Posts by Laney Jericho

Tax Implications Of Home Equity Loans

Taking out a home equity loan can put a few extra dollars in your pocket come tax time. While you can benefit from loan-related tax deductions, whether the mortgage interest you pay is fully deductible depends on why you borrow the money.

If you use the money for reasons other than making improvements to your home or buying a second home, there are limits on how much of the interest you can deduct on your federal income tax.

Deduction Limits for Home Improvements

If you take out a home equity loan to make home improvements and file your tax return as single or married filing jointly, you can deduct the interest on up to $1 million of the combined amounts you’ve borrowed. You can’t deduct interest you pay on any amount that exceeds the $1 million loan limit.

For example, if all the loans that qualify for the mortgage interest deduction total $1.1 million, you can’t claim the interest you pay on the additional $100,000 loan amount, even if you use the money to make home improvements.

The most interest you can deduct is $500,000 if you are married but file a separate tax return.

Deduction Limits When You Don’t Make Home Improvements

If you don’t take out a home equity loan to make major home improvements, buy another home, or build a home, you can only deduct the interest you pay on the first $100,000 you borrow. In other words, if you borrow the money to go on a Caribbean cruise, the tax break you get will be smaller.

If you and your spouse file separate returns, you can each deduct the interest on the first $50,000, but you both have to itemize your deductions.

Your Home as Collateral

You can’t deduct the interest you pay on a home equity loan as mortgage interest expense unless you put up your home as collateral.

The total for all your mortgage debt can’t be more than your home’s fair market value when you take out the loan. Your home’s fair market value is the price you would expect to get if you sold it at the time.

Itemized Expenses

You must itemize deductions on Form 1040, Schedule A of your tax return to deduct interest you pay on your home equity loan. Whether you can claim mortgage interest as an itemized expense depends on whether you exceed the standard deduction you can take for your filing status.

Even if you didn’t itemize in previous tax years, the interest you pay on a home equity loan may be enough to put you over the standard deduction. Form 1098 that you get from your lender shows the amount of interest you paid on the loan during the tax year.

Home Office

If you use any part of your home as a home office, the IRS only allows you to deduct the amount of interest you pay for the part of the home you live in.

You may be able to deduct the remaining portion of the mortgage-interest expense for the business use of your home on Form 1040, Schedule C — Profit or Loss from Business. Contact a company like Capital Accounting And Tax Service Inc for more information.

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3 Financial Decisions To Make Before Your Wedding Day

Once you’re engaged, you’re bombarded with decisions to make about your wedding, honeymoon, and future together. The list is probably growing longer and longer as the big day approaches, but there’s one thing you should discuss that has nothing to do with wedding planning or boutonnieres–your finances. Money problems are the leading cause of divorce in America, so you should tackle these issues head-on to avoid arguments after the big day.


Don’t assume your future spouse has debts under control, and don’t try to hide your past financial indiscretions, either. A new marriage is difficult enough without huge fights about debt looming over your heads.

Sit down and have a thorough conversation about both of your financial obligations, and get your credit scores and reports out in the open, too. Now you can devise a plan on how to best tackle these debts once you’re married. If your debt-to-income ratio is 37% or more, you may need to cut back on wedding expenditures, so you can dig yourselves out of the hole and start your marriage on the right foot.

If neither of you has any debt, you should still discuss how you’ll handle it in the future. Some people are against credit card debt, for example; others avoid all debt entirely. You need to be on the same page, because car purchases and mortgages may be in the not-so-distant future.


Everyone should have a budget, but not everyone does. If you’ve been operating without one, it’s time to get started, and your spouse needs to be on the same page. If you have separate budgets, you should consider combining them into one.

Some couples choose to keep their finances separate throughout marriage, but this may be a bad idea. For one, it’s rather difficult to execute. Some financial contracts have your name on them, others have your spouse’s, and some have both. It’s tricky to split the bills evenly and avoid rifts, so a combined budget is usually better for everyone. You should start one as a couple now, so there are no surprises during your first month of marriage.

Checking Accounts

A married couple needs a checking account, but the choice of joint or separate accounts is up to you. Whichever one you decide, it’s most important that you both agree. A joint account is easier to manage for bill payment and day-to-day finances, but separate ones are more convenient for individual spending money.

Many couples choose to have one account for bills and other joint obligations, but keep separate ones or cash for personal spending money. None of these choices are wrong; it’s simply a matter of personal preference.

The financial aspect of marriage is arguably the least entertaining. Honeymoons and wedding planning are much more interesting, but not nearly as important. Your wedding only lasts one day. Finances are important for the rest of your lives. Talk to a financial planning consultant like Global Wealth Consultants LLC for help with getting your finances sorted out after marriage.

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How To Spot A Check Scam

Common check scams involve receiving a check to deposit in your personal bank account and then wiring money to a third party. You find out later that the check was counterfeit.

Simply assuming a company or organization is legitimate can be risky if you don’t check it out. But knowing how various check scams work can help you avoid being scammed and losing your money.

Say No to Overpayment Checks

A common check scam involves a buyer paying with a personal check for an item you were selling through a classified ad or online auction site. These scam artists write out checks for more than what they owe and then instruct you to go ahead and deposit their check. Part of the scam is having you refund the difference to them in cash.

The fake check bounces; you lose your item and the amount of money you refunded. You also get stuck covering the full amount of the check.

Warning bells should sound loud and clear if the buyer isn’t willing to write you out a new check for the exact sale amount.

Know U.S. Foreign Lottery Laws

If you play a foreign lottery, you are breaking U.S. law, says the Federal Trade Commission.

Ignore any letters you receive telling you that you’ve won — especially if you didn’t enter a lottery. The enclosed check, which is for only a portion of the money the letter says you’ve won, may look real but it’s not.

This particular scam will instruct you to deposit the check in your bank account and then wire back several thousand dollars to cover administrative fees and taxes. You are told you have to do this before you can collect the remainder of your winnings. However, in the U.S., taxes on lottery prizes are automatically withheld from your winnings.

Ignore Unsolicited Mystery Shopper Letters

Marketing research and retail companies sometimes hire mystery shoppers to rate the services, products, and quality of customer service that various businesses provide. Although many mystery shopper jobs are legitimate, some are scams.

It could be a mystery shopping scam if a company sends you a check to deposit in your personal account. The company then asks you to wire funds to a third party so you can rate the money transfer service.

You can protect yourself by calling your bank to make certain the check has cleared before wiring money to someone you don’t know. Otherwise, if the check is counterfeit and doesn’t clear in the end, you are responsible for paying the bank back the money.

Keep Company and Personal Accounts Separate

A foreign company that hires you to work from home as a payment processor could be perpetrating a scam, as fraudulent companies often operate from overseas.

Take it as a warning sign if the company tells you to deposit the checks you collect in your personal account and then instructs you to wire the money somewhere else.

Besides the checks being fake, if you aren’t licensed and bonded as a payment processing company, you can’t accept payments. A legitimate job requires you to deposit the money in a bank account in the company’s name. Only the company whose name appears on the account can withdraw funds.

For more tips on how to spot scams or fraud, talk to a local bank, like Juniata Valley Bank.

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