Wednesday, May 7, 2014
Home improvement is a costly affair, not everyone can afford. Although, most of us undertake home improvement projects for decorative purposes, there are some people who have no choice but to make necessary repair work to their home, so as to make it worth living. Since, these are the people who often come from the lower strata of society, they can rarely afford the cost of home improvement. Government grants of several thousands are available for such people. Unfortunately, most of them are unaware of such programs. Thus, if you happen to be one such individual or you know someone who might benefit from such program, then you should indeed read this article.
Who is Eligible for Home Improvements Grants
As mentioned above, people belonging to low income groups are mainly eligible for home repair grants. Though, the specific requirements for eligibility of the grant vary according to each state, it is unlikely that a decently earning family may qualify for this program. Besides low income groups, other unprivileged sections of society also become eligible for free government grants for home improvements. These sections include disabled as well as elderly people. People belonging to specific ethnic group may also apply for such grants, if the state laws have such a provision. Besides, minority and people residing in areas classified as 'rural' by federal or state government also benefit from this program. People staying in certain disaster prone areas may also avail special benefits and grants from government. The home improvement projects for these people include revamping of the house to meet standards of health and safety hazards or remodeling their house to support their disability (e.g installing a wheelchair ramp in house).
How Much is Available Through These Grants
The US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has various programs through which it imparts grants and financial aid to eligible families. Rehabilitation and Repair Home Loan program is a program by HUD which has offered grants to thousands of people till date. The exact grant amount depends upon several factors such as individual's income, state of residence, socio-economic condition, number of dependents, etc. Some individuals may become eligible for full grant amount while others may draw only partial benefit. Government offers grants as high as USD 15,000 or even more. Besides, financial assistance is also available in the form of low interest loans. Thus, an individual may receive part of his benefit as a grant while the remainder as a home improvement loan.
How to Apply
Firstly, you can start searching for various government grants on the official website of the US government, Grants.gov. You can find a detailed listing of various grants offered by the government through its programs. You can also search particularly for the home improvement grants in this listing. You will be directed to the relevant pages where you can find all the required information regarding eligibility criteria, how to apply, etc. Alternatively, you may contact your city, county or local community development office or the office of rural development where you can get the required information. If you have trouble locating these offices, you may visit the official website of National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials at nahro.com. One can also inquire at the information center at the Office of Community Planning and Development (comcon.org). You will then be required to submit proofs in support of your claim.
Once your application has been approved, you will receive funds in course of time. Make sure to allocate these funds on the repair work very wisely.
Tuesday, May 6, 2014
The state and federal government collects a variety of taxes at the end of every financial year. The Internal Revenue Service and the United States Department of Treasury play a very important role in the collection of these taxes. The IRS, and Treasury Department have made several provisions, and rules and regulations, in order to provide people with tax exemptions, and deductions for legitimate reasons. The home improvement tax break is a one such provision for deduction, that can be freely used by people.
When elaborating on concepts related to finance, business and law; the best way to grasp the fundamentals is to simplify and sort them accordingly. Adhering to the aforementioned policy, we try to simplify the concepts in order to understand them well. Explicated below is the meaning of home improvement, and tax deductions, respectively;
The meaning of home improvement is extremely simple and can be described in just a single statement - 'beautifying and renovating your home'. It must be noted that home improvement is different from home repair. For tax deduction purposes, the IRS has systematically defined the term 'home improvement'. The IRS portal proves to be a very effective source if you want to know whether your property qualifies for home improvement or not.
A tax deduction is an exemption from a particular tax bracket, or category. Tax deduction also means the reduction in the amount of income - for income tax, or sales - for sales tax, that is to be included in tax returns. The tax liability of a particular person, or an organization is reduced, as a result of the tax deduction. The tax deduction is often refunded by way of tax relief checks.
A description of tax deduction is specified on the IRS.portal interface with the help of an extremely complex set of deductions. The following are some important points that have been specified with respect to such deductions. It must be noted that these deductions are included under the category of itemized deductions (as on Topic 500, IRS portal). One must also note that standard tax deductions, and itemized deductions cannot be availed simultaneously. These deductions are often a part of depreciation reduced from an asset.
An improvement is an addition to the total value of the property, contributing to the longevity of the property in question. It is considered as an addition to the monetary value of the property, irrespective of the total home improvement costs. Tax deduction for such additions can be availed through a variety of provisions. The IRS tax deductions become applicable for three basic types of home improvements:
- Home improvement for medical purposes;
- Home improvement for energy conservation, and installation of energy-efficient systems;
- Home improvement with the help of home equity loan, or home equity line of credit.
The following are some common provisions for home improvement tax deduction:
- Home improvement lowers the amount of income that is to be taxed, due to the itemized deductions that are mentioned in topics 501 to 515 of the IRS.
- Home improvement costs are included in the asset value of the property; thus, it is subject to depreciation for the current, and subsequent years.
- While claiming tax deductions for medical facilities, the total improvement cost has to exceed at least 7.5% of the total value of the claimant's gross earnings of that year. Publication 502 specifies the deductions.
- The laws regarding energy conservation utilities changes every year in accordance with the Energy Policy Act, 2005; hence, one needs to avail the income tax calculator, and tax forms to stay informed with regards to the qualifying norms.
- While home improvement is being considered, tax deductions would be applicable exclusively on the costs incurred for the product purchased. Remember that the costs for installation procedures conducted are not liable for any coverage whatsoever.
- The federal government has introduced tax incentives to conciliate home improvements found compatible with the environment. Environmentally friendly installations are incurred at higher costs. Equipping your home with solar panels and its related systems have had the homeowner requiring assistance; as these upgrades demand capital inputs in bulk. Thus, with the help of tax credit assistance, some of these costs are covered.
- The tax incentive provision made by the federal government is applicable to your current residence and the new property you have recently invested in. However, tax incentives are not meant for leave and license properties. Most importantly, the federal tax incentives are applicable to the task realized up to the 31st day of December of the year 2016.
Monday, May 5, 2014
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) releases a large amount of tax deductions every fiscal year for the benefit of taxpayers. Such deduction lists are principally used to reduce the amount of taxable income. After calculation of the tax component on income, a good way to manage the burden is to avail of these tax deductions, provided the requirements have been complied with. Even the smallest deductions go a long way in reducing the overall taxable income of an individual.
Tax credit on the other hand is a way to reduce the exact tax that you will have to pay for a particular fiscal year. In the case of a valid home improvement made by the taxpayer, he/she can claim the credit for it and reduce the net tax payable by the dollar amount permissible under the Federal Tax Credits for Consumer Energy Efficiency. Suppose the total tax payable in a fiscal year comes down to $1000 and home improvements have been made to the tune of $300, the net tax payable by will be $700. For homeowners looking to gain some tax advantage while cutting their energy footprint and also costs, this is a good way to go about the yearly tax management.
Home Improvement Energy Tax Credits under the ARRA Act, 2009
Tax credits for home improvements was first enacted as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. This was part of the stimulus package released by the President to boost the flailing economy after the financial crises of 2008. Under the provisions of the Act, the IRS and the United States Treasury Department have granted several tax credit provisions to tax payers. Primarily, the tax credits are given to individuals who have made improvements in their home's energy consumption by installing appliances or making structural changes.
In their original form these provisions were of two categories, one that expired in 2010 and the other that will be active till 2016. Although one of the provisions was set to expire in 2010 it was further extended into 2011, 2012 and now to 2013. Let's take a look at the various categories under which the tax credits for home improvements are offered and the paperwork required to file the credit return to the IRS.
Federal Tax Credits for Consumer Energy Efficiency - 2013 Update
Tax Credit Allowed: 10% of the cost of the improvement, to a limit of $500. The amount can also be a specific one between $50-$300.
Qualification: The home must be an existing one and the principal residence of the credit claimant. A principal residence here means the home one owns and lives in for the greater part of the year.
The following is a list of inclusions in the tax credits for the year of 2012, extended into 2013. The type and class of energy products under which a credit can be claimed remain the same as in the original act of 2009, with changes only in the credit limits. The two categories of provisions also remain unchanged with one extending into the tax year of 2016. Here is a breakup of the product categories under which the federal tax credit can be claimed in 2013.
Equipment that heats homes or water or generates energy, when installed as part of the changes made during home improvement. The stove must burn residue, agricultural crops, grasses and fibers.
- Tax Credit Limit: $300
- Requirement: Must have an energy efficiency rating of at least 75%.
Heating, Air conditioning, Ventilating
Products such as an advanced main air circulating fan or air source heat pumps can become valid grounds for tax exemption. Similar credits are available for central air conditioning, gas and propane, water boiler, natural gas and propane furnace and also an oil furnace.
Air Source Heat Pumps
Such pumps are energy efficient because unlike air conditioners they don't use CFCs to cool the air. The pumps pull in cool air from the outside to where it is need. They work in reverse when required to heat the room or living space.
Tax Credit limit: $300
Central Air Conditioning
Always ask your manufacturer for a Manufacturer Certification Statement while purchasing a central air conditioner. Also make sure you purchase one which is certified by Energy Star.
Tax Credit Limit: $300
Gas, Propane, or Oil Water Boilers
These are a range of heating units which heat water by circulating it throughout the house and via a system of heating units and radiators.
Tax Credit Limit: $150
Natural Gas Furnace or Oil Furnace
A system that uses air and fuel mixture to heat homes.
Tax Credit Limit: $150
One can also claim tax credits under home improvement criteria by installing insulation in the house. This is also a very cost-effective method of saving tax as it is easily available and the costs of installation are also not very high.
- Tax Credit Limit: 10% of the cost incurred in insulation up to a limit of $500.
- Requirements: There are several types of products which can qualify for the tax credit such as batts, rolls, blow-in fibers, rigid boards and expanding spray. However, products that have air sealant properties have to come with a Manufacturers Certification Statement to be able to qualify.
- Installation costs are not covered under the tax credits.
Roofs (Metal & Asphalt)
Such roofs are made with special materials or layered with coating of paint which reflects back much more of the sun's rays than conventional roofing.
- Tax Credit Limit: 10% of the cost of the roofing is covered by the tax credits but only up to a limit of $500.
- Requirements: Metal roofs require certified pigments and coatings as do the asphalt roofs which need to be embedded with cooling crystals. The roofs also need to be compliant with Energy Star guidelines on cooling and energy efficiency.
Gas, Oil, Propane, Electric Water Heater
The water heating costs can also be covered to some extent by the home tax credit advantage as both electric and non-electric water heaters get a tax credit limit of $300.
Federal Tax Credits for Consumer Energy Efficiency valid till 2016
Tax Credit Allowed: 30% of the cost with no upper limit.
Qualification: The credits are claimable for both homes in existence and also for newly constructed residences. They are for principle residences only and are not allowed for rental property.
Geothermal Home Systems
The tax credit is applicable for geothermal heating and cooling systems which can be installed in homes and use the heat of the earth for their functioning. They are considered to be one of the most efficient of modern sustainable energy platforms.
- Requirement: The geothermal pump or system must be certified by Energy Star to be eligible for the tax credit.
- The credit will also include any cost of installation incurred.
Residential Wind Turbines
A modern and clean way of generating some extra electricity is to install a wind turbine on your roof. These turbines can integrate with the homes electrical systems and are effective cost cutters. The credit will also include costs of installation.
Requirement: The wind turbine installed should not be of a greater capacity than 100 Kilowatts.
Solar Water Heater/Panel
Solar water heaters are also a popular mode of alternate energy. Tax credits can be availed on these systems too as they are a clean renewable source of energy.
Requirement: The solar heater or any such equipment for which the credit is being claimed must generate at least half the energy from the sun. Also it must be certified by local or government bodies such as the Solar Rating & Certification Corporation (SRCC). They must also comply with building codes and fire regulations. The cost of the installation is also included in the tax credits. This is the same set of requirements for solar panels.
Filing for Home Improvement Tax Credits
The IRS website is the place to visit if one needs forms for filing tax returns.
- The requisite form for filing tax credits for home improvements is the Form 5695.
- It can be found under the Resources section of the website. You can follow the instructions given on the form and list the details of the improvements you have made, resulting in energy efficiency for your home.
- Make sure you include the costs of installation in the tax credits where applicable and mention the installation of appliances which use alternate sources of energy.
- Obtain Manufactures Certificates where necessary and attach them to the form.
- This form must then be attached to your tax statement and submitted to the IRS.
The IRS website is a repository of accurate information regarding the processing of tax credits. It will provide you with the necessary step-by-step instructions regarding various compliance procedures, and also the filing of your income tax return.
Sunday, May 4, 2014
First off even before we begin, let me recommend you to keep aside a file of all the receipts and invoices of payments made by you in relation with home improvements. They do come in real handy when you are filing your taxes. The following is a brief explanation about the home improvement expenses that are considered to be valid tax deductions by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). These tax deductions should not be confused with tax credits and more over, home improvement should also not be confused with tax credit and other tax breaks. A very honest answer to the query, what home improvements are tax deductible, is medical expenditure is the only deductible expenditure (explanation follows). However you can take advantage of your home improvement to claim lawful deductions, in a bit indirect manner.
Tax Deductions and Home Improvements
So what is the exact premise of home improvements in tax deductions. Simple, the IRS, has permitted the income tax filers and tax payers to deduct certain home improvement expenditures as a part of their itemized deductions. Tax breaks such as tax credits and tax exemptions or initial discounts have been covered in the home improvement section, however in the following list the direct deduction has been included.
Direct deduction is the phenomenon where your Adjusted Gross Income (AGI), before the amount of tax is levied, drastically decreases. It must be noted that tax slabs of the year are imposed in percentages on the AGI and deductions which are basically all your home improvement expenses can be claimed through certain channels, thereby bringing down the AGI and your liability. Now from the total home improvement expenditures only some are viable deductions. A home improvement is an addition to the value of your house. The repairs on the other hand are rectifications of the already existing property. On the whole when you fill out your Form 1040 for itemized deductions, you will have to make a keen and fine search to see which expenditure is a home improvement and which is a repair.
Home Improvement Tax Deduction List
Now when one asks, what are home improvements are tax deductible, it must be noted that home improvement tax deductions are directly not valid tax deductions, hence you will need to take a differential and indirect deductions. Here are 5 solid paths which you can take...
Topic 502 Medical and Dental Expenses
The above subheading sounds a bit odd does, isn't it? Home improvement and medical deductions, are two completely different kinds of expenditures, yet if you have taken up home improvement in your house for medical reasons such as specialized medical, facilities, then the entire cost of improvement that escalates the value of your house is taken into consideration as a deduction. The condition is that the home improvement should be permanent in nature and should be taken up for entire the tax filer, his/her spouse or any other dependent who is resident at said place. Lastly as per the IRS, if the value of the home improvement does not increase the value of the house, then the entire expenditure incurred is taken up as a deduction. Modification of stairways, doors, railing installations and other such modifications are connoted to be deductions as per medical and dental expenditure list. It must be noted that these expenditures can be claimed as deductions under the Capital Expenses head of the Medical and Dental Expenses.
Topic 505 Interest Expenditure
The interest rate of a lot of different loans, credits and money lending facilities that tend to have advantageous deductions if you have undertaken home improvements. Loans such as Home Equity Loans and Home Equity Lines of Credit (HELOC) or student loans, tied down to the appraised equity of your home, have a fully deductible interest rate. This might not be significant in volume or even at times being, however at a later stage the small annual interest rate would prove to be instrumental in bringing down the Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) on your income tax return. The key to claim such a deduction is that the equity of the house increases substantially after home improvement. It is abstract but is also relevant, at least indirectly.
Topic 509 Business Use of Home
Based upon the fact that if home improvement increases your homes equity value, the value of certain related deductions is probable to go up by a couple of dollars. If you are using your house for business purposes then expenditures that are involved in the business use of house are deducted from the AGI. The advantage of the home improvement is that, it increases your homes value and thus this expenditure of business use of house also increases, substantially.
The last deduction that you can claim with the help of home improvement is the depreciation deduction. Like the aforementioned home deductions, the depreciation deduction takes advantage of the increased value of the house. Depreciation is imposed by a percentage value. Value addition in the home's value, after home improvement, tends to boost up the total amount of depreciation.
Thus, on the whole, home improvement based tax deductions are to be availed using indirect methods. The basic premise is that the home improvement pushes up the value or equity of your home. Thus the monetary value of deductions that you used to claim earlier also increases and your AGI thus, gets reduced. A reduced AGI means a reduced income tax liability.
Saturday, May 3, 2014
It is important not to get confused between home repair and improvement, particularly from the point of view of taxes. Home repairs, like renovating a home or making permanent additions to the home, increase the value of the house while making it more habitable. This does not count towards tax deduction or credit.
However, if you replace energy-efficient windows or doors for your home (falls under home improvement) or apply for home improvement loans, for the purpose of making certain improvements, then it qualifies for tax deductions.
A tax deduction reduces the amount of taxable income. A tax credit, on the other hand, reduces the actual amount of tax that a person has to pay. Hence, a tax credit is better than a tax deduction, as the former reduces the actual tax liability. The following equation will explain it to you in a short and precise way:
Expenses for Home Improvement - Increase in the value of the home because of improvements = Amount that qualifies for a tax deduction
Home Improvement Plans That Qualify for Tax Deductions
Interest and Points on Home Improvement LoansInterest paid on a home equity loan or a home equity line of credit availed for the purpose of making capital improvements on the home, are fully tax deductible. Capital improvements are those that increase the worth of the home, prolong its depreciable life or adapt it to new uses. Points purchased for obtaining a home improvement loan, at a favorable rate of interest, are also fully tax deductible provided the following conditions are met:
The loan or the line of credit is secured by the main home.
Points purchased are in accordance with the established practice of buying points.
Points purchased were not more than the points usually paid for availing such loans.
The taxpayer uses the tax method of accounting.
Expenses on Home Improvements on Account of Medical ReasonsMedical expenses, that one pays for oneself, one's spouse and dependents, qualify for tax deductions. Home improvements that have been undertaken for medical reasons, also qualify as medical expenses and are thus, tax deductible. For instance,
People suffering from heart ailments can install an elevator in the house, to avoid climbing the stairs, and can claim a tax deduction citing medical reasons.
Improving the home's air filtration system by installing central air conditioning or removing a drywall that may be damp and moldy can help abate the symptoms of asthma in people experiencing breathing difficulty. The doctor may have to provide a letter stating the necessity of making these improvements.
All reasonable costs incurred to accommodate a handicapped individual, qualify for deductions.
Expenses on Home Improvements for Energy-efficient UpgradesThere are several home improvements and upgrades to enhance energy efficiency, but it is tough to be aware of the discounts and tax incentives that an individual is entitled for, the reason being there are many federal and state regulations applicable in some cases. Following are some instances, which could affect your income taxes:
Constructing entrance and exit ramps for the home and widening the doorway at the entrance and the exit to the home, in order to help handicapped people to live at home
Installing railings and support bars along the stairway and in the bathroom
Modifying the kitchen to make it easily accessible to people with disabilities
Modifying electric outlets and fixtures
Installing lifts and leveling the ground
Other home improvement expenses that qualify for tax credits till 2016 (this include new and already existing homes) are:
Installing geothermal heat pumps
Setting up solar water heaters and panels
Installing wind energy systems or fuel cells
In addition to tax deductions for home improvements, the government is also giving tax credits for making the home environment friendly. Energy Star was initiated as a voluntary labeling program in 1992, by the United States Environmental Protection Agency, to identify and promote energy-efficient products in order to reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas emission. A number of new homes qualify as Energy Star homes since the appliances used in these homes bear the Energy Star label.
A grant is better than a loan, because you need not pay it back as you need to repay your loan. There are some government provisions which allow individuals to apply for a grant if they meet certain qualification parameters. The US government has promised billions of dollars worth of grants to help the population rebuild their houses. Home improvement is a costly affair at times and the current economic recession does not help the situation either. Grants are available through various government bodies, and if you fulfill the eligibility criteria, you can avail loans on better interest rates than most private players in the home loan market. There are times when taking a loan is just not an option, as it needs to be repaid, where for some it may become very burdensome. For these US citizens, government grants are the only option and there are quite a few of these that will assist you in your house repair.
Grants for Home Improvement: Eligibility and Rules
There are people who need a grant to carry out repairs to their home to make it safe and hospitable for themselves and their families. Home improvements range from repairing a faucet to adding a new room and there are some specific eligibility criteria that you have to meet to qualify for a grant. The US department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), recognizes that there are people in the low income group and some senior citizens who need financial aid in the form of a grant, to carry out repairs in their home. The HUD grants program allows a number of people to apply for these and the government has established the Office of Departmental Grants Management and Oversight (ODGMO).
The ODGMO streamlines grants processes and procedures in the HUD and 26 other federal grant making agencies. To apply for a HUD home improvement grant, you need to register with the government website for grants and obtain a nine character unique number, known as the Data Universal Numbers System (DUNS) and register with the Central Contract Registrations (CCR). You can apply for a government home improvement grants program for your renovations, emergency roof repair, plumbing, and electrical work, etc., but you need to register, to be eligible for any of these. The HUD also has a program, which offers grants to native Americans for their house repair needs.
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) rural department also gives grants to farmers for their home improvement needs. The rural repair and rehabilitation loans and grants program gives grants to low income groups, for repairing their house and removing any safety hazards. Home improvement loans cannot be afforded by all and many do not fulfill the basic criteria for one , hence the government has grants to help such individuals. They are only available to owners who are 62 years old or older. The grant amount has to be specifically used for the repairs and not for anything else. The grant amount can go up to USD 7,500 and it stands to be recaptured if the house is sold within 3 years of the grant being sanctioned.
There are some non-profit organizations and charities that fund home improvement grants for the underprivileged and people from different ethnic backgrounds. As there are college grants for single moms, there are some government assistance programs for single mothers to help them with their home improvement needs. Eligibility criteria for such assistance is that the child's father should be deceased or should have abandoned the child. The mother should be from a low income group and a US citizen.
There are billions of dollars worth of funds available at the disposal of government bodies and charity commissions, all you need to do is apply. Home improvement grants help the elderly, and the needy, to create a safe and healthy habitat, after all, food and shelter are basic human requirements.
Friday, May 2, 2014
We often imagine ourselves enjoying a cup of nice hot coffee in a renovated version of our living room. Renovation of property, real estate, and homes has nowadays become an important element of the real estate industry. To make this dream come true, most of the owners resort to two very good provisions, grants and loans. Home improvement is nothing, but the process of renovation of a real estate or any property. It should be noted that real estate that has a commercial purpose is not eligible for these finance options. Only residential buildings are aided by home improvement grants and loans.
Grants for Renovation
Grants are given by government agencies to help the people. The agencies that provide this facility in the United States of America term it as "an award in the form of a financial assistance from a federal agency, to a recipient to carry out a public purpose of support or stimulation, authorized by a specific law, passed in the United States of America." Some people find this description pretty vague, but grants can also be defined as 'financial aid given by the government to the people for the betterment of society'. The concept is thus parallel to educational or medical grants. In United States of America itself there are approximately 26 federal agencies that provide this facility to people belonging to over 1,000 different categories. The money has to be spent for the specific purpose that it has been issued for. There are also several classifications and sub-classifications in the different types of grants. Some of these plans are specifically for senior citizens who have crossed 60 years of age and others are for people who belong to low-income groups. In some regions in the United States of America, schemes are also given especially for Amerindians.
Loans for Renovation
Loans are the second type of financial provision that can be availed by the owners, for renovation. The loan is usually a secured one, meaning that it is backed by a collateral. Most of the time, the collateral is the real estate itself that is under renovation. In some nations, the rate of interest on this credit is subsidized by the government.
The process of sanctioning the loan is rather long. After an individual applies for it, the lender of credit, undertakes the sanctioning process wherein a check of the credit history is done. Many factors, like, the location of the real estate, current condition, anticipated life, etc., are also considered. Among these factors, one of the most important factors that is considered, is the current market value of the real estate.
There are several important advantages of availing loans for renovation. The process improves the life of the residents. The home becomes more comfortable and also convenient to occupy as all the due repairs are conducted during the improvisation. In the real estate market, the value of such a property always appreciates due to the fact that the renovation of the property increases its life and its market standing. Availing home improvement grants and loans thus always proves to be healthy for one's real estate.