If You Had a Baby in 2020, You Can Get $1,100 of Stimulus Money

If you’re the proud new parent of a 2020 baby, here’s some good news to get you through those sleepless nights: Your 2020 bundle of joy qualifies you for a sweet bundle of stimulus cash — $1,100 to be exact.

Why Do New Parents Get an Extra $1,100?

The first stimulus check gave parents an extra $500 for each child age 16 and younger on top of the $1,200 for most adults. The second stimulus check provided families with $600 for each adult and dependent child 16 or younger. So between the two checks, parents generally got $1,100 per kid.

Both checks were an advance on a 2020 tax credit that were processed using 2018 or 2019 returns. But the IRS won’t know about any of the babies welcomed into the world in 2020 until you file a tax return.

When you file your 2020 taxes, you can receive the $1,100 as a Rebate Recovery Credit. That just means you’ll get the extra money as a tax refund. That’s on top of the $2,000 child tax credit parents who are single filers with incomes under $200,000 or joint filers with incomes under $400,000 qualify for.

What Are the Income Limits?

For both stimulus checks, the income limits to receive the full stimulus payments were:

  • $75,000 for single filers
  • $112,500 for heads of households
  • $150,000 for married couples filing a joint return

Checks phased out at 5 cents on the dollar for every dollar of income above these thresholds. For a more detailed explanation of how the phaseout works for child credits, check out Question 7 of our child stimulus credit FAQ.

Do I Get $1,100 if I Adopted in 2020?

You should qualify for an $1,100 stimulus payment for your family’s new addition as long as the child you adopted was 16 or younger at the end of 2020. The same rules apply: File your tax return to get the money as a refund.

What if I’m Not Married to My Child’s Other Parent?

The parent who’s claiming the child as a dependent for tax purposes receives the money.

I Didn’t Get the Money for My 2019 Baby. What Gives?

A lot of parents were frustrated to discover that their stimulus checks didn’t include the child credits — particularly in the first round, when many payments were processed using 2018 returns. If the IRS used your 2018 tax information, you wouldn’t have received a payment for a child born in 2019.

The solution is the same, though: File a tax return. If you file taxes online and provide your direct deposit information, you can expect to get that $1,100 of stimulus money within about three weeks.

Robin Hartill is a certified financial planner and a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. She writes the Dear Penny personal finance advice column. Send your tricky money questions to [email protected]

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Source: thepennyhoarder.com

How Much Is Capital Gains Tax on Real Estate? Plus: How To Avoid It

Capital gains tax is the income tax you pay on gains from selling capital assets—including real estate. So if you have sold or are selling a house, what does this mean for you?

If you sell your home for more than what you paid for it, that’s good news. The downside, however, is that you probably have a capital gain. And you may have to pay taxes on your capital gain in the form of capital gains tax.

Just as you pay income tax and sales tax, gains from your home sale are subject to taxation.

Complicating matters is the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which took effect in 2018 and changed the rules somewhat. Here’s what you need to know about all things capital gains.

What is capital gains tax—and who pays it?

In a nutshell, capital gains tax is a tax levied on possessions and property—including your home—that you sell for a profit.

If you sell it in one year or less, you have a short-term capital gain.

If you sell the home after you hold it for longer than one year, you have a long-term capital gain. Unlike short-term gains, long-term gains are subject to preferential capital gains tax rates.

What about the primary residence tax exemption?

Unlike other investments, home sale profits benefit from capital gains exemptions that you might qualify for under some conditions, says Kyle White, an agent with Re/Max Advantage Plus in Minneapolis–St. Paul.

The IRS gives each person, no matter how much that person earns, a $250,000 tax-free exemption on capital gains from a primary residence. You can exclude this capital gain from your income permanently.

“So if you and your spouse buy your home for $100,000, and years later sell for up to $600,000, you won’t owe any capital gains tax,” says New York attorney Anthony S. Park. However, you do have to meet specific requirements to claim this capital gains exemption:

  • The home must be your primary residence.
  • You must have owned it for at least two years.
  • You must have lived in it for at least two of the past five years.
  • You cannot have taken this exclusion in the past two years.

If you don’t meet all of these requirements, you may be able to take a partial exclusion for capital gains tax if you meet certain exceptions (e.g., if your job forces you to move before you live in the home two years). For more information, consult a tax adviser or IRS Publication 523.

What’s my capital gains tax rate?

For capital gains over that $250,000-per-person exemption, just how much tax will Uncle Sam take out of your long-term real estate sale? Under the new tax law, long-term capital gains tax rates are based on your income (pre-2018 it was based on tax brackets), explains Park.

Let’s break it down.

For single folks, you can benefit from the 0% capital gains rate if you have an income below $40,000 in 2020. Most single people will fall into the 15% capital gains rate, which applies to incomes between $40,001 and $441,500. Single filers with incomes more than $441,500, will get hit with a 20% long-term capital gains rate.

The brackets are a little bigger for married couples filing jointly, but most will get hit with the marriage tax penalty here. Married couples with incomes of $80,000 or less remain in the 0% bracket, which is great news. However, married couples who earn between $80,001 and $496,600 will have a capital gains rate of 15%. Those with incomes above $496,600 will find themselves getting hit with a 20% long-term capital gains rate.

  • Your tax rate is 0% on long-term capital gains if you’re a single filer earning less than $40,000, married filing jointly earning less than $80,000, or head of household earning less than $53,600.
  • Your tax rate is 15% on long-term capital gains if you’re a single filer earning between $40,000 and $441,500, married filing jointly earning between $80,001 and $486,600, or head of household earning between $53,601 and $469,050.
  • Your tax rate is 20% on long-term capital gains if you’re a single filer, married filing jointly, or head of household earning more than $496,600. For those earning above $496,600, the rate tops out at 20%, says Park.

Don’t forget, your state may have its own tax on income from capital gains. And very high-income taxpayers may pay a higher effective tax rate because of an additional 3.8% net investment income tax.

If you held the property for one year or less, it’s a short-term gain. You pay ordinary income tax rates on your short-term capital gains. That’s the same income tax rates you would pay on other ordinary income such as wages.

Do home improvements reduce tax on capital gains?

You can also reduce the amount of capital gains subject to capital gains tax by the cost of home improvements you’ve made. You can add the amount of money you spent on any home improvements—such as replacing the roof, building a deck, replacing the flooring, or finishing a basement—to the initial price of your home to give you the adjusted cost basis. The higher your adjusted cost basis, the lower your capital gain when you sell the home.

For example: if you purchased your home for $200,000 in 1990 and sold it for $550,000, but over the past three decades have spent $100,000 on home improvements. That $100,000 would be subtracted from the sales price of your home this year. Instead of owing capital gains taxes on the $350,000 profit from the sale, you would owe taxes on $250,000. In that case, you’d meet the requirements for a capital gains tax exclusion and owe nothing.

Take-home lesson: Make sure to save receipts of any renovations, since they can help reduce your taxable income when you sell your home. However, keep in mind that these must be home improvements. You can’t take a deduction from income for ordinary repairs and maintenance on your house.

How the tax on capital gains works for inherited homes

What if you’re selling a home you’ve inherited from family members who’ve died? The IRS also gives a “free step-up in basis” when you inherit a family house. But what does that mean?

Let’s say Mom and Dad bought the family home years ago for $100,000, and it’s worth $1 million when it’s left to you. When you sell, your purchase price (or “basis”) is not the $100,000 your folks paid, but instead the $1 million it’s worth on the last parent’s date of death.

You pay capital gains tax only on the difference between what you sell the house for, and the amount it was worth when your last parent died.

What if I have a loss from selling real estate?

If you sell your personal residence for less money than you paid for it, you can’t take a deduction for the capital loss. It’s considered to be a personal loss, and a capital loss from the sale of your residence does not reduce your income subject to tax.

If you sell other real estate at a loss, however, you can take a tax loss on your income tax return. The amount of loss you can use to offset other taxable income in one year may be limited.

How to avoid capital gains tax as a real estate investor

If the home you’re selling is not your primary residence but rather an investment property you’ve flipped or rented out, avoiding capital gains tax is a bit more complicated. But it’s still possible. The best way to avoid a capital gains tax if you’re an investor is by swapping “like-kind” properties with a 1031 exchange. This allows you to sell your property and buy another one without recognizing any potential gain in the tax year of sale.

“In essence, you’re swapping one investment asset for another,” says Re/Max Advantage Plus’ White. He cautions, however, that there are very strict rules regarding timelines and guidelines with this transaction, so be sure to check them with an accountant.

If you’re opting out of the rental property investment business and putting your money in another venture that does not qualify for the 1031 exchange, then you’ll owe the capital gains tax on the profit.

For more smart financial news and advice, head over to MarketWatch.

Source: realtor.com

Can You Take a Home Office Tax Deduction Due to COVID-19? A Reality Check

2020 was the year of WFH: Working from home became a reality for countless Americans, as company offices closed down to curb the spread of COVID-19. And, as the time nears to file your 2020 taxes, you might be wondering: Does your home office add up to any tax deductions for you?

It’s a logical question: Since most WFH warriors shell out of their own pocket for internet, printer ink, and equipment upgrades if their laptop poops out, it’s understandable to hope you can recoup some of these expenses by claiming the home office tax deduction on your taxes.

But beware: The home office deduction has changed a lot over the years, so whether you can claim it will depend greatly on your circumstances. Here’s more on exactly who can claim a home office tax deduction—and who can’t—as well as how much certain people can save. For people who can’t claim this deduction, we’ve found some clever tax deductions to bring up with your boss that could still save you money—for now, and going forward as long as your WFH life continues.

Who can claim a home office tax deduction?

Even though the name of this tax deduction has the phrase “home office,” this doesn’t mean everyone who works from home can claim it, explains Paul Sundin, a CPA and a tax strategist at Emparion.

In a nutshell, the home office tax deduction can be claimed only by self-employed individuals—meaning freelancers, small-business owners, and anyone who works for themselves. That said, these workers still must meet certain conditions. (Read our next section for more details.)

What qualifies as a home office?

There are very strict rules on what constitutes a dedicated home office. To claim this deduction, you must use part of your home exclusively for business. That means an office that doubles as your bedroom or an occasional guest room does not qualify.

That said, an open area with a desk that’s used only for work qualifies just fine. So if your desk is in an open floor plan, simply measure the space you use for your office. And if you have an entire room dedicated only to work, measure the size of the room.

How to take a home office deduction

The easiest way to claim the deduction is to deduct $5 per square foot, up to 300 square feet, of office space, which amounts to a maximum deduction of $1,500.

If you think your deduction is worth more than $1,500, you can also try the more complicated method of tracking all the costs of your home office. Then allocate those expenses based on the percentage of the home you use solely as a home office. So if your office occupies 10% of your home’s total square footage, you can deduct 10% of what you pay to keep it running.

Here’s how that breaks down, according to Ben Reynolds, CEO and founder of Sure Dividend:

  • Business equipment: The IRS considers tangible equipment such as furniture, computers, electronic devices, and office machines as eligible.
  • Internet: You can deduct the amount used for business purposes. If you use your internet 20% of the time for work, you can deduct that percentage of your total internet bill.
  • Home expenses: These include rent, mortgage interest, real estate taxes, homeowners insurance, home repairs, electricity, and gas. If your home office takes up 10% of your home’s total square footage, you can deduct 10% of these expenses.
  • Depreciation: Computers and most office equipment can be depreciated over five years, while office furniture can depreciate for seven years. You have the option to deduct the full amount of the depreciation or gradually subtract the a portion of the total value each year.

Can W-2 employees claim a home office tax deduction?

If you are a W-2 employee, you cannot claim a home office tax deduction.

Why not? While in the past employees could claim a deduction for employment expenses over a certain percentage of their income, the 2018 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act eliminated these deductions from 2018 to 2025. The act now prevents full-time, W-2 employees from deducting home office expenses on their 2020 taxes even when they worked from home more than they did in the office, says Reynolds.

There is one small exception to keep in mind: If you’re a W-2 employee with a side hustle, you can deduct eligible home office expenses for that particular side gig.

Are there any home office tax deductions W-2 workers can claim?

Unfortunately, most employees working from home can’t claim any federal tax deductions connected to being a remote worker during the coronavirus pandemic, says Sundin.

However, full-time remote employees who live in Alabama, Arkansas, California, Hawaii, Minnesota, New York, and Pennsylvania have a unique option for their state tax returns.

“W-2 workers living in these states can deduct business expenses their employer didn’t reimburse them for,” says Reynolds. These can include a portion of your rent, mortgage interest, internet/utility bills, a new computer monitor, desk, or even an ergonomic office chair. Just be aware the deduction may not cover all of your 2020 work expenses 100%.

The exact rules vary from state to state, so check in with a local tax professional. You can also find your state’s government website complete with links to tax information explained in greater depth at the IRS.

WFH tax deductions companies can take—then reimburse you

Even if you’re a W-2 employee who can’t reap any tax benefits from a home office directly, there are still some ways you can save money—by asking your employer to take some tax breaks on your behalf, then reimbursing you.

“There is something called Section 139 where the employer can reimburse pandemic costs for employees, at their discretion, tax-free,” says Jackie Meyer, CPA and founder of The Concierge CPA and TaxPlanIQ. “You can ask for reimbursements or special stipends directly from your employer.”

Section 139 defines those expenses as “reasonable and necessary” costs incurred by employees due to the pandemic. This can include everything from costs associated with establishing a home office (buying a desk) to maintaining a home office (upgrading to a faster internet). These payments are fully deductible for companies, offering a win-win situation for both employer and employee.

You can also ask if your company would consider an “accountable plan” for the 2021 tax year. Here’s how an accountable plan works: Instead of being paid $50,000, your employer could pay you $45,000 in wages plus a $5,000 home office expense reimbursement, making your salary the same—while saving you on taxes.

Finally, business meals from restaurants (including takeout) may now be deductible under the Consolidated Appropriations Act 2021, signed into law on Dec. 27, 2020. While still subject to clarification by the Treasury and IRS, it seems that food and beverages provided by an employer for virtual or business meetings will be 100% deductible. An employer could also deduct food provided for employee virtual happy hours.

So this might be a way to get your employer to start covering more of your WFH food if you order in, says Meyer. Simply point out to your employer working meals are a great tax deduction for them, and ask them to put delivered meals on their tab.

For more smart financial news and advice, head over to MarketWatch.

Source: realtor.com