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State Tax Credit Can Help With Home Improvement Costs

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By Stephan A. Lipskis

A recent article in our newsletter discussed Universal Home Design and the advantages it has for individuals of all ages. Fortunately, Virginia has a tax incentive that may help with the cost of retrofitting your home, the Livable Homes Tax Credit (LHTC).  The tax credit can be as much as $5,000, which is a huge consideration when considering the high costs of most renovations.

WHAT HOMES ARE ELIGIBLE?

Fortunately, the LHTC can be used on new purchases as well as existing homes. New construction must meet Universal Visitability guidelines, but renovations need only to increase accessibility using certain eligible means.

WHAT TYPE OF IMPROVEMENTS ARE NEEDED?

The renovation must include several “Universal Visitability” features, such as: zero-step entrances, doors with a width of at least 32 inches, accessible switches, accessible bathrooms, accessible kitchens, among others. These requirements work nicely with the Universal Design concepts discussed in the previous article.

HOW DOES THE CREDIT WORK?

The credit is available for 50% of the cost of applicable features, up to $5,000, which means that $10,000 in costs for applicable renovations can yield a full credit. The simplicity of the design elements required to qualify for the credit (built-in appliances, width of halls and doorways, etc.) means that a little forethought in design may go a long way in saving funds.

After the work is completed, the credit is applied for using a simple form and submitted to the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development in Richmond. They even allow for electronic submissions! A certificate of approval is provided with the amount of your credit by April 1, and can be relied upon for your tax return. If you do not have enough tax liability to fully use your credit, the balance can be carried forward for seven years.

CONCLUSION

If you are considering updating your home or specifically need to retrofit your home for accessibility, using the LHTC can be an excellent way to defray some of those costs.  If you need help planning for disability, healthcare costs, or retirement generally, please contact our office to arrange a meeting with one of our Elder Law attorneys to review your needs and implement a plan. The author thanks Richard Harrison, Jr., CPA of Richard J. Harrison, Jr., P.C. for providing information related to the Virginia Livable Homes Tax Credit used in this article.

Kit KatAsk Kit Kat – At Rest with Pets

Hook Law Center:  Kit Kat, what can you tell us about the new New York State law which allows pets to be buried alongside their owner(s)?

Kit Kat:  Yes, this is a wonderful option which was recently enacted for the state of New York. There are some stipulations—the pet must be cremated; religious cemeteries are exempt, and all cemeteries are not required to accept pet cremains. It is, however, a step in the right direction. The change has been in the works for about five years says David Fleming, director of government affairs for the New York State Association of Cemeteries. ‘Times have changed; people have a much different view of their pets in the family,’ he said. Currently, the law limits the option to domestic animals, but authorities have been quite flexible and have allowed reptiles and invertebrates. Mr. Fleming further comments, ‘I don’t think the average person is paying to have their tarantula cremated, but maybe they are.’

Heretofore, people who wanted to be buried with their pets had to do so in a pet cemetery. Some actually have chosen this option. At Hartsdale Pet Cemetery in Westchester County, a pet cemetery which originated in the 19th century, 5-7 people are buried each year, says Edward C. Martin, Jr., the cemetery’s director, along with their beloved pets. Mr. Martin is not worried about the impact of the new law. Hartsdale Pet Cemetery has a tranquil and lovely location which is attractive to many, whether human or animal.

The new law will be helpful to those whose preferred companion is a turtle. Turtles live for decades says Barbara Daddario, education director of the New York Turtle and Tortoise Society. It is not unusual for a turtle or a tortoise to outlive its original owner and be passed to a younger family member. With the new law, ‘…it may be a while before the turtle goes in there,’ she said.

This is a terrific plan. You may want to check with your state and determine whether such an option is permitted in the state in which you reside. According to Mr. Fleming of the NY Association of Cemeteries, few others allow it, but he is uncertain as to which other states do/do not permit the practice. (Sarah Maslin Nir, “New York Burial Plots Will Now Allow Four-Legged Companions,” The New York Times (New York Region section), October 6, 2016)

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Posted on Tuesday, November 8th, 2016. Filed under Newsletter.