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Steps to Take Before Your Tax Preparation

Steps to Take Before Your Tax Preparation

Preparing for Your Tax Return

We sat down with Steve Barnes of Barnes & Company, CPAs, P.C. He shared his Top Tax Prep Tips for the smoothest possible experience.

Gather Your Information Returns

By the end of January, you should have received various types of information returns that you need. For each form, verify that the information matches your own records.

Below are some of the most common forms (Note: This is not a complete list; the IRS has information on the many other types of information returns you may need):

  • Form W-2, if you have a job
  • Form SSA-1099, if you received Social Security benefits
  • Various 1099s to report income such as cancellation of debt (1099-C), dividends(1099-D), interest (1099-INT), and nonemployee compensation paid to independent contractors (1099-MISC) (Note: Brokers don’t have to mail Form 1099-B, which reports gains and losses on securities transactions, until January 31, 2019.)
  • Form 1095-A to report information from the government Marketplace from which you purchased health coverage
  • Various 1098s reporting mortgage interest (1098), student loan interest (1098-E) and tuition payments (1098-T)
  • Form W-2Gs for certain gambling winnings
  • Schedule K-1s from entities in which you have an ownership interest, such as S corporations, partnerships, limited liability companies, trusts or estates (Note: You may not have received them yet; they are due by the first March 15 following the end of the partnership’s tax year; check with the entity if one doesn’t arrive.)

Get Your Receipts Together

Which ones you need depends on whether you choose to itemize your personal deductions instead of claiming the standard deduction. You can choose to itemize if this produces the greater write-off. Unfortunately, the only way to know for sure is to determine the amount of your itemized deductions and compare them with your standard deduction amount. (Note that this deduction will double for the 2018 tax year, but not for the year that just ended.)

For itemizing, get receipts together now by whatever system (or lack of system) used throughout the year to retain receipts for various deductible expenses. Look for receipts for medical costs not covered by insurance (deduction threshold is 7.5% for the 2018 tax year under the new tax law – it will return to 10%, starting with the 2019 year) or reimbursed by any other health plan (e.g., a flexible spending account or health savings account), property taxes, and job-related and investment-related expenses).

If you have business income and expenses to report on Schedule C, you’ll need to share your books and records (e.g., QuickBooks or other accounting system, receipts for expenses, bank and credit card statements). The more organized you can be, the less time it will take your preparer, which translates into lower fees for his or her service.

Gather Records for Charitable Contributions

If you made donations to charity and itemize your deductions, you need specific records to claim any write-off. For example, for contributions of $250 or more, you need a written acknowledgment from the charity stating the amount of your gift and that you did not receive anything (other than perhaps a token item) in return. If you’re lacking an acknowledgment, contact the charity and ask for it. You need it in hand by the time you file your return. Find details about the type of records needed for charitable deductions in IRS Publication 1771.

First Year for Most Tax Law Changes

The individual healthcare mandate brought in a slew of changes, including new forms for claiming the premium tax credit for eligible individuals who purchased coverage through a government Marketplace (exchange) and for figuring the shared responsibility payment for those who failed to carry coverage and do not qualify for an exemption.

You can find general information about the individual mandate and about exemptions from the mandate on the IRS website. (For deadlines for enrolling through the Health Insurance Marketplace, go to the government website.) Starting with the 2019 tax year, there will be no penalty for failing to have health insurance.

Other changes that started with the 2018 tax year and will last through 2025: the end of the home-equity loan interest tax deduction and deductions for job-related expenses, tax-prep expenses and a number of other outlays; a drop in the home-mortgage interest deduction on new mortgages to interest on $750,000 from $1 million; and the end of the personal exemption.

In addition, the state and local tax deduction (which includes state income, property, and other taxes) now maxes out at $10,000; previously there was no ceiling on this deduction. On the other hand, the child tax credit doubles and so does (pretty much) the standard deduction.

Make a List of Personal Information

You probably know your Social Security number, but do you know the number for each dependent you claim? Jot down this and other information (e.g., addresses of vacation homes and rental property, dates you moved, information about a property that you bought and sold, including dates, what you originally paid, what you received on the sale and expenses you had) needed to complete your return.

Decide Whether to Ask for a Filing Extension

If you need more time to complete all of these tasks, you can request a filing extension to October 15, 2019. This will avoid any late-filing penalty, but be sure to pay what you think you’ll owe to minimize or avoid any late-payment penalty. There’s no extension beyond April 15 for paying the tax that is due.

Find a Copy of Last Year’s Return

If you use the same preparer that you used last year, likely the old return is already on hand. If you go to a new preparer, last year’s return serves as a reminder to the preparer – and you – of some items you don’t want to overlook. Below are two examples:

  • Payors of interest and dividends. If you received this income last year, look for 1099s for this year (unless you’ve sold stocks, closed bank accounts or made other investment changes that account for not getting a 1099 this year).
  • Charities. If you made small gifts, you may not have received any acknowledgment from the organization, but you can still deduct your gift as long as you have a canceled check or other proof. See last year’s list of organizations you donated to and see whether you made similar gifts this year.

Questions about Tax Preparation?


646 Long Island Ave
Deer Park, NY 11729

HELP!  I Think I Need a Permit!

HELP! I Think I Need a Permit!


Anyone that’s been involved in a real estate transaction with permit issues, knows how important it is to get accurate information, as quickly as possible.  Permit issues can hold up a sale, or potentially lose a deal!

We sat down with Charles Weinraub from Captain Permit to get answers to the most commonly asked questions.  Here’s what he had to say!

Q- I’m planning on doing work to my house. Do I need a permit?  If so, for what?

A- The answer is; Most likely.  It’s easier to tell you what you don’t need a permit for.  If you are changing a window that is the same size, going over an existing roof, siding, painting, or doing floors…All these you should be able to do without a permit.  EVERYTHING ELSE…you need a permit.  That includes removing any sheetrock, changing outlets, changing window sizes, renovating bathrooms, kitchen, and so much more.  Even if you are only going to change your toilet bowl, you technically need a permit.

Q- How long does the permit process take?

A- The amount of time varies, depending on the building department, time of year, and how busy they are.  Some building departments offer expedited services.  Others do not.  Certain towns will not allow you to use the expedited services if the house has existing violations.  The time frame can range anywhere from a few days to many months.  The most important thing is to work with an expeditor who can draft the plans for you quickly, and knows the ins and outs of each building department.  This will help to minimize the wait because time is money!  At Captain Permit, our goal is to be on-site, measuring your job, the day after you call us.  Drawing the plans the following day, and submitting everything to the town within the following 48 hours.

Q- How much does it cost to get a permit?

A- The cost varies depending on the SCOPE of work, cost of construction (building department fees are based on a percentage of the cost of construction), and the number of permits needed (building, plumbing, electric, etc).

Q- Are the codes and rules different in every township AND VILLAGE?

A- Every building department is governed by the New York State Building Code.  However, each town AND VILLAGE, is different, regarding what they enforce, and to what extent.  That’s why it’s critical to work with an expediter who knows the codes, and what each township looks for.

Q- I bought the house this way, 20 years ago. Now I need a permit?

A- Yes.  It doesn’t matter if you bought the house with the deck, pool, finished basement, etc.  If the town becomes aware of it, or you are looking to sell the property, the buyer’s attorney will most likely require all permits to be in place.

Q- How do I ensure I don’t have a problem when selling my house?

A- Call Captain Permit, LLC at 516-318-8838.  One of our permit specialists will do a FREE in-depth analysis of the building department records, and provide you with a list of all closed, open, and missing permits AT NO CHARGE TO YOU!



You’re working with your client to find them the perfect home…but with that student loan on their credit report, they don’t qualify for an affordable mortgage.  What can be done?

We sat down with Natalie Luongo of The National Student Loan Center to find help for homebuyers with student loan debt.

Here’s what she had to say!

A negative student loan experience is potentially disastrous on a credit report. Getting consolidation into an Income-Driven plan can begin to have a positive impact and increase your client’s chances of getting a mortgage.

What Qualifies Me for a Mortgage?

  • DTI or Debt to Income Ratio
  • Credit Score
  • Down Payment

Student Loans and Your Mortgage

Your clients have to satisfy the underwriting requirements of the mortgage bank in order to qualify for a mortgage when looking to purchase a home. Depending on how they have managed their student loan debt- their student loans can make a significant impact on their chances of getting a home loan.


When applying for a mortgage the DTI or Debt to Income Ratio is a number used based on your current monthly expenses relative to your income. Lowering your client’s monthly expenses and freeing up their income will only help your client’s chances of getting a mortgage.

  • Through Income-Driven Repayment of your Federal Student Loans, there is a good chance that consolidating, certifying for income-driven repayments and utilizing the Forgiveness program could increase your chances of being issued a mortgage.
  • Your DTI has to be 43-50% at most in order to qualify. That means a client with a high DTI would be well served by lowering their monthly student loan payments.
  • Income-Driven plans could potentially get your client under the DTI threshold and get them a mortgage.
  • Could considerably increase the size of the home and mortgage through lowering the DTI.

How Can NSLSC can help you and your clients?

For PreQual and New Purchases we can reduce their monthly payments considerably leading to:

  1. A more favorable DTI
  2. A more complete UW file for submission
  3. Increased Credit Rating
  4. Increased chances of approval

When enrolled in an Income-Driven Repayment:

  1. Gives the client a better chance of taking out a larger mortgage.
  2. The period certain on the Student Loan agreement is typically less than the mortgage term- meaning the Student Loan payments will disappear BEFORE the mortgage payments- decreasing the chance of foreclosure.
  3. Clients now know exactly how much they will have to outlay over the course of the student loan- making a mortgage payment more affordable. 

 The benefit to the realtor: Have Client Fill out an application and see what they qualify for:

  1. More qualified clients- and better prepackaging for UW
  2. Lower DTI and a better chance of not only approval- but approvals for higher-priced houses.
  3. An increased volume of approvals because a large number of first time home buyers are adversely disqualified because of student loans.
  4. Affirmation of the quality of your business network- when you refer to us not only do you earn cash for yourself but referring clients to an organization that cares for your clients start to finish makes you a trusted referral source and a realtor with a high professional prowess and the ability to get things done.

Questions?  Contact Natalie at National Student Loan Service Center

888-384-0877 Ext 105

646-766-1330 Ext 105

Reverse Mortgages – Your Top 10 Questions Answered!

Reverse Mortgages – Your Top 10 Questions Answered!

1. The BANK owns my home!

This question was the #1 question asked for many years by nervous and uninformed borrowers. As a matter of fact, this was also the understanding of many CFP’s and CPA’s that I trained over the years.

After around 2015, this question has been asked way less. As a matter of fact, I don’t think a student has asked this question in all of 2017 with all the classes I have trained.

That is due to the fact that education is working. As more and more people take out Reverse Mortgages and have a great experience, they in turn share that positive experience with their family and friends.

The answer to the question, “Does the bank own my home with a Reverse Mortgage?” The answer is a resounding NO, NO, NO!

The borrower still owns their home just as if they held a traditional “forward” mortgage that we are all familiar with.

The borrower can do any of the many things (and more) with their home with a Reverse Mortgage. Those questions are answered below.

2. I understand that I can receive payments for the rest of my life?

The answer may surprise you but there is a cap on the age. It’s 150!  😊

Like any mortgage, in order to receive Reverse Mortgage payments, the borrower has to have enough equity in their home to start receiving payments. There are times when a borrower qualifies for just enough to pay off a current forward mortgage and there is nothing left over for payments to them.

That may sound like we used all of their equity, but nothing could be farther from the truth. For example:

We have a borrower that is 70 years old. They have a home valued at $600,000 and have a regular forward mortgage with a balance of $350,000 and they are making monthly payments of $3,800 a month for the next 15 years. The P&I part of their payment is $2,000 and the rest is taxes and insurance. (This is just an example, actual #’s will vary).

If this borrower qualifies for a $350,000 Reverse Mortgage, then we would be paying off his forward mortgage and he would not have any money left to access from the Reverse Mortgage. But that does NOT mean that he does not have any equity left in his home. If he sold his house tomorrow he would get $500,000 and owe $350,000 on the Reverse Mortgage. He would have $150,000 in equity. Same as if he sold his home with the “forward” mortgage of $350,000.

But what the borrower DOES get here is positive monthly cash flow of $2,000.00 because he has no mortgage payments to make any more. He still has to pay taxes and insurance, but so does anyone who owns a home. *** There are some cases where the borrower will not have to make those payments either!

3. Does everyone on the Reverse Mortgage have to be at least 62 in order to qualify?

Until sometime around 2016, the answer was yes…but HUD changed their guidelines where a co-borrower under 62 can be on the loan. For example, a husband is 67 and his wife is 60. Under the old rules, the wife would have to be removed from the title of the home in order for the husband to qualify alone.

As you can imagine, this caused unforeseen issues when the husband died. So now, HUD allows us to make the Reverse Mortgage with the wife of 60 on the loan with a few restrictions. For one, if they are receiving money every month or have a line of credit available, all that goes away if the husband dies first, BUT, the wife can continue to live in the property for the rest of her life without making any mortgage payments (just has to pay taxes and insurance).

If the wife passed first in this example, the husband would continue to receive all the benefits for the rest of his life.

4. Do I have to live in my home while I have the Reverse Mortgage?

The answer is YES. Your home MUST be your primary residence during the entire time it is in effect. That does not mean that you cannot own other properties, all it means is that the home you have the Reverse Mortgage on, is listed on your tax returns as your primary home.

5. What happens if my Reverse Mortgage balance goes higher than the value of my home? Who owes the extra money?

Great question. The answer is that no one has to pay that extra money back. Not you, not your family, not any of your assets can be used, etc.

Why? Because these are NON-RECOURSE loans. With FHA Reverse Mortgages all borrowers pay MIP insurance into a fund held by HUD. That insurance money is what is used to pay lenders any money above the value of the home that is owed.

6. How do I get my money from a Reverse Mortgage?

There are actually several different ways for a borrower to access their money. Let’s use an example where the borrower has a home that is 100% free and clear. They qualify (in this example only) for $200,000. Up until about 2015, borrowers could take ALL that money at closing. However, HUD realized that many borrowers used all their money that year and did not pay their taxes and insurance. This caused problems for the homeowners and the Reverse Mortgage product was not designed to create more problems, but rather to help the elderly to age in place by accessing the equity in their homes without having to sell their homes.

So today, if a borrower qualified for $200,000 and had no mandatory obligations to pay off at the time of closing, today they are allowed to access up to 60% the first year. In this example, the borrower could ask for $120,000 cash at closing.

The remaining $80,000 would go into a line of credit if the borrower chose the adjustable-rate Reverse Mortgage (I estimate that over 90% of all Reverse Mortgages are probably ARM’s. It just gives the borrower WAY more options and access to their money.

Other ways to access their money are:

Tenure Payment – (One size payment for the rest of their lives – or 150 years of age, whatever comes first!) Let’s say they qualify for $1,500 a month in payments. As long as the borrower does not take any money from the LOC the borrower will receive this amount as long as they live in the home. If they are in a nursing home or out of the house for more than a year living elsewhere the loan would come due.

Term Payment – Let’s say the borrower want MORE than the $1,500 every month. They can opt to take a term payment of say $10,000 a month for as long as it lasts.

Line of Credit (LOC) – The borrower can elect to take no payments and leave their money in a LOC. The LOC balance will GROW in value over time. Why? Because the borrower gets older every year AND HUD gives an artificial increase (appreciation) in home value of 4% a year.

Combination of the Above – The borrower can elect to take a partial lump-sum now and take the rest as either a term or tenure payment.

By the way, a really great feature/benefit with a Reverse Mortgage is that the borrower can change how they receive their money for only a $20 fee. They do NOT have to refinance their home again to change how they access their money.

7. What’s the most I can qualify for on my home?

That depends on several factors such as the age of the youngest borrower, the value of the home and the interest rate at the time of the loan.

Currently, a borrower at age 62 will qualify for a little over 50% of the home value. If the interests rate goes down or the borrower was older or the home had a higher value (up to a certain point) the borrower would qualify for more money.

There is no top age limit that a borrower can take out a Reverse Mortgage but HUD does cap the % that can be borrowed at about 75% LTV on a home up to $636,000 in value when a borrower is 90 years old.

Homes over $636,000 are still eligible for a Reverse Mortgage but the loan amount is based on the home value UP TO $636,000.

So a borrower at age 62 with a home value of $400,000 might qualify for $200,000 but a borrower of the same age with a home value of $636,000 might qualify for $318,000. And a borrower at age 62 with a home value of $1,000,000 would qualify for a max of $318,000 also. Any value above that is just equity for the borrower.

8. I own a two-family home and rent out the apartment on the second floor. Can I still get a Reverse Mortgage?

100% YES! As a matter of fact, you can own up to a four-family home and get a Reverse Mortgage as long as you live there as your primary residence!

9. Will this affect my Medicaid?

It is possible that a Reverse Mortgage could affect your Medicaid status. We caution all borrowers to consult with a professional in that field before they proceed with a Reverse Mortgage.

10. If my wife and I are receiving $2,000 a month in payments and one of us dies, does that amount get cut in half?

The answer is NO. The remaining borrower, as long as they were over 62 at the time of the Reverse Mortgage, will continue to collect the full $2,000 for the rest of their lives.

If you’d like to contact Doug Vairo for questions, or for help with a Reverse Mortgage or other mortgage products, he can be reached at:

DOUR VAIRO, Corporate Trainer | InterContinental Capital Group |
50 Jericho Quadrangle suite 210| Jericho, NY 11753 | Email:

Phone: 646-529-2560 Efax 855-823-0797 Cell- 646-529-2560

Embracing Social Media

Embracing Social Media

social-mediaAlmost everyone uses social media these days.  But are you really taking advantage of all it has to offer?

Real estate agents are some of the best marketers and networkers in an offline person-to-person environment. You’re gifted at getting to know your clients, getting involved in your communities, and connecting with your local markets.

But, how good are you at applying this to your social media?

Social media provides a way to further connect with your local clients and groups and boost your marketing efforts. Your online presence can build trust and spread your marketing through friends of friends, and even their friends!

But how do you do it?

Facebook is a great place to start.  Why?  According to a recent study, Facebook has 1.13 billion daily active users.

1. Set up a Facebook Page. Be sure to set up a separate business page.  Don’t use your personal Facebook account for your real estate services. Business pages offer a lot of features that can help you to promote your business

2.  Post about Your Neighborhood.  Show off your listings’ community.  This markets both the area to potential residents and it shows your passion and knowledge of the area where you are selling homes.  If there is a new community center being built, post about it.  Talk about how it will improve the community for both new and existing residents.

3. Use Images! Images on Facebook are the most engaging types of content. The more likes, shares and comments your posts get, the more they will be viewed by the masses.

4. Post about Current Events.  Post about local events in your town. If you’re going to a neighborhood event, tell your Fans, and invite them to join you.

5. Show You Care About Your Clients. You already do this in person, so show you care about your clients on your Facebook Page too.  Welcome new homeowners on possession day!  Be careful to respect privacy by not mentioning names. The new clients know who they are, and it shows prospective buyers that you genuinely care and follow up.

6.  Post Your Listings.  Yes, use Facebook to post your listings also. The golden rule in social media is 80/20. That is – 80% of your content should be about lifestyle, customer interests, and other updates.  20% of your content should be about you and your product. This keeps your social media social, and engaging.

When you post your listings, keep the personality of you and your Facebook Page. This is not a print ad. Tell about the home and its highlights, but keep it engaging.

7. Use Geo-targeted ads. Facebook lets you target your ads very specifically. You can use promoted posts to get your content seen by other Facebookers in a specific geographic target market.

6 Habits of Top Agents

6 Habits of Top Agents

Just as every person has his or her own style, the same is true for real estate brokers and agents.  So what is it that sets an agent apart?

What makes a successful agent?

The first thing…passion!  Real estate is hard business and it takes a lot of attention to detail and a commitment to great customer service.  But that’s not all you’ll need.  You’ll also find that the most successful agents always have these attributes:

They return calls, text messages, and emails at lightning speed!

These are the people that get to work as soon as they get a lead. They immediately make contact and they follow up.  They answer any questions and are happy to stay on the phone with nervous clients. They stay in contact via email, text, phone, Skype, and they keep that rhythm right up through the whole transaction.

Their clients feel they are important to the agent. They also switch their communication style to match the client. If the client prefers text, they text, if the client wants a phone call, they call. They also know how to mirror the client’s communication style so the client feels more comfortable.

They know all the latest technology

They use Ipads, tablets, smartphones… They do everything from anywhere. But, they don’t just have a tablet and a smartphone; they make sure they have great data plans so they always have an internet connection.

They know their neighborhoods intimately

Top agents are walking, talking encyclopedias of “their” neighborhood. Ask a question about a particular street and they know what’s on the market, what been sold, and the overall status of the neighborhood. Tell the agent what you like in a neighborhood and suggestions on places to look will come tumbling out.

Looking to sell? The agent knows what is on the market, what just sold, and what you can get for your money. These days anyone can research homes online, but top agents know the entire area and they are incredibly valuable that way.

They explain everything they are doing

When a great agent meets with a client for the first time they explain the process, potential challenges, and a few scenarios that could occur.

They are always on the lookout for leads

Leads are how many agents get clients. A lead is an introduction to someone the Realtor hasn’t met yet. Smart agents try out different lead sources, explore different types of ad campaigns, and take note of what works and what doesn’t. They know that a social presence is important and that staying top of mind means being active with their clients through social media, advertising, and even postcard mailings.

They have a great network

These agents don’t just have a network to bring them, clients, they also have a network of business associates who provide the same level of service they do. They know the best contractors, appraisers, lenders, tax grievance companies and insurance providers in the business. The agent is the contact point to a group of professionals that can advise and assist with anything real estate or home-related. Top agents value their network and are happy to refer clients that they know will get top care.

The agents that succeed are able to treat each client’s purchase as vitally important. They are able to guide the client through the transaction and leave the client feeling that the process was as easy as possible.