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Home Equity Loan Interest Can Still Be Deductible

One of the changes to itemized deductions because of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 was the suspension of the deduction on interest on up to $100,000 of home equity indebtedness. The Internal Revenue Service announced that in many cases taxpayers will be able to continue deducting interest paid on home equity loans.

Prior to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, taxpayers were able to deduct interest on up to $1 million in mortgage debt and also up to $100,000 of home equity debt. Under the new law, taxpayers are now limited to $750,000 of home acquisition debt with no separate carve out for home equity debt. However, tax filers with mortgage debt taken out prior to December 14, 2017, are still allowed to deduct interest on up to $1 million in mortgage debt (not inclusive of home equity debt).

So, how do you determine if interest on home equity debt is deductible for tax years beginning after 2017? Here are a couple of guidelines:

It is good to see that interest on home equity debt is still available for deduction. Check the IRS’ announcement for some examples to illustrate the new limits.

Between Hurricane Harvey, the fast-approaching Hurricane Irma and the various wildfires ravaging the west, unfortunately natural disasters have been all too common this summer.

The last thing on anyone’s mind living in those areas is taxes, but nonetheless, there are various tax aspects of a disaster that people should be aware of. Fortunately, this is one area that the IRS makes rapid decisions to help those in need. Below is a sampling of the latest relief for victims of Hurricane Harvey from the IRS. Those impacted by disasters should check the IRS’s page frequently as other disasters may get similar relief from the IRS in the near future.

Finally, for those who want to help and support those victims of any natural disaster, be cautious of who you make donations to. In order for donations to be tax deductible, they must be made to recognized charitable organizations under the IRS. For instance, Go Fund Me donations are typically not deductible as they go to a person and not a charitable organization. If you are donating online, make sure you are on the legitimate website for the charity. Unfortunately, it is all too common for charity scams to pop up during disasters with fake websites that are very similar to legitimate ones. You should ensure that the organization clearly has their Employee Identification Number (EIN) posted and you can use that and their name to check their exempt status on the IRS website. If you are donating a significant sum, that little bit of homework on your part is well worth it.


Selling your home sale could impact your income taxes. You may or may not have to pay income taxes on the gain from the sale of your home.

The gain from the sale of your home may be excluded, either all or in part, from your income tax if you meet the eligibility test. The eligibility test consists of ownership and the use of the home rules. You must have owned and used it as your main home for at least two out of the five years before the date of the sale. Property acquired through a like-kind exchange (1031 exchange) during the 5-year period is not eligible for the exclusion.

The 24 months used as your main home can fall anywhere within the 5-year period and does not need to be consecutive 24 months. Short absences count as time lived at home. Only 12 months of residence will meet the requirement if you are physically or mentally unable to care for yourself. Time spent living in a licensed care facility also counts toward the residency requirement.

Partial exclusion is available if you moved because of work, health or an unforeseeable event. Work-related exception qualifies if your new job is at least 50 miles farther from home than your old work location. Health-related exception qualifies if you moved to obtain, provide, or facilitate diagnosis, cure, mitigation or treatment of disease, illness, or injury for yourself or a family member. Health-related exceptions also include a doctor’s recommendation of a change in residence due to health problems. Giving birth to two or more children from the same pregnancy is one of the situations qualifying as an unforeseeable related exception.

The maximum gain exclusion is $250,000 or ($500,000 if married filing jointly). The eligibility test must be met to qualify for the full or partial exclusion. Check for additional rules and any exceptions that may apply to you. One last note: You must report the sale to claim the exclusion and if you receive a form 1099-S, Proceeds from Real Estate Transactions, even if you have no gain from the sale.


Fundraising has gone digital. Millions of individuals are now utilizing social media sites such as kickstarter.com and gofundme.com to attract contributors or donations to support their cause. Few, though, are thinking about the income tax ramifications that are created by the crowdfunding environment.

Congress and the IRS have not yet addressed the crowdfunding income specifically, which leaves little guidance for CPAs and tax advisors preparing returns in the coming season. Applying common tax principles, along with some common sense, will help taxpayers and preparers alike to decide the appropriate reporting of funds received.

There are three types of crowd-funding:

  1. Reward-based funding, mainly used for creative enterprises
  2. Donation-based funding, personal funding
  3. Equity-based funding, raises capital for companies (the SEC has issued rules in 2016)

Reward and donation-based funding use third party payment processing, such as PayPal. Any campaign creator who collects over $20,000.00 will receive a 1099-K reporting the funds received during the campaign. Pledges for donation-based funding are likely going to qualify as a non-taxable gift, unless an individual gifts more than the annual gift exclusion ($14,000 in 2015 and 2016). Funds received for reward-based funding for creative new ventures are likely to be treated as income to the recipients.

 Income Tax Complications

Kickstarter states that it cannot give tax advice, but does indicate that in the US, funds raised through campaigns on kickstarter.com will generally be considered income (see “Kickstarter and Taxes: A Guide for Your Accountant”). They suggest that expenses can offset the income, or that some may be considered gifts, but does not distinguish between the two.

Amounts received for reward-based funding are likely to be treated as income under Section 61 and should be reported by the creator of the campaign in the year of receipt. If it is an active trade or business, business expenses would likely be deductible against the income under Section 62. If this is a hobby, hobby loss rules would apply and limit expenses to the extent of income. Start-up business will also have additional requirements for expensing or capitalizing the organizational costs related to the start-up of the business.

As you can see, there are many different scenarios that will need to be considered when reporting crowd-funding during this period of limbo until the IRS addresses the topic. That makes it even more important as tax preparers and taxpayers alike to ask the right questions, document your position, and substantiate your reporting to the best of your ability.






In December of 2015, I wrote about many tax provisions benefiting taxpayers for 2015 and beyond that had expired. Most CPAs were anticipating these to be retroactively approved by Congress. After much anticipation, Congress ended up extending and in many cases making the provisions permanent. Below is a summary of the main legislation:


Two years ago the Treasury Department implemented new Tangible Property Regulations through the passing of TD 9636. The new regulations contained a “Safe Harbor” election to expense any piece of tangible property purchased under $500. Many felt this was too low and increased the administrative burden on small businesses along with the IRS.

After receiving hundreds of comments from tax payers and professionals suggesting an increase to the “Safe Harbor” threshold amount, and the Treasury Department reviewing the goals of the new regulations, common sense prevailed and the Department agreed to increase the election amount to $2,500 per invoiced piece of tangible property. This election does not require you to expense all items under this threshold. You may choose any amount up to $2,500 that fits your business. Just make sure that your capitalization policy states your dollar threshold.

The effective date of the new safe harbor de minimis is for tax years beginning on or after January 1, 2016. Although, the IRS has allowed for those individuals and businesses that had a capitalization policy in place at the beginning of 2015 to use the $2,500 limit. IRS Notice 2015-82 states:


For taxable years beginning before January 1, 2016, the IRS will not raise upon examination the issue of whether a taxpayer without an AFS can utilize the de minimis safe harbor provided in 1.263(a)-1(f)(1)(ii) for an amount not to exceed $2,500 per invoice (or per item as substantiated by invoice) if the taxpayer otherwise satisfies the requirements of 1.263(a) – 1(f)(1)(ii). Moreover, if the taxpayer’s use of the de minimis safe harbor provided in 1.263(a) – 1(f)(1)(ii) is an issue under consideration in examination, appeals, or before the U.S. Tax Court in a taxable year that begins after December 31, 2011, and ends before January 1, 2016, the issue relates to the qualification under the safe harbor of an amount (or amounts) that does not exceed $2,500 per invoice (or per item as substantiated by invoice), and the taxpayer otherwise satisfies the requirements of 1.263(a) – 1(f)(1)(ii), then the IRS will not further pursue the issue. “

Taxpayers should review their capitalization policy for 2016 in order to implement the new safe harbor limit. If you have been using the new limit for the 2015 tax year or before, you should review IRS Notice 2015-82 to be sure that your business qualifies for audit protection.



The housing market is beginning to turn around in Nevada over the last couple years. Data provided by Trulia.com indicates that twice as many home sales occurred in 2015 when compared to the bottom of the market in 2009. Many home owners who either lost, or liquidated, their homes over the past several years are finally in a stable financial position to get back into the market.

Many of the homes that are being purchased during this period of growth are those that have either been left vacant for years, require some refurbishing, or need massive upgrades and overhauls to qualify for lending, or to even be livable! Even new homes require additional capital influx in order to complete the front or backyard landscaping.

When we purchase a house, many of us use this required influx of capital to negotiate down the current selling price. But how many of us keep track how much actual additional capital we put back into the house after the sale has been completed? Improvements and substantial repairs such as landscaping, a new roof, fencing, etc., should be accounted for and included in your basis (capital costs) of your home. Keeping track of and having the appropriate record keeping of, these improvements can save you thousands of dollars in capital gains, and possibly net investment income tax, when you decide to sell the home in the future. Even if you decide that renting the home is a better course of action, having an accurate recordkeeping of the basis will allow you to depreciate the maximum allowable amount in order to reduce the rental income created from the business use of the property.

Keeping track of your basis in real property is an important part of homeownership that many of us forget about until it is time to sell. Twenty years from now, will you remember how much you paid the landscaper to put in a sprinkler system? Probably not. So help your future self out of a headache, and probably save a couple bucks, and keep track of those expenditures that you put into your new home. And after you are done, sit down on that new patio with a cold drink and relax, you’ve earned it.




Most people are probably familiar with the general tax rule about hobbies: You can deduct expenses only to the extent that you have income from the hobby.

This rule applies to individuals, S corporations, partnerships, estates and trusts.

There is a certain pecking order in deducting these expenses:

  1. Deductions a taxpayer can claim whether or not they are incurred with a hobby. Some examples are taxes and interest. These expenses are allowed even if they exceed hobby income.
  2. Deductions not resulting in an adjustment to the property’s basis. These are the hobby’s operating-type expenses. An example is supplies. These expenses are allowed to the extent that the gross income from the hobby exceeds the deductions under No. 1.
  3. Deductions resulting in an adjustment to the basis of property. Depreciation and amortization deductions are allowed but only to the extent that gross income from the hobby exceeds deductions under both No. 1 and No. 2.

The income from the hobby activity is picked up on line 21 on page 1 of the Form 1040 return. This income is not subject to self-employment tax but is subject to federal income tax.

No. 1 deductions are Schedule A-type itemized deductions not subject to the 2-percent-of-adjusted-gross-income limitation. To take advantage of these deductions, you must itemize your deductions.

Nos. 2 and 3 deductions are Schedule A-type itemized deductions, but they are subject to the 2-percent-of-AGI limitation. To take advantage of these deductions, you must itemize your deductions. But even if you itemize your deductions, a portion of the expense deduction is lost because of the 2 percent rule.

Hobbies are considered to be activities engaged in without a profit motive. Whether an activity is engaged in for profit is determined by a facts-and-circumstances test.

Here are a couple of general rules:

© 2015 CPAmerica International


If you have something called qualified dividend income, it receives special tax treatment.

Qualified dividend income is defined as dividends received during the tax year from a domestic corporation or a qualified foreign corporation. It is taxed at the lower preferential capital gains tax rates.

A domestic corporation is a corporation incorporated within the United States. A qualified foreign corporation is a corporation incorporated in a possession of the United States or a corporation eligible for benefits of a comprehensive income tax treaty with the United States that the secretary of the Internal Revenue Service determines is satisfactory.

In contrast, ordinary dividends are fully includable in gross income. An ordinary dividend is any distribution made by a corporation to its shareholders whether in money or property. The amount of the dividend is the amount of cash received plus the fair market value of any property received, if applicable.

You pay tax on ordinary dividends at your ordinary income tax rates. Your tax bracket determines the rate of income tax that you pay. There are currently seven ordinary income tax rates or brackets.

However, if the corporation’s dividends meet the criteria for qualified dividend income treatment, the lower preferential tax rates apply, as shown in the table below:

Ordinary Income Tax Rate                        Qualified Dividend Rate

10%                                                                     0%

15%                                                                     0%

25%                                                                   15%

28%                                                                   15%

33%                                                                  15%

35%                                                                  15%

39.6%                                                              20%

These rates are applicable for individuals, estates and trusts.

Investments in tax-deferred retirement vehicles such as a regular IRAs, 401(k)s and deferred annuities do not receive any benefit from the preferential rate reduction.

Distributions from these accounts are taxed at ordinary income tax rates even if the funds represent dividends paid on the stocks held in these accounts.

There is a 60-day holding period requirement to qualify for the preferential qualified dividends rate. You have to hold a stock at least 60 days within a 121-day period, which begins 60 days before the ex-dividend date and ends 60 days after.

The ex-dividend date is the day after the date of record, which is the date on which all shareholders who own a particular stock will receive a dividend for that period of time.

Obviously, following the rules and qualifying for the preferential qualified dividends rate can result in a substantial tax savings. ■

©2015 CPAmerica International



The tax treatment for renting out your vacation home depends on the number of days it’s rented.

If you don’t use your vacation home all the time and are considering renting it out for a portion of the year, you have three possible situations – all with different tax ramifications:

  1. Not rented at all
  2. Rented for fewer than 15 days
  3. Rented for more than 15 days

The first situation is the easiest and most straightforward. You own a second home as a vacation property. You do not rent out that property at all during the year. You would be able to deduct the mortgage interest and real estate taxes that you paid during the year as Schedule A itemized deductions.

If you use your vacation home for personal use at least 15 days and rent it out for fewer than 15 days, the IRS considers the primary function of the property to be personal and not a rental. Therefore no rental income or rental expenses should be claimed on Schedule E, Supplemental Income or Loss, of Form 1040.

You are not required to report the rental income and rental expenses from this activity. The expenses that you are able to deduct include mortgage interest and real estate taxes, which would be deducted on Schedule A as itemized deductions.

The third situation is a little more complicated. If you used the vacation home as a home and rented it out 15 days or more during the year, you would be required to include all of your rental income as income on Schedule E. Because you used the home for personal purposes, you must allocate your expenses between business and personal use.

When allocating your expenses, you should follow these two rules:

  1. Any day that the unit is rented at a fair rental price is a day of rental use even if you used the unit for personal purposes that day.
  2. Any day that the unit is available for rent but not actually rented is not a day of rental use.

The numerator for allocation purposes would be the number of days that the vacation home was rented out at a fair market rental price during the year. The denominator would be 365 days.

Crunching these numbers will give you the business-use percentage. You would then multiply all of your various business/rental expenses by this percentage to arrive at the deductible amount of your expenses.

The deductible amount of your expenses is then entered on Schedule E. The IRS provides a worksheet to help you calculate the amount of your deductible business/rental expenses. Unallocated mortgage interest and taxes (the personal part) still goes on Schedule A.

If you follow these simple rules when renting out your vacation home, you can avoid unintended consequences.

©2014 CPAmerica International


Barnard Vogler & Co.
100 W. Liberty St., Suite 1100
Reno, NV 89501

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