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The Hot Debate: Can You Deduct Prepaid Property Taxes?

With just two weeks to go before the April 17 deadline, prominent tax advisers still don’t agree on whether all those people who prepaid 2018 property taxes can deduct them in full.

The debate on such deductions arose after Congress passed the largest tax overhaul in three decades late last year. In a landmark change, lawmakers capped write-offs for state and local taxes at $10,000 per return for both single filers and married couples. The provision takes effect for 2018 and will lower these write-offs for millions of Americans.

The overhaul barred deductions for many prepayments of 2018 state and local income taxes, but it was silent on deductions of prepaid property taxes. After Christmas, long lines of people rushing to prepay their 2018 property taxes before year-end gathered at local government office.

Then on Dec. 27, the Internal Revenue Service warned that not all prepayments of 2018 property taxes would be deductible on 2017 returns. The agency said that to qualify for a write-off, the tax liability actually had to have been known at the time.

Right away, some tax specialists strongly agreed with the IRS but others strongly disagreed. The IRS and its supporters argued that those who prepaid all their 2018 property taxes can only deduct the portion that was known or determined at the time. In many cases, that means only for a few months of the year or not at all.

The IRS’s opponents argued for higher deductions of reasonable estimates. They based this argument on prior tax rulings and regulations that they think apply to this issue.

Now, three months later, little progress has been made.

Leading the opposition against the IRS’s position is Lawrence Axelrod, an attorney at Ivins, Phillips & Barker.

“The IRS position is misguided because it doesn’t take into account Treasury’s own regulations,” he said.

These regulations allow taxpayers to deduct amounts paid that will be due within 12 months. The IRS and its supporters disagree. They cite court decisions which say that to be deductible, taxes must have been imposed and the amount must be known.

Stephen Baxley, who heads tax planning for Bessemer Trust, a prominent multifamily office, agrees with Mr. Axelrod.

“If the amount is a reasonable estimate made in good faith, it’s deductible,” he says. The firm is responsible for preparing nearly 1,000 individual returns.

Other tax preparers agree with the IRS.

Brian Lovett, a certified public accountant with WithumSmith+Brown in New Jersey, where property taxes tend to be high, says his firm is following the IRS’s guidance: “We think the amount due must be determined for a prepayment to be deductible.”

The correct answer matters.

More than 80% of property-tax revenue is collected by local governments with a fiscal year other than Dec. 31, according to the latest data compiled by the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy. Frequently, the fiscal year ends on June 30.

As a result, total property tax bills for 2018 weren’t determined by year-end in many areas of the country. Many could reasonably be estimated, however.

For example, say John lives in a county with a fiscal year ending June 30. By the end of 2017, he knew he would owe $6,500 in property tax due by June 30, 2018. He could likely assume that his bill for the second half of 2018 would be about the same. So in late December, he prepaid $13,000 for 2018 to his county.

According to the IRS’s position, John can only deduct a prepayment of $6,500—because the amount due for the second half of the year hadn’t been set.

But if Jane lives elsewhere and knew she would actually owe $13,000 in property tax for 2018, she can deduct a prepayment of that amount on her 2017 return.

Some advisers allow both approaches. David Lifson, a CPA with Crowe Horwath who has many high-earning clients, says he recommends that clients deduct prepayments of known amounts. But he will allow a deduction of an estimate, “if I feel the client understands the risk that the IRS will disagree.”

The debate is ongoing. In March, Democrats on the Ways & Means Committee wrote acting IRS Commissioner David Kautter to protest the IRS’s interpretation of the law.

The good news for taxpayers who want to deduct prepayments of estimates is that neither Mr. Lifson nor Mr. Baxley thinks these write-offs need to be disclosed on IRS Form 8275. On it, taxpayers are supposed to disclose risky positions to avoid certain penalties. Supporters of the IRS’s position think the form should be filed, however.

Some taxpayers are also pushing preparers to take the deduction because the audit risk is low, given constraints on IRS resources.

Emily Matthews, a CPA with Edelstein & Co. in Boston, says she explains the IRS’s position to clients. But she says, “I think we’ll see a lot of people who prepaid estimated taxes opt to deduct them.”

By  | Apr 4, 2018

Posted by Sigrid Cottrell
Sigrid's Butte Blog

Heightened Market Conditions Fuel More Multiple Offers...
November 23, 2013

... and Higher Selling Price


More properties were sold above their asking price this year, as tight supply conditions
continued to heat up market competition in the first half of 2013, according to the
CALIFORNIA ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®’ (C.A.R.) “2013 Annual Housing Market
Survey.”


Nearly half (49.5 percent) of all homes sold in 2013 were sold above asking price, nearly twice the share in 2012 (25.9 percent) and triple the share in 2011 (16.6 percent). The 2013 figure was more than twice the long-run average of 18 percent during the past 20 years. For homes that sold above the list price in 2013, the median premium paid over the list price was 4.8 percent, unchanged from 2012. For the third consecutive year, an increasing number of home sellers – nearly half – planned on purchasing another home in the future.


“Sellers are more upbeat about the housing market and are more comfortable with their
financial situation. As the real estate industry and the economy continue to recover, many sellers regained confidence in owning a home since the Great Recession,” says C.A.R. President Don Faught. “The number of home sellers planning on repurchasing, in fact increased to the highest level since 2007, which suggests that repeat buyers could be the driving force in the housing market in 2014.”


The shortage of housing supply intensified further this year, leading to heightened market competition and more multiple offers, with more than seven of 10 home sales (72 percent) receiving multiple offers in 2013, up from 57 percent in 2012. The 2013 figure was the highest in at least the past 15 years, with each home receiving an average of 5.7 offers, up from 4.2 offers in 2012 and 3.5 offers in 2011.


The distressed market continued to be the most competitive segment of the market, with more than nine in 10 (91 percent) real estate-owned (REO) properties attracting multipleoffers, an increase from 71 percent in 2012. The short sale market was less intense than the REO market, but still three quarters of all sales received more than one offer, a jump from 66 percent in 2012. Close to seven of 10 equity sales received multiple offers in 2013, a surge from 51 percent in 2012.


Other key findings from C.A.R.’s “2013 Annual Housing Market Survey” include:


• The share of all cash buyers decreased for the first time after seven years of continuous increase. More than a quarter of all home buyers paid with all cash in 2013, triple what it was in 2001, when the share was 8.8 percent. The share of all cash buyers continued to stay well above the long-run average of 15.1 percent since 1998.


• Overseas buyers were increasingly interested in owning property in California. The share of international buyers rose for the third year in a row, up from 5.8 percent of total sales in 2012 and 5.7 percent in 2011 to 8 percent in 2013. More than half (57 percent) of all international buyers bought the property as a primary residence, while almost one-third (31 percent) of them purchased the property as an investment. Buyers from China, Mexico, and Canada made up the vast majority of international buyers at 34 percent, 15 percent, and 10 percent, respectively.


• Investors were very active in California’s housing market, creating high demand for
investment properties during the first half of 2013. Nineteen percent of total sales went to investors in 2013 compared to 16 percent in 2012. The demand for investment properties has grown significantly since 2000 as many bargain properties became available during the housing downturn. At the beginning of the past decade, the share of sales pertaining to investment home buyers was only 7 percent, but has nearly tripled since then. 


• As investors and first-time buyers competed intensely for lower-priced properties, the share of first-time buyers fell again in 2013 to 28 percent, after inching up slightly to 36 percent in 2012 and was well below the long-run average of 38 percent. It was the third decline in the last four years since the share of first-time buyers peaked at 47 percent in 2009, when home buyer tax credits fueled the demand for entry-level homes.


• Bargain hunting investors competed directly with first-time buyers looking for more
affordable homes in the distressed market. More than a third of all properties (34 percent) purchased by investors were either short sales or REO/foreclosures.

November 6, 2013                              by: RISMedia
 
Posted by Sigrid Cottrell

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