5 Ways to Show Your Home Some Love

Don’t leave your home out of the Valentine’s Day fun — send it a love note or two with these quick tips.

When February rolls around, we’re often thinking of little ways to show our loved ones how special they are to us. Why not take the opportunity to do the same for your home?

While you can’t send your home a box of chocolates or a card, there are plenty of things you can do to show it a little love this Valentine’s Day.

Make easy DIY updates

Even if you’re not planning on selling your home anytime soon, it’s always good to make small improvements to increase your home’s value. Plan a quick weekend project, like one of the following:

  • Install a no-touch faucet on the kitchen sink
  • Swap those brass drawer pulls from the ’90s with a more modern design
  • Replace the old fluorescent light fixtures in the bathroom
  • Upgrade the frameless builder-grade mirror to a more stylish one
  • Paint the front door and shutters a vibrant color you love

These simple changes can make a huge difference in how you see and enjoy your home — and make it easier to sell when the time comes.

Buy it something pretty

Just like buying a new ensemble usually lifts your spirits, purchasing something you love for your home will instantly put you in a great mood.

Buy that gorgeous vintage door you’ve been eyeing online (after carefully measuring, of course). Upgrade the curtains the previous owner left behind, buy something colorful and cheery to change the room’s look, or take the plunge and finally purchase that department store rug.

Cultivating great style in your home doesn’t usually happen overnight, but occasionally purchasing items that that make you happy will eventually result in a space you love.

Make happy memories in it

When you first looked at your home, you might have said something like, “This would be a great space for entertaining.” Since moving in, however, have you actually entertained in your home?

If you haven’t (or if it’s been awhile), consider hosting a potluck or a casual dinner with friends and family.

But don’t think you have to scrub the floors for three days and prepare a feast. There’s no need to get too fancy when you host — all you really need is great friends, lively conversation, and good food. Make a menu, choose the music, and hang some string lights or light some candles to create a festive atmosphere.

Save money on it

If mortgage rates are down and you’re interested in lowering your monthly payments, you might want to consider refinancing your home.

Though saving money on your mortgage is the most obvious reason to refinance, many homeowners choose to refinance so they can change from an adjustable rate mortgage (ARM) to a fixed-rate mortgage. This can make payments more predictable and less dependent on how the market is doing.

Knowing that you are making the best financial decisions when it comes to your home will ultimately make you happier to be there.

Make sure it’s protected

Reviewing your home insurance policy may not be the most exciting way to spend an evening, but it’s a good way to make sure there aren’t any obvious gaps in your coverage.

Read your policy carefully. Are you overly insured? Or are you overpaying for the amount of coverage you’re getting? Remember that standard coverage often doesn’t often pay for flood or earthquake damage, so check your policy and understand what’s covered in the rare case of a disaster.

If you find areas for improvement, shop around for a new insurance company or work with your existing provider to create a plan that makes you feel more prepared and secure. Understanding the ins and outs of your insurance policy is the best way to look after your pocketbook — and it will likely help you sleep better at night, too.

A home is more than just a roof over your head — it’s a place that’s meant to be loved and enjoyed. Try some of these quick tips this weekend, and you’re sure to fall in love with your home even more.

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Source: zillow.com

6 Disastrous Tax Mistakes People Make When They Work From Home

Working from home has multiple perks, not the least of which is the short commute to your home office in your PJs. (Yes, it’s a cliché, and yes, it happens.)

But while you might be incredibly talented at designing websites, writing novels, or whatever it is you do during your 9-to-5 at home, nearly all of us have the potential to get tripped up during tax time.

Granted, working from home—either part time or full time—provides plenty of ways to save on taxes. But within those opportunities lie pitfalls galore (especially now that the new Tax Cuts and Jobs Act is in full swing), and they could lead to an IRS audit.

To help you stay in the clear when filing for the 2020 tax year, here’s a rundown of these six tax mistakes people often make when they work from home.

1. Assuming you can deduct your home office

If you work from home for a larger corporation (if you receive a W-2, that’s you), you cannot deduct the costs associated with a home office. Sorry, telecommuters!

And for all you W-2 employees stuck working at home during the coronavirus pandemic? You don’t qualify for this deduction either. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act removed the home office deduction for workers who conduct business at home but still have a full-time employer.

Self-employed individuals, however, can still take the deduction, provided they have a dedicated, work-only space. (See below.)

2. Neglecting to take all of your deductions

Some of the best perks of being self-employed and working from home are the many deductions you can take for various expenses. However, a few are commonly overlooked, says Josh Zimmelman, owner of Westwood Tax & Consulting in New York City.

For instance, many don’t realize that they can deduct the percentage of their internet, landline, and utilities that are used for work.

Those who work from home can also deduct transportation costs to outside meetings, dues for professional development, and regulatory fees or licenses paid to state or local governments. So if you use any of those, make sure to add them to the heap!

3. Taking too many suspicious deductions

On the other hand, some self-employed folks put themselves at risk of an audit by trying to write off bogus expenses, Zimmelman cautions.

“In order for an expense to be deductible, it must be ‘ordinary and necessary’ to run your business,” he says.

Just because you’re at home while you work doesn’t mean you can write off that fancy new espresso maker, for example; nor should you write off lunch with your spouse at that bistro down the street (unless you’re in business together, and it was a working lunch).

4. Taking an inappropriate rent deduction for your home office

Working from home doesn’t automatically mean you can deduct a portion of your rent (or monthly mortgage fees) for the square footage you devote to a home office.

There are two main criteria for legally using this deduction, says Jason Miller, tax manager at Nussbaum Yates Berg Klein & Wolpow in New York City.

  1. Your home office must be exclusively a home office, not sometimes used for professional use and sometimes for personal use. That means your kitchen counter, guest room, or TV room with a computer doesn’t count. In IRS parlance, they are looking for “regular and exclusive” use, Miller says.
  2. Your home office must be your principal place of business. If you work at home and have an office outside the home, remember that you are not allowed to take the home office deduction, he says.

5. Commingling personal and business spending

Too many work-from-home professionals miss out on deductions because their finances are in serious disarray, Zimmelman finds. An easy solution is to carefully track business spending by setting up separate checking, savings, and credit card accounts.

You also need to keep meticulous records of what equipment is used for business activities and what is personal. So, for example, if you have one cellphone for both professional and personal use, you can deduct a percentage of the expenses on your tax return, based on the percentage of use.

“You’ll need detailed call logs or other documentation to back that up,” he says.

6. Thinking credit card statements are sufficient to prove expenses

Do you blithely toss receipts because you consider your credit card statement to be adequate proof of your expenditures? You could be in trouble if you’re one of the unlucky people to get audited.

“The IRS will not accept credit card statements as backup, because they do not show itemized details of what was purchased,” says Miller.

For example, say you have a charge from an office supply store for $1,500 on your credit card. The IRS cannot determine whether the purchases were for legitimate office needs or whether you were buying computer components for your teen.

Plus, remember that in an audit, the burden of proof still remains on the taxpayer to prove or substantiate expenses. So keep saving those receipts! Apps abound, so you don’t have to stuff them in a shoebox; there’s even one called Shoeboxed, which scans and saves receipts for future reference.

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Watch: Sold a Home? Don’t Miss These Tax Deductions

Source: realtor.com