Thursday, December 10, 2009

Year End Tax Tips

Posted by Chris O'Sullivan

Time to Review Your Taxes — Before It's Too Late

Year-end tax planning always makes sense, but this year it's especially vital.

Convulsions in the markets and the economy have shifted the ground beneath many taxpayers, and next year may bring major tax changes as lawmakers confront the record deficit.

Bottom line: review your taxes before it's too late. "Too often, I can't do anything for people who come to me in February," says Douglas Stives, an accountant with Curchin Group in Red Bank, N.J.

Here are areas especially relevant now. (For more details, go to

First-Time Home-Buyer Tax Credit

Congress has just extended and altered this benefit, making it more generous for many. The new rules took effect on Nov. 6. The provision is a true dollar-for-dollar tax credit of up to $8,000 for 10% of the cost of a home. The credit is also refundable, meaning that even if a buyer doesn't owe $8,000 of tax, she can claim the full benefit and receive a refund check.

The new law has more generous phase-outs. The credit now begins to disappear for single taxpayers with modified adjusted gross incomes of $125,000 and married couples with incomes of $225,000. It is available for purchases through July 1, 2010 if the buyer has a contract in place before May 1, 2010. Unlike the prior law, however, this credit is capped: those buying homes for more than $800,000 get no credit at all, as of Nov. 6.

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