Smart TaxesSmart Taxes

Home values have declined, but tax bills keep rising, spurring appeals and protests.

By Teresa Mears Mar 11, 2010 3:55PM

This news article is by M.P. McQueen of partner site The Wall Street Journal:

 

Dan Scagliozzi has paid higher property taxes each year since he purchased his home in West Orange, N.J., more than a decade ago. Last year, with the value of his house sliding, he decided to do something about it.

 

Using a new online property-tax service, he appealed his tax assessment -- for $49.99. Mr. Scagliozzi, 52 years old, says he reduced his assessment about 10%, knocking his tax bill to $13,049 from $14,680.

 

"Overall, a very nice return on our $49.99 investment," he says.

 

Property owners are taking action across the country as tax bills continue rising, even as home values have tumbled.

 

Think the U.S. has it bad? These 10 countries tax their residents far more heavily.

By TheStreet Staff Mar 10, 2010 5:05PM

MainStreetBy David Seaman, MainStreet

 

The United States doesn’t have it so bad tax-wise compared to other nations, despite what Glenn Beck would have you believe.

Here‘s a rundown of average income tax rates for 10 high-tax countries, based on information from the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development. The data are for 2008, the most recent numbers available.

 

10. Australia

 

Threats up against employees of agency, which merely enforces the laws that Congress makes.

By Jeff Schnepper Mar 10, 2010 1:19PM

IRS employees certainly have been in the crosshairs of crazies recently.

 

In 2009 there were more than 1,000 threats made against IRS workers. That’s up more than 10% over the roughly 900 threats received over the previous few years.

 

IRS offices in states including Nevada, Colorado and California have been targeted with arson and mortar attacks, shotgun blasts and a fertilizer bomb.

 

Several members of Congress -- not to mention a presidential candidate -- have had property tax issues.

By Kay Bell Mar 9, 2010 3:59PM

When it comes to property taxes, it's not just you, me and a certain Motown star that have  issues. 

 

Politicians do, too.

 

The new chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, Michigan Democrat Sandy Levin, last week repaid a Maryland property tax credit that he had erroneously received from Montgomery County.

 

For tax savings, you have to itemize, give to qualified charities and save receipts.

By Jeff Schnepper Mar 8, 2010 4:19PM

Here’s something I’ll bet you don’t know -- all your charitable contributions are not deductible.

 

Unless you itemize your deductions, you get no tax benefit from charitable contributions. You did “good,” and you feel better. But, your taxes are unchanged.

 

Even if you do itemize, you get no tax benefit unless the contribution is made to an IRS- recognized charity. See Publication 78 for a cumulative list of qualified organizations.

 

Private mortgage insurance protects lender, but at least it's deductible.

By Jeff Schnepper Mar 5, 2010 12:01PM

Only our mendicant mandarins of madness in Congress could use the Tax Code to define insurance premiums as interest. But, I’m not one to challenge any construction that reduces my taxes.

 

I’m talking about mortgage insurance premiums (MIP). When you borrow money to buy a house, your lender is going to want you to have significant skin in the game. If you’re borrowing more than 80% of the value of the property, the mortgage company has an increased risk. To cover that increased risk, the lender will normally require you to purchase private mortgage insurance (PMI).

 

President's budget proposal calls for shrinking the deduction for couples earning more than $200,000 a year.

By Teresa Mears Mar 4, 2010 12:34PM

This news article comes from James R. Hagerty at partner site The Wall Street Journal:

 

The latest effort to scale back some tax deductions on mortgage interest, one of the nation's most-enduring tax breaks, is finding little support in Congress.

 

President Barack Obama's latest budget proposal, released in February, includes a provision that would shrink deductions for mortgage interest, real-estate taxes, charitable contributions and other items for married couples with annual incomes of more than $250,000, or individual filers earning more than $200,000. Under the proposal, such taxpayers would save 28 cents of tax liability for every $1 of mortgage interest or other eligible expenses, down from 35 cents now.

 

Split it, put it in a trust, lease it, deduct it and create a legal tax break.

By Jeff Schnepper Mar 3, 2010 12:07PM

The IRS says you can’t depreciate land. Here’s how to do it….better.

 

Depreciation is the recovery of your cost from the purchase of an asset with a useful life of more than one year. If an asset, say office supplies, is expected to be used up within a year, you deduct the cost as an expense. But another asset, say a building, clearly has a useful life of many years. So, using prescribed IRS guidelines, you recover your cost by deducting a percentage of that cost over many years, technically the useful life.

 

The Tax Code doesn’t allow you to recover the cost of land. That’s because land has an unlimited useful life.

 

But, there’s another way to recover that cost.

 

Say you bought a rental property for $120,000 with $20,000 allocated to the land. The rules say you depreciate the building over 27.5 years (39 years for non-residential rental) and get no deduction for the land.

 

But, we don’t care about no stinkin’ rules!

 

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