Homeowners are well aware of the many home-related tax breaks they can claim each filing season.
But there also are a lot of added costs that come with purchasing a home. For buyers unable to make a down payment of at least 20 percent of their home's purchase price, one of those costs is private mortgage insurance, or PMI. A PMI policy is coverage that you, the homebuyer, pay for, but it protects your lender in case you default on the loan.
Now, however, some PMI payers can use those insurance payments as a tax deduction when they file their returns.
This tax deduction was created as part of the Tax Relief and Health Care Act of 2006 and originally applied to private mortgage insurance policies issued in 2007.
But because the housing market was slow to recover, lawmakers have extended this tax break. It now is in effect for premiums paid through 2011.
The private mortgage insurance deduction can be taken for policies issued by private insurers as well as insurance provided by the Federal Housing Administration, the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Agriculture's Rural Housing Service.
If you itemize deductions you will find the private mortgage insurance deduction in the "Interest You Paid" section of Schedule A. It is claimed on line 13.
What amount of PMI do you claim? You should find the amount in box 4 of the Form 1098 (or the substitute year-end loan information statement) that your lender sent you.
While it's easy to claim the PMI deduction, make sure you meet the requirements.
First, note when you paid the mortgage insurance. The deduction is allowed only if you took out the mortgage on which you pay PMI on or after Jan. 1, 2007. No PMI premiums are deductible if they were made in connection with a home loan that was made before that date.
Any associated PMI premiums on new mortgages issued through 2011 will qualify for the deduction.
If you refinanced your home since Jan. 1, 2007, you also qualify for the PMI deduction on that loan. Be careful how you structure your refi. The mortgage insurance deduction applies to refinances up to the original loan amount, but not to any extra cash you might get with the new home loan.
You also might be able to deduct private mortgage insurance payments on a second home loan. As with your primary residence, the loan on the second home must have been issued in 2007 or later to be deductible.
The additional property also must be for your personal use as a second or vacation home. If you rent it out, then you could end up paying the PMI without any help from the Internal Revenue Service, unless you claim tax breaks on the home as rental property.
Finally, while there is no statutory limit on the amount of PMI premiums you can deduct, the amount might be reduced based on your income. The deduction disappears completely for most homeowners whose adjusted gross income is $109,000 or $54,500 for married filing separately taxpayers.