Secrets of the homebuyer tax credit

The basic rules of the federal homebuyer tax credit are not difficult to figure out. But the credit, which has been amended and extended, also contains more than a dozen little-known twists and traps that can affect whether a buyer will or won’t qualify for the full amount of up to $8,000 for first-time buyers or $6,500 for repeat homeowners.

Here are some facts homebuyers should know about the rules that became effective Nov. 7, 2009:The amount of the credit technically isn’t $8,000 or $6,500, but rather 10 percent of the purchase price of the house up to those amounts for a buyer who hasn’t owned a home in the last three years or a homeowner who has occupied the same principal residence for five consecutive of the last eight years, respectively. For example, if the home cost $50,000, the maximum credit amount would be $5,000, not $8,000 or $6,500.Buyers can elect to claim the credit on their 2009 or 2010 tax return, whichever is more advantageous for them. [Read the full article]

You’ve decided it’s finally time to take that big technological tax step. This year, you’re e-filing.Bankrate’s 2010 Tax GuideTax tips and toolsHow do I … ?Filing and refundsReal estate and capital gainsFamily and educationOn the jobInvestments and retirementCharitable givingYour state taxes<< All guide contentYou definitely won’t be alone. Almost 95 million taxpayers electronically filed returns last year.

It was another e-filing record, and the computer-relayed returns accounted for more than two-thirds of the total 1040s the IRS received in 2009.

Not surprisingly, e-filing comes in two waves: early filers, who generally are getting tax money back and like the speed e-filing offers in getting the refund process going, and taxpayers who wait until just before the April deadline to hit the “enter” key.

In addition to the appeal of more precise time control over your 1040’s delivery, electronic filing offers several more attractions. [Read the full article]

Gov. Sean Parnell said Thursday that he wants to give oil and gas companies greater incentives to do business in the state, a plan he says will boost production and create potentially hundreds of new jobs for Alaskans.

The plan comes amid forecasts of slumping oil production on Alaska’s North Slope and concerns by some Republican lawmakers that a state tax on oil and gas production — passed two years ago at the urging of then-Gov. Sarah Palin — is doing more harm than good and hindering new development.

A report released Thursday by the state Department of Revenue did not attribute industry woes to the tax; in fact, it found the tax was performing as expected. However, it did recommend ways the system could be improved to spur additional development, including expanding tax credits for drilling and well work costs.

Parnell said the recommendations strike a balance between protecting Alaska’s interests and declaring the state open for business. [Read the full article]

People who want welfare benefits in Nebraska might have to start passing drug tests to qualify for government assistance if the Legislature approves a bill introduced Thursday.

Similar measures were considered last year in at least 22 other states, but none of those passed because of concerns about costs and possible court challenges.

Fremont Sen. Charlie Janssen’s bill would require the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services to develop a plan to test welfare recipients and applicants for drugs. Anyone who tests positive would lose benefits for one year.

Janssen said he thinks the measure would help make sure that welfare benefits are helping people improve their lives instead of just providing handouts.

“When a taxpayer gives assistance to somebody, it’s assistance so they can get back up on their feet,” Janssen said. [Read the full article]

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