Issue Number:    SETT 2015-14

Inside This Issue

Include a Few Tax Items in Your Summer Wedding Checklist

IRS Summertime Tax Tip 2015-14

If you’re preparing for summer nuptials, make sure you do some tax planning as well. A few steps taken now can make tax time easier next year. Here are some tips from the IRS to help keep tax issues that may arise from your marriage to a minimum:

  • Change of name. All the names and Social Security numbers on your tax return must match your Social Security Administration records. If you change your name, report it to the SSA. To do that, file Form SS-5, Application for a Social Security Card. The easiest way for you to get the form is to download and print it on SSA.gov. You can also call SSA at 800-772-1213 to order the form, or get it from your local SSA office.
  • Change tax withholding. When you get married, you should consider a change of income tax withholding. To do that, give your employer a new Form W-4, Employee’s Withholding Allowance Certificate. The withholding rate for married people is lower than for those who are single. Some married people find that they do not have enough tax withheld at the married rate. For example, this can happen if you and your spouse both work. Use the IRS Withholding Calculator tool at IRS.gov to help you complete a new Form W-4. See Publication 505, Tax Withholding and Estimated Tax, for more information. You can get IRS forms and publications on IRS.gov/forms at any time.
  • Changes in circumstances. If you receive advance payments of the premium tax credit you should report changes in circumstances, such as your marriage, to your Health Insurance Marketplace. Other changes that you should report include a change in your income or family size. Advance payments of the premium tax credit provide financial assistance to help you pay for the insurance you buy through the Health Insurance Marketplace. Reporting changes in circumstances will allow the Marketplace to adjust your advance credit payments. This adjustment will help you avoid getting a smaller refund or owing money that you did not expect to owe on your federal tax return.
  • Change of address. Let the IRS know if you move. To do that, file Form 8822, Change of Address, with the IRS. You should also notify the U.S. Postal Service. You can change your address online at USPS.com, or report the change at your local post office.
  • Change in filing status. If you are married as of Dec. 31, that is your marital status for the entire year for tax purposes. You and your spouse can choose to file your federal tax return jointly or separately each year. It is a good idea to figure the tax both ways so you can choose the status that results in the least tax.

5 NO COST WAYS TO GET YOUR HOME TO SELL FASTER

  1. Channel Your Inner Neat Freak

You always knew your tidying tendencies would come in handy one day. Now it’s time to clutter-bust your way to buyers’ hearts!

I admit decluttering isn’t rocket science—but it is the key to creating a pleasing environment. Pay particular attention to common junk magnets like:

  • Kitchen and bathroom counters
  • Fireplace mantels
  • Laundry room shelves
  • Tabletops
  • Magazine racks

No decluttering advice would be complete without a call to streamline your closets. “If your closet is crowded, I’m going to think my stuff won’t fit,” Geena says. Wow buyers by showing them how much space there is for stuff—not how much stuff there is in the space.

  1. Rearrange the Furniture

Once all the clutter’s out of the way, take a step back and look at the big picture. Does your home invite buyers to sit and stay a while? Can buyers flow freely through your home without bumping into things? If not, you’ve got work to do!

Start by putting bulky pieces in storage and moving furniture away from the walls. “Oftentimes, the room is arranged so the children can play in the middle of the room or the TV can be seen easily from every chair and sofa,” Geena says. Buyers want to walk in and see an open—yet intimate—space that inspires conversation, not channel-surfing.

An experienced agent can lend a fresh eye and help you reimagine your home. “Go to different rooms and see if there are pieces that you can repurpose for the living room to get the effect you want,” Geena suggests

  1. Sweat the Details

Cleaning your home for home showings is common sense. But many folks underestimate just how clean it needs to be.

This isn’t your run-of-the-mill weekend tidy-up. Think of it as spring cleaning on steroids. You’ve got to get down to the nitty-gritty so that even the smallest details shine. From ceiling fans and window blinds to baseboards and tile grout, no surface goes un-scrubbed!

Don’t forget to get your windows squeaky-clean. “There needs to be as much light coming in as possible

  1. Set the Table

Staging paints a picture for potential buyers so they can envision life in your home.  If I see that a family can live here, I will think my family can live here too.

And nothing represents family life quite like the dinner table.

That’s why I recommend giving the dining room some staging attention. Bring your good china, flatware and linens out of hiding. Or add seasonal flair with a dash of bold colors.

You don’t have to go over the top with every piece of dinnerware you own. Keep things simple by setting just two places at the table or arranging a decorative centerpiece on top of a neutral table runner. You can find loads of inspiration on Pinterest and Houzz.

  1. Bring the Outside In

The great thing about summer is the world’s in full bloom right outside your door. So why not take advantage of all the season has to offer?

“[Fresh flowers] are so inviting,” Geena says. “They warm up a room and send the message that this is a really nice space to be in.”

Look around your yard, and pluck decorations straight from nature. Favorite summer picks include roses, dahlias, zinnias, peonies, hydrangeas, lilies and sunflowers. If you run short on vases, display your finds in an antique pitcher or Mason jar for a touch of vintage charm.

And flowers aren’t the only star in the summer garden. If you grow your own fruits and veggies, entice buyers with a bowl of fresh produce on the kitchen counter.

CoreLogic: U.S. Homes Prices Rose 5.9 Percent In March

U.S. home prices, including distressed sales, increased by 5.9 percent in March 2015 compared with March 2014, according to a new report from real estate data and analytics provider CoreLogic.. This is the 37th consecutive month of year-over-year price increases in CoreLogic’s Home Price Index (HPI).  On a month-over-month basis, home prices nationwide, including distressed sales, increased by 2 percent in March 2015 compared with February 2015.*

Including distressed sales in March, 27 states plus the District of Columbia were at or within 10 percent of their peak prices. Seven states, including Colorado, Nebraska, New York, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas and Wyoming, reached new home price highs since January 1976 when the CoreLogic HPI started.

Excluding distressed sales, home prices increased by 6.1 percent in March 2015 compared with March 2014 and increased by 2 percent month over month compared with February 2015. Excluding distressed sales, only New Mexico (0.4 percent) showed year-over-year depreciation in March. Distressed sales include short sales and real estate-owned (REO) transactions.

CoreLogic predicts that home prices will increase by 0.8 percent month over month from March 2015 to April 2015 and 5.1. percent by this time next year.

“The homes for sale inventory continues to be limited while buyer demand has picked up with low mortgage rates and improving consumer confidence,” Frank Nothaft, chief economist for CoreLogic, said in a statement.“As a result, there has been continued upward pressure on prices in most markets, with our national monthly index up 2 percent for March 2015 and up approximately 6 percent from a year ago.”

Including distressed sales, the five states with the highest home price appreciation were: Colorado (9.2 percent), South Carolina (9.1 percent), Kansas (8 percent), Texas (8 percent) and Nevada (7.6 percent).

Connecticut was one of only two states and the District of Colombia to see home prices drop in March, including distressed sales. Connecticut prices declined 0.6 percent, ranking dead last among the states. Excluding distressed sales, Nutmeg State home prices rose 2.4 percent in March.

Connecticut was also among the top 5 states with the steepest drop between their peak home prices and their current home prices, with values still 25.5 percent below peak. The others are Nevada (-34.7 percent), Florida (-31.5 percent), Rhode Island (-29 percent), and Arizona (-27.4 percent).

Of the top 100 largest metro areas as calculated by the U.S. Census, 90 saw home price increases during the month. However, of the 10 that saw prices decline, two were in Connecticut: the Hartford metro area and the New Haven metro area. The others were Baltimore, Md; Philadelphia, Pa.; Camden, N.J.; New Orleans, La.; Rochester, N.Y.; Worcester, Mass.; Albany, N.Y.; and Wilmington, Del.

– See more at: http://www.commercialrecord.com/article.php?RF_ITEM%5B%5D=Article$0@163876;Article&css_display=print#sthash.k44w7vA5.dpuf

I had to share this article from today’s Commercial Record by Ken Harney.  I’m still shaking my head.

“So you’ve watched your home equity holdings grow steadily since the end of the recession and now you want to tap into that wealth to fund a remodeling, college tuition or some other worthy but cash-consuming project?

Join the crowd. Home equity lines of credit, by far the most popular way to turn equity into cash, are booming again – up by 36 percent in the past 12 months alone, according to the Consumer Bankers Association. And no wonder: The Federal Reserve estimates that Americans’ home equity holdings have nearly doubled in the past five years and now exceed $11 trillion.

But here’s a question that growing numbers of owners might encounter in the coming months, especially in markets where growth rates in home values historically have been strong: Would you prefer loading more debt onto your house with a credit line or might you be open to trying something different – sharing part of your future appreciation with private investors? Would you consider taking a lump sum of cash now and make no payments for years, only settling up with investors when you sell or otherwise terminate the agreement?

There are now companies operating in a small but expanding number of markets doing precisely this. If you cut them into some percentage of your home’s growth in value during the coming years – anywhere from 30 percent to 50 percent or higher –  they will write you a check for tens of thousands of dollars. It won’t be a mortgage. It won’t carry an interest rate. And if there is minimal growth in value of your house – or the property declines in value – investors will end up earning relatively little. On the other hand, if home values soar in your area, they could end up with significant profits.

Paying Later

Sharing unpredictable future appreciation streams may sound odd – even risky – but it’s a trend that’s gaining momentum. One company based in San Diego, EquityKey, says it has completed or has in process appreciation-sharing agreements on homes with an aggregate value of $200 million already this year, and expects to hit $1 billion by the end of the year. Another, FirstREX in San Francisco, says it has completed “hundreds” of “equity financing” deals tied to future appreciation.

Though the contractual details and payout amounts differ from company to company, here’s the basic concept: Say you have a house that’s valued at $500,000. If you agree to share 45 percent of future appreciation on the property and you otherwise qualify in terms of your financial ability to handle property taxes and upkeep, EquityKey might give you $51,750 today to help pay for kids’ tuitions. If you wanted to share 40 percent, it would give you $47,500. When you end the agreement, you’d have to give EquityKey its portion of the appreciation on the house plus its initial investment. EquityKey ties its appreciation calculations to the Standard & Poor’s Case-Shiller Home Price Index, which measures home prices in markets across the country. FirstREX uses appraisals up front and at the end.

Say the house appreciated over the next 10 years by $120,000 and you needed to sell. You’d owe EquityKey the original payout amount – $47,500 or $51,750 – plus its appreciation share at 40 percent $48,000 ($120,000 x 0.4 = $48,000) or 45 percent ($54,000). EquityKey’s cut after 10 years: $95,500 or $105,750 depending on the share you agreed on.

EquityKey currently is writing agreements in California and Florida, but expects to expand in the near future into metropolitan Washington D.C., Boston, Oregon, Washington, Colorado and Illinois, according to Co-Founder and Managing Director Jeff Nash. FirstREX is active in California, Oregon, the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia, according to James Riccitelli, co-CEO of the firm.

Could appreciation-sharing deals like these make sense for you? Possibly. But beware: You need to take a hard look at the details of the contracts, including what you might owe if you terminate the agreement in the first six or seven years, before investors have had a chance to earn much of a return.

In the end, you might conclude that the cost of a traditional equity credit line would be cheaper for you – and much more predictable. Or you just might conclude that interest-free money in your pocket, with no payments for many years is worth the appreciation-share gamble. Either way, run the choice past your financial counselor, accountant or investment adviser.”

 

The IRS urges taxpayers to choose their tax professional carefully as reports are coming in from around the country describing unscrupulous preparers who instruct their clients to make individual shared responsibility payments directly to the preparer.

The IRS reminds individuals who owe the payment that it should be made only with their tax return or in response to a letter from the IRS.  The payment should never be made directly to an individual or return preparer. Most people don’t owe the payment at all because they have health coverage or qualify for a coverage exemption.

The IRS has received several reports of this kind of unscrupulous activity.  In some cases, return preparers have told taxpayers to make the payment directly to them, even though the taxpayer had Medicaid or other health coverage and doesn’t need to make the shared responsibility payment at all. In some parts of the country, unscrupulous return preparers are targeting taxpayers with limited English proficiency and, in particular, those who primarily speak Spanish.

These preparers are asking for direct payment to them, but their reasons vary. Methods include:

  • telling individuals that they must make an individual shared responsibility payment directly to the preparer because of their immigration status,
  • promising to lower the payment amount if the client pays it directly to the preparer, or
  • demanding money from individuals who are exempt from the individual shared responsibility payment.

If you believe you have been targeted by an unscrupulous preparer or you have been financially affected by a tax return preparer’s misconduct or improper tax preparation practices, you can report it to the IRS on Form 14157, Complaint: Tax Return Preparer.

Taxpayers who are unsure if they must make a payment can use our Interactive Tax Assistant tool – Am I required to make an Individual Shared Responsibility Payment? –  to help determine if they qualify for an exemption or owe the payment.

Choose a Tax Preparer Carefully

The vast majority of tax professionals provide honest, high-quality service. However, the IRS encourages taxpayers to avoid dishonest and unscrupulous preparers by choosing their preparer wisely. To help, the IRS offers a new, online, searchable public directory of tax preparers who currently hold professional credentials recognized by the IRS or certain other qualifications.

For information on choosing a preparer, filing a complaint about an unscrupulous preparer, or using the new directory, see our Choosing a Tax Professional page on IRS.gov.

Tips about Individual Shared Responsibility Payments

  • Payments are not required for individuals who had coverage or qualify for an exemption for each month of the year.
  • Individuals who are not U.S. citizens or nationals, and are not lawfully present in the United States, are exempt from the individual shared responsibility provision and do not need to make a payment. For this purpose, an immigrant with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status is considered not lawfully present and therefore is exempt.  An individual may qualify for this exemption even if he or she has a social security number (SSN).
  • Taxpayers either pay the shared responsibility payment with their tax return or in response to a letter from the IRS requesting payment.  They should not make the payment directly to any individual or return preparer. If a shared responsibility payment is due, taxpayers should pay it to the United States Treasury. In most cases, the shared responsibility payment reduces a taxpayer’s refund. If there is no refund, the payment will increase the amount a taxpayer owes on the tax return.

Find out more about the tax-related provisions of the health care law at IRS.gov/aca.

Using tax preparation software is the easiest way to file a complete and accurate tax return. Visit the E-File Options page on IRS.gov for information.