38 versus 7500

That’s my federal refund for 2008 after an initial run-through with TaxACT, which I’m new to after many years of TaxCut and Turbo Tax. TaxAct is either free or very cheap if you want the Deluxe version, and, for my purposes, seems to have all the functionality of the mainstays.

$38. I suppose I should pat myself on the back for doing well in 2008 at the game called “Mess With Your Payroll Deductions”. To come out basically even means I got to keep the money that I’d otherwise get back in a hefty refund. With that money I got to do things like go to one-and-a-half Journey concerts and purchase orthotics.

I did pretend, briefly, that I did actually qualify for the very generous first-time homebuyer tax credit that Congress passed last fall in response to the housing crisis. It gives new homeowners up to a very nice $7,500 as a credit. Unfortunately, you had to have purchased your home after April 7, 2008 (and you have all of 2009 to take advantage of it, I believe). I bought my house in September 2007.

So many credits and deductions in the tax code have graduated phase-outs. This credit has an income phase-out but no phase-out with regard to the date of your home purchase. If you had closed on a home on April 8, 2008, you may get $7,500 back from Uncle Sam. If you closed on April 7, 2008, you will get $0.

(I didn’t mean to get too technical, but if anyone is really interested in this credit, note that it is technically a 15-year zero-percent interest loan. You are supposed to pay the government back through your federal withholding over the next 15 years–$500/year if you’re getting the whole $7500).

On the bright-side for me, getting $38 back from the government is a heckuva lot better than owing money.

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