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Downward Direction for Down Payments

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Crunch the Numbers and Drop Your Private Mortgage Insurance ("PMI") Payments

Who's Watching your Deposit Money?

Remodeling Value: Your Best Investments

More Than One Way to Pay for Remodeling

File Your Income Tax Returns Early and Save Money

Types of Loans Available for the Self-Employed

Top Five Homeowner Tax Saving Ideas


File Early for Tax Refund

Now is the time to start organizing and preparing yourself to file your 1999 return. You could be entitled to a refund. Why let the IRS hang on to your money any longer than necessary?

Here's what you'll need:

W-2 Forms from your employer
1099 forms from your banks, brokers, and mutual funds
1098 form from your mortgage lender reporting your home mortgage interest
Statements from charities verifying large cash donations or any noncash donation higher than $250
Medical bills if your medical costs exceeded 7.5% of your gross income

Here are a few reminders and tips:

1 - Refinancers: Generally, the IRS requires lender points in a refinance to be amortized over the life of the loan. However, if you've refinanced your home more than one time, and you refinanced again in 1999, any points that haven't been amortized can be deducted immediately.

2 - Home Sellers: If you owned your home on August 5, 1997 and sold it before August 5, 1999, you're eligible for a portion of the $500,000/$250,000 capital gains break (exclusion), even if you don't meet the requirement of having owned and lived in the home for at least two years.

3 - Direct Deposit - The IRS has begun offering the option of depositing your refund check directly in your bank, or directly into your brokerage or mutual fund account.

4 - IRA or Keogh contribution. Want to reduce your tax liability for 1999? How do you do that now that we're in year 2000? Make a deductible contribution to a retirement account, anytime before April 17. Keogh accounts must have been established before December 31, 1999 to qualify for the 1999 deduction. Check the income limits to determine if you qualify for a deduction.

Help for New Homeowners

If you're a new homeowner, prepare yourself for the shock of itemizing on your return-it's a lot more work than the good old 1040-EZ. If you're a do-it-yourselfer, you'll have to obtain the necessary forms and instructions, as well as the records from your home purchase, escrow statement and mortgage interest payments.

Fortunately, the IRS has a number of booklets that help homeowners to file and take advantage of available deductions. Many forms and publications can be downloaded from the Internal Revenue Service web site at You also can obtain these booklets by calling your local IRS office or toll-free to (800)TAXFORM (829-3676). Start with No. 530 Tax Information for Homeowners. Also see No. 936 Home Mortgage Interest Deduction and No. 932 New Rules for Home Mortgages. Check out No. 521 Moving Expenses, and you'll need to file IRS Form 3903 for Moving Expenses.

Home-based business owners should read No. 587 Business Use of Your Home. Owner-investors may want to see No. 534 Depreciation and No. 551 Basis of Assets. Apartment dwellers should read No. 588 Condominiums, Cooperative Apartments and Homeowners Associations.

If you sold your home last year, you'll need IRS Form 1099-S Proceeds from Real Estate Transactions to report the sale of your home and any capital gains.

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