call your own, be sure to stay in the know about all the potential tax advantages, along with the many other benefits of homeownership. Ready to purchase or refinance and want to know what your options are? Call us now for your free mortgage consultation or apply online to get started on your pre-approval. *Consult a tax adviser for further information regarding the deductibility of interest and charges.

Credit Union Vs. Bank Mortgage: Which Should You Choose?

You’ve saved up your money, you found the perfect house, and you’re ready to buy. Now you just need a mortgage. Commercial banks may be the obvious choice, but they aren’t the only option for your mortgage. Mortgage brokers, online mortgage lenders, and credit unions also originate mortgage loans. Credit unions and other non-banks are… Read More

The post Credit Union Vs. Bank Mortgage: Which Should You Choose? appeared first on Credit.com.

Why Did My Mortgage Payment Go Up?

Mortgage payments are generally very stable and will remain the same over many years, if not for the entire life of the mortgage. This is one of the many benefits of getting a mortgage over renting a home. But there are times when mortgage payments do change, and if your monthly payment has recently increased, it could be down to […]

Why Did My Mortgage Payment Go Up? is a post from Pocket Your Dollars.

Where Upper-Middle-Class People Are Moving

The middle class may be feeling the squeeze, but the upper-middle class certainly isn’t. The former cohort has shrunk from 61% of households in 1971 to just 52% now, according to the Pew Research Center. The upper-middle class, by contrast, … Continue reading →

The post Where Upper-Middle-Class People Are Moving appeared first on SmartAsset Blog.

How to Save on Prescription Medications Without Insurance

The post How to Save on Prescription Medications Without Insurance appeared first on Penny Pinchin' Mom.

INSIDE: Looking for easy tips on how to save money on prescription drugs, even if you don’t have health insurance? Here you go! It seems that every time you get your prescription filled, the price creeps up. Even if you have insurance, you’re probably spending more these days to get your medicine. But that doesn’t … Read More about How to Save on Prescription Medications Without Insurance

The post How to Save on Prescription Medications Without Insurance appeared first on Penny Pinchin' Mom.

For Folks with no Free Time

If you focus on identifying the best opportunities to affect your personal finance, you can profoundly improve your life without wasting time. And those best opportunities are…?

Struggling with money anxiety and finding balance

On Saturday evening, I had a chance to chat with my friends Wally and Jodie. You might remember them from a reader case study from last August. They’re the couple that wants to get their finances in order but they’re worried because they’re starting with less than zero.

When we chatted in August, Wally and Jodie had over $35,000 in debt. They had variable incomes, but somehow seemed to spend exactly what they earned — about $3000 per month after taxes. Worst of all, they were behind on some payments.

Now, eight months later, their situation has improved.

How to Pay Off Credit Card Debt Faster

I've received several questions from Money Girl podcast listeners about paying off credit card debt. It's a fundamental goal because carrying card balances come with high interest, a waste of your financial resources. Instead of paying money to card companies, it's time to use it to build wealth for yourself.

7 Strategies to Pay Off Credit Card Debt Faster

1. Stop making new card charges

If you're carrying card balances from month-to-month, it's essential to understand what it costs you. As interest accrues, it can double or triple the original cost of a charged item, depending on how long it takes you to pay off.

The first step to improving any area of your life is to acknowledge your mistakes, and financing a lifestyle you can't afford using a credit card is a biggie. So, stop making new charges until you take control of your cards and can pay them off in full each month.

As interest accrues, it can double or triple the original cost of a charged item, depending on how long it takes you to pay off.

Yes, reining in your card spending will probably require sacrifices. Consider ways to earn extra income, such as starting a side gig, finding a better-paying job, or selling your unused stuff. Also, look for ways to cut costs by downsizing your home, vehicle, memberships, or unnecessary expenses.

2. Consider your big financial picture

Before you decide to pay off credit card debt aggressively, look at the "big picture" of your financial life. Consider any other debts or obligations you should prioritize, such as a tax delinquency, legal judgment, or unpaid child support. The next debts to pay off are those already in default or turned over to a collection agency.

In many cases, not having a cash reserve is why people get into credit card debt in the first place.

Assuming you don't have any debts in default, focus your attention on your emergency fund … or lack of one! I recommend maintaining a minimum of six months' worth of your living expenses on hand. In many cases, not having a cash reserve is why people get into credit card debt in the first place.

3. Make more than the minimum payment

Many people who can pay more than their monthly minimum card payment don't do it. The problem is that minimums go mostly toward interest and don't reduce your balance significantly.

For example, let's assume your card charges 15% APR, you have a $5,000 balance, and you never make another purchase on the card. If your minimum payment is 4% of your card balance, it will take you 10½ years to pay off. And here's the worst part—you'd have paid almost $2,400 in interest!

4. Target debts with the highest interest rates first

Make a list of all your debts, including credit cards, lines of credit, and loans. Include your balances owed and interest rates charged. Then rank your liabilities in order of highest to lowest interest rate.

Getting rid of the highest interest debts first saves you the most.

Remember that the higher a debt's interest rate, the more it costs you in interest per dollar of debt. So, getting rid of the highest interest debts first saves you the most. Then you can use the savings to pay more on your next highest interest debt and so on.

If you have several credit cards, evaluate them the same way—tackle them in order of highest to lowest interest rate to get the most bang for your buck. And if a credit card isn't the most expensive debt you have, make it a lower priority.

In general, debts that come with a tax deduction such as mortgages, home equity lines of credit, and student loans, should be paid off last. Not only do those types of debt have relatively low interest rates, but when some or all of the interest is tax-deductible, they cost you even less on an after-tax basis.

5. Use your assets to pay off cards

If you have assets such as savings and non-retirement investments that you could use to pay down high-interest credit cards, it may make sense. Just remember that you still need a healthy cash reserve, such as six months' worth of living expenses.

If you don't have any or enough emergency money saved, don't dip into your savings to pay off credit card debt. Also, consider what you could sell—such as unused sporting goods, jewelry, or a vehicle—to raise cash and increase your financial cushion.

6. Consider using a balance transfer card

If you can’t pay off credit card debt using existing assets, consider optimizing it by moving it from higher- to lower-interest options. That won’t make your debt disappear, but it will reduce the amount of interest you pay.

Balance transfers won’t make your debt disappear, but they will reduce the amount of interest you pay.

Using a balance transfer credit card is a common way to optimize debt temporarily. You receive a promotional offer during a set period if you move debt to the account. By transferring higher-interest debt to a lower- or zero-interest card, you save money and use it to pay down the balance faster.

7. Consolidate your high-rate balances

I received a question from Sarah F., who says, “I love your podcast and turn to it for a lot of my financial questions. I have credit card debt and am wondering if it’s a good idea to get a personal loan to pay it down, or is that a scam?”

And Rachel K. says, "I love listening to your podcasts and am focused on becoming more financially fit this year. I have a couple of credit cards with high interest rates. Would it be wise for me to consolidate them to a lower interest rate? If so, will it hurt my credit?" 

Depending on the terms you’re offered, using a personal loan can be an excellent way to reduce interest and get out of debt faster.

Thanks to Sarah and Rachel for your questions. Consolidating credit card debt using a personal loan is not a scam but a legitimate way to shift debt to a lower interest rate.

Having an additional loan added to your credit history helps you build credit if you make payments on time. It also works in your favor by reducing your credit utilization ratio when you reduce your credit card debt.

If you qualify for a low-rate personal loan, here are some benefits you get from debt consolidation:

  • Cutting your interest expense
  • Getting a fixed rate and term (such as 6% APR for 60 months with monthly payments of $600)
  • Having one monthly debt payment
  • Building credit

A couple of downsides of using a personal loan to consolidate debt include:

  • Being tempted to continue making credit card charges
  • Having potentially higher monthly loan payments (compared to minimum credit card payments)

While it may seem counterintuitive to use new debt to get out of old debt, it all comes down to the interest rate. Depending on the terms you’re offered, using a personal loan can be an excellent way to reduce interest and get out of debt faster.

What should you do after paying off a credit card?

Credit cards come with many benefits, such as purchase protection, convenience, and rewards. Don't forget that they're also powerful tools for building credit when used responsibly. If maintaining good credit is one of your goals, I recommend that you keep a paid-off card open instead of canceling it.

You don't need to carry a balance from month to month or pay interest on a credit card to build excellent credit.

To maintain or improve your credit, you must have credit accounts open in your name, and you must use them regularly. Making small purchases charges from time to time that you pay off in full and on time is enough to add positive data to your credit reports. You don't need to carry a balance from month to month or pay interest on a credit card to build excellent credit.

To learn more about building credit and getting out of debt, check out Laura’s best-selling online classes:

  • Build Better Credit—The Ultimate Credit Score Repair Guide
  • Get Out of Debt Fast—A Proven Plan to Stay Debt-Free Forever