Taxes 
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9 Year End Tax Moves to Make by Dec. 31st

1040 Bobblehead DudeAfter last week’s Thursday post on adjusting your tax withholding, I thought that we needed a full blown post on the best year end tax moves. So who better to turn to than prolific tax expert Kay Bell, author of The Truth About Paying Fewer Taxes? She was kind enough to list not one, not two, but nine tax moves you can make before the ball drops.

It’s time to make your year-end tax list and check it twice to ensure that you give yourself the gift of tax-savings. Here are 9 ways this month to help make your 2009 tax bill as small as possible.

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 Your Take 
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Your Take: Default on Underwater Mortgages?

Foreclosure!There’s an interesting article on the Consumerist two days ago discussing a paper written by law professor Brent T. White of the University of Arizona. The paper, “Underwater and Not Walking Away: Shame, Fear and the Social Management of the Housing Crisis,” argues that more people should be strategically defaulting on their mortgages but don’t because they feel guilty and because the consequences of foreclosure are overblown.

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 Government 
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Veterans Affairs VA Mortgage Loan Requirements Guide

Seal of Veterans AffairsLast week, I wrote an FHA loan requirement guide to help folks looking to find more information about the Federal Housing Administration’s loan insurance program. In that post and in emails, many readers told me that I should take a look at the FDA and VA programs because it may be more appropriate for someone looking to purchase or refinance their existing home.

This article will cover the loan guaranty service offered by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs, also known as the VA home Loan program.

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 Government 
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First Time Homebuyer Tax Credit Extension (HR 3842)

Representative Kurt Schrader, Democrat from Oregon, and Representative Steve Driehaus, Democrat from Ohio, have co-sponsored a bill, H.R. 3842, that would amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to extend the first time homebuyer tax credit.

The current first time homebuyer credit is set to expire on December 1st, 2009. Schrader’s bill would do two crucial things:

  • The program would be extended to October 1st, 2010,
  • Homes purchased “after 2008,” rather than “in 2009″ would be elivible.

There is also one other change, you could treat the purchase of a home after December 31st, 2009 and before October 1st, 2010 as occurring on December 31st, 2009 for tax purposes. In other words, if you bought the house in 2010, you could take the credit on your 2009 tax return.

Don’t get too excited just yet, the bill was introduced on the 15th and was referred to the Committee on Ways and Means. Several bills just like this one have been introduced over the last few months and died in the Committee on Ways and Means (HR 1993, HR 2606, HR 2655, HR 2905… the list keeps going).


 The Home 
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$8,000 First-Time Homebuyer Credit to be Extended for Military

Yesterday, the House of Representatives voted 416 to 0 to pass the Service Members Home Ownership Tax Act of 2009 which extends the current $8,000 first-time home buyer tax credit for another 12 months for members of the military, Foreign Service, and intelligence corp who served at least three months of qualified overseas duty in 2009. The program is set to expire on November 30th, 2009 for everyone else and the justification for the extension makes sense. If you’ve been serving abroad for our country, it makes it very difficult for you to look for a house and take advantage of the program. Extending it another year certainly makes sense.

At the moment the bill has passed only the House of Representatives, it or a similar bill needs to pass the Senate, then reconciled, then signed by the President before it is law.

“If you are in a conflict zone, you don’t have time to get together with your spouse and family to go house shopping,” says Rep. Ron Kind, a Wisconsin Democrat. Rep. Dave Camp, a Republican from Michigan, expressed similar concerns. “A lot of service members get called overseas at a moment’s notice,” Camp says. “And because of the time limit on the legislation now, they can’t always take advantage of it, not because of anything that they did or didn’t do but because of the unique nature of serving in our armed forces.”

It’s estimated that this will result in an additional 10,000 home sales, likely clustered around military facilities, at no extra cost. It’s revenue neutral because there are other revenue generating provisions included in the bill. The Senate received the bill yesterday and is set to vote on it fairly quickly.

As for the original credit set to expire on November 30th, there are discussions about extending the credit an additional six months.

House Votes to Extend First-Time Home Buyer Tax Credit for Service Members [U.S. News & World Report]


 Government 
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FHA Mortgage Loan Requirements Guide

Gingerbread HouseWhen I was reading Dale Siegel’s The New Rules of Mortgages, was struck by the sheer number of available mortgage options available to Americans. I knew about your standard vanilla varieties (30 year fixed, 15 year fixed), even the trickier ones (ARMs, Option ARMs), but I knew very little about the various government sponsored programs designed to help low to moderate income or first time hombuyer families get a piece of homeownership.

One of these programs is the FHA, or Federal Housing Administration, mortgage insurance program. It’s part of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the FHA provides mortgage insurance on loans made by FHA-approved lenders. The logic behind the program is that low and moderate income families and first time homebuyers, especially in these economic times, may need a little extra help in the homeownership process. This help comes by way of an insurance program, that the borrowers will pay for at least five years of the loan, offered by the government.

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 Reviews 
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The New Rules for Mortgages by Dale Robyn Siegel

The New Rules for Mortgages by Dale Robyn SiegelWhen I was first approached to do a review of The New Rules for Mortgages by Dale Robyn Siegel, I was eager to get my hands on the book because of all the stories I had heard about how getting a mortgage today was much harder than it was a few years ago. Three years ago, you could get a loan based on thin air because the mortgage company could sell it to an even bigger sucker down the road. That’s part of the reason why we are in the economic funk we’re in today.

However, I feel for the people who, through no fault of their own, now have to deal with the after effects today and thought a review of this book might be helpful. So, let’s dive into the book!

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 Personal Finance 
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Mortgage Options for Military Veterans

The beginning of July marked a new chapter in the ongoing Iraq war, as the U.S. withdrew combat troops from the war-torn nation’s cities. The withdrawal is part of a multi-step drawdown of U.S. forces that is expected to culminate in 2011 with the exodus of all American soldiers from Iraq.

In the months ahead, scores of U.S. soldiers will prepare to return home and reestablish their lives. For many returning veterans, adjusting to the financial and social rigors of everyday life can prove a significant challenge. A study released last spring by the U.S. Veterans Affairs Department chronicled the hardships that can confront veterans, from unemployment to low wages.

Soldiers are returning home to an economy in flux, including a severely hardened credit market. Checking credit scores and building a path toward maintaining good credit will likely rank among the chief responsibilities for many. Military agencies and communities across the country offer free financial counseling for active duty servicemen and women and veterans.

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