2013 Home Office Deductions

Many homeowners know that having an office in the house can be a deduction under certain circumstances. Traditionally, if something gets red-flagged for audit of a homeowner’s deductions, it is the one for a home office. Yet, if deducted correctly, it can be as safe a deduction as the more typical ones. Homeowners can deduct a percentage of their mortgage, utilities and home repairs in direct proportion to the amount of their home that is set aside as office space.

For this deduction to work, here are a few guidelines when deducting your home office expenses on your tax return:

·         It must be your principal place of business (the main place where you get most of your work done)

·         It must be used exclusively for business (No TVs, no video games, no craft corner.)

·         It must be regularly used for business

·         The size and use claimed needs to be realistic. Six hundred square feet in a 1200 square-foot house may not be realistic.

As of 2013, the IRS has simplified the method of computing business use of your home. The standard method used previously had been complex easily misunderstood by small business owners that felt it was too burdensome and problematic. Also, a reason for the reputation of the deductible has as an audit-magnet. The IRS claims the new simplified option can “significantly reduce recordkeeping burden by allowing a qualified taxpayer to multiply a prescribed rate by the allowable square footage of the office” in lieu of determining actual expenses. For a full explanation of tax deductions for your home office refer to Publication 587, Business Use of Your Home .

As a homeowner using this new option, you will not be able to depreciate the part of the home you use in your business. Yet, if you are a homeowner who itemizes your deductions, you can still claim mortgage interest, real estate taxes and any casualty losses on their home on Schedule A.

If you use the simplified option, you can write off $5.00 per square foot up to 300 square feet of home-office space. If your home office is more than 300 square feet, or if you want to take a depreciation deduction for the office space, then you will want to use the standard option. And, if you still want to depreciate the office space in your home, you will need to continue to use the standard option for such detailed calculations.

Be aware, when you sell your house, you will have to pay back any depreciation you took and it’s taxed at around 25%. Since the ‘90s, federal tax law has permitted homeowners to exclude from tax up to $250,000 per person in profits from the sale of a personal residence that has been lived in for at least two of the five years prior to its use. However, the space or room in your home that you dedicated to business use and depreciated must be “recaptured” when you sell as it does not qualify for the home sale tax exclusion.

The new home office deduction is simpler but smaller. However, as we’ve seen above, the added savings from keeping the additional records and claiming depreciation may not be worth the effort to hold out for the larger portion from the standard method. The home office deduction is easier to claim for the 2013 calendar year, but you won’t be able to use the simplification until you fill out your tax return in 2014.

Home prices: Biggest rise in more than 2 years

Home Prices on the Rise

Home prices are up for the 2nd straight quarter, the biggest year-over-year increase in more than two years.

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — In another sign of a housing market rebound, home prices posted the biggest percentage gain in more than two years in the third quarter, according to the closely followed S&P/Case-Shiller index.

The 3.6% increase from a year earlier is more than three times the rise in the previous quarter and was the biggest jump in prices since the second quarter of 2010. But that 2010 rise was much more of a temporary blip caused by a homebuyer’s tax credit of up to $8,000 on homes purchased in late 2009 and early 2010.

This latest rise comes as the housing market has shown numerous other signs of recovery in recent months. The rebound is spurred by a combination of record low mortgage rates, an improving jobs market and a drop in foreclosures to a five-year low, reducing the supply of distressed homes available. There is also a tighter supply of both new and previously owned homes on the market.

The improvement in housing market fundamentals have helped to lift the pace of both home sales and home building.

Dean Baker, the co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research who was one of the earliest economists to warn about the housing bubble and the trouble that lay ahead, said this recovery in the housing market should lead to some sustained housing price increases in the coming years.

“I’ve been an optimist as of late,” he said. “Some think it’ll get back to bubble prices and that’s crazy. But we’ll probably do better than inflation for the next few years, and people who have been underwater on their mortgage will get out from that, and build some equity.”

The latest rise in the Case-Shiller index was the second straight quarter of year-over-year improvement, while the monthly annual reading has climbed for four months in a row, with six straight month-over-month increases.

“With six months of consistently rising home prices, it is safe to say that we are now in the midst of a recovery in the housing market,” said David Blitzer, chairman of the index committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices.

The increases are widespread, with only two of the 20 cities tracked by index — Chicago and New York — showing modest price declines from a year earlier. The biggest rise was in Phoenix, one of the cities hardest hit when the housing bubble burst. Prices there in September were 20.4% higher than a year ago.

“Home price gains are becoming more widespread across cities, and some of the largest rebounds have been in areas that were most heavily affected during the initial housing slump,” said Cooper Howes, an economist with Barclays Capital. “We expect this trend to persist into next year as part of a broad-based housing recovery that includes starts, sales and prices”

Home prices are now back to where they were in early 2003, before the housing bubble inflated over the next three years before bursting. Even with the recent gain, the national index is down 28.6% from the peak level reached the first quarter of 2006.

By Chris Isidore @CNNMoney November 27, 2012: 10:07 AM ET