We’re heading, finally, into the heart of tax return filing season 2020. Even if you fill out and submit your Form 1040 electronically, as most of us do, you still need the documents that provide the figures you transfer to your return.
One area of interest to millions every filing season is interest.
In some cases, the interest you pay on certain loans can provide a tax break. In another, it could mean you owe Uncle Sam a bit more.
This week’s Tax Form Tuesday looks at three common interest-related tax documents. (Quick note: the forms’ names below are linked to the full Internal Revenue Service PDF versions.)
First, here are two that could shave a bit off your eventually federal tax bill.
Form 1098 — This form lists how much mortgage interest a homeowner paid on the loan. The amount you can claim as an itemized deduction is limited, based on the size of the loan you got to buy your residence. That cap was lowered by the 2017 tax reform law, creating two limits based on when you took out the loan.
If your residential mortgage was obtained on or before Dec. 15, 2017, you can claim the amount of interest you paid on a loan of up to $1 million. That covers most of us regular Jill and Jack Homeowners. If you’re a more well-to-do Jack or Jill and have a second home with a mortgage, that $1 million loan limit applies to that property, too, and you also can deduct that other home’s loan interest.
The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) that became law in December 2017, however, reduced the mortgage amount that qualifies for this deduction. For home loans obtained after Dec. 16, 2017, or later, only interest on loans of up to $750,000 is tax deductible. That limit also applies to any second residence upon which you have a mortgage.
The amount of interest you paid is reported to you on Form 1098. As with most tax statements, the lender sends a copy to the IRS.
Below is the IRS version of 1098, but the one(s) you get from your bank probably looks dramatically different.
The hubby and I have over the years owned five different homes — primary residences, natch, not get-away vacation properties — and we’ve never received a Form 1098 like the one shown above. Ours, including the two refinancings of mortgages, all were what is known as a substitute 1098.
In our cases, these have been letter-sized sheets that spell out the information detailed on the official Form 1098, but in a format that meets the lenders’ software. That’s OK. The IRS doesn’t really care what the form looks like. It just wants the data.
Form 1098-E — If you took out a loan to go to college, then you should get this form. It reports, again to you and the IRS, the amount of interest you (or your parents) paid on your student loan.
Lenders issue a 1098-E when the interest paid is at least $600. If you have more than one education loan (college is increasingly costly!), you may get a separate Form 1098-E for each.
If your loan interest is less, track down your payment records for the amount. You may be able to deduct up to $2,500 of this interest and possibly other loan-related amounts, such as origination fees and capitalized interest.
Technically, this is an adjustment to your income. It used to be known as an above-the-line deduction (and I and many other tax folks still call these tax breaks that) that can be claimed without having to itemize.
You’ll find the student loan interest deduction/adjustment on the Form 1040 Schedule 1.
When you claim the student loan interest amount, which could be limited depending on your (or your parents’) earnings, and other above-the-line deductions, that total will reduce your gross income and get you to a lower adjusted gross income (AGI) level.
Arriving at your AGI is the first step in getting to your taxable income level. And even bit of money you can take off the taxable table usually means a lower final tax liability.
Now about those earnings. There’s also an interest tax statement that could increase your tax bill. That’s this week’s third and final Tuesday tax form.
Form 1099-INT — The 1099 is the tip-off. This series of tax statements shown taxable amounts of money you receive.
The INT suffix is for the interest you earned on assets such as bank, credit union or other financial institution savings accounts; certificates of deposit (CDs) or other investment accounts that paid interest. If you earn enough, you’ll get a 1099-INT with the specifics.
Or you might not get a 1099-INT since the last few years — OK, more than a few years — have not been kind to savers.
The low interest rates that are a blessing for folks looking for loans, like those residential ones with their tax-deductible interest, have been a curse for folks who’ve socked away money in more conservative savings vehicles. These accounts have paid, how shall I put this, crap of late.
So depending on your savings option, you might not even get a Form 1099. The account holders only issue them when you earn at least $10 in interest.
The hubby and I have one CD that’s essentially a more liquid emergency fund that didn’t hit that 1099-INT threshold last year. Yes, we moved it into a better, albeit still frustratingly low, interest paying account.
Remember, though, tax law requires that you report all your income even if you don’t get a 1099 form.
Tax forms to fill out more tax forms: Each of these interest reporting documents, whether they save or cost you some tax dollars, are pretty self-explanatory.
Many of them are downloadable from the issuing institutions. That makes it even easier to get the benefits or cost of them when you or your tax adviser use tax preparation software.
They also were issued in late January or early February. You probably stuck them in a file or drawer to go back to when you decided to get to your tax return. Well, it’s about that time in this COVID-19 altered 2020 tax season.
So dig out these interest-related (and other) tax statements or, if you can’t find them, contact the issuer(s) for a replacement copy.
This year’s July 15 tax filing deadline will (finally) be here before you know it.