Friday, November 6, 2009

Gimme a (tax) break - I don't want to buy a house

Now you don't have to be a first time buyer to get a tax credit for buying a home.

New legislation that President Obama is signing, probably today, also provides a potential $6,500 tax credit for homeowners who sell their current homes to buy another one. Get it done by April 30 if you are interested.

Huzzah, say the nation's realtors. Others' enthusiasm is more restrained. The New York Times editorial board calls it throwing good money after bad. Washington Post's Steven Pearlstein grumps that it's a better deal for sellers than buyers and also for real estate agents, appraisers, lenders, brokers and insurers, who also get cuts in the deals. Tha makes sense in a way because there still are a lot more sellers in the market than buyers, the National Association of Realtors reports.

Meantime, don't forget other potential tax breaks you can get without planting real estate signs in your yard. You need to get moving on those too, because the Dec. 31 end of the tax year for most of us is a scant eight weeks away.

If you've got some investments down for the ten count, for example, you may want to sell them and use the losses to offset profits on other stuff you sold. Or if you still have stuff that didn't move at your fund-raising garage sale, donate it to your favorite charity, get receipts and deduct it on Schedule A next spring.

Or if you've been job hunting or running a part time business to make extra cash, as many of us are these days, start rounding up and saving receipts for those expenses too. Many are deductible. And if you are snugging up the house to save energy this winter, don't forget to check out any potential energy tax credits you might qualify for.

If you are still working, you are a god to many of us. But check how the tax withholding in your paycheck may have changed by stimulus legislation flying out of Washington

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