A welcome change -- here's a bit of good tax news. In the Oct. 12 column I wrote about the new rule requiring mutual fund sponsors to report as income to shareholders a part of the advisory and management fees charged to the fund during the year.
In turn, each shareholder was to report that amount on the 1987 tax return, taking a corresponding deduction for the same amount on Schedule A. The Federal Revenue Act of 1987, signed by the President on Dec. 22, delays implementation of that new rule until 1988. I suspect the reason for the delay is to permit Congress to take another look; there has been a lot of flak from the mutual fund industry, resulting in some second thoughts.
The big problem is that a lot of taxpayers would find themselves reporting the income but not getting the deduction, either because they don't itemize or because their total miscellaneous deductions won't exceed 2 percent of adjusted gross income. At any rate, you can forget about this problem for your 1987 tax return.
What job search expenses can be deducted if one itemizes? Are there any changes from prior law?
You should know first that job-hunting expenses are only deductible if you are looking for a job in your present occupation. If this will be your first job, or if you are seeking employment in a new occupation, these expenses are not deductible.
If you're currently unemployed, the "present occupation" is the work you did for your last employer. But if there has been a substantial break since your last job -- returning to the work force after a five-year break to start a family, for instance -- the expenses of looking for a new job may not be deducted.
Assuming you meet the tests, what kinds of expenses are eligible for a Schedule A deduction? You may claim the cost of preparing and mailing resumes to prospective employers, including a fee you paid to a professional for assistance. Fees you pay to an employment agency are deductible; but if your new employer later reimburses you for those fees, you must include the refund in gross income.
You may deduct postage and phone calls responding to "help wanted" ads, and local transportation expenses to an employment agency and to prospective employers for interviews. Unreimbursed travel expenses to another area also are deductible if the primary purpose of the travel was to seek employment, even if you engaged in some personal activities while there. But if you travel to another area primarily for personal reasons, but also look for a job, then only the local transportation expenses directly connected with the job search may be claimed.
Job search expenses are claimed as a miscellaneous deduction on Schedule A. Major change from prior years: These expenses must be included with other qualifying miscellaneous deductions, which may only be deducted to the extent that the total exceeds 2 percent of adjusted gross income. Ten years ago I purchased an undeveloped piece of property in North Carolina, planning eventually to build a retirement home there. The interest part of my payments on the promissory note to the original owner have been reported in my itemized deductions yearly. The new tax laws address second residences but do not mention undeveloped land. Am I right in assuming that the interest will now be considered personal interest, subject to the 65 percent limitation for 1987 and decreasing thereafter?
Unfortunately, your assumption is correct. Even though you plan to build there at a later date, to qualify as a second home you must actually live in the residence for some period of time during the year (generally at least 14 days). Since there is no residence there yet, and the land isn't investment property, you're stuck with the disappearing personal interest rule. You may want to consider that if you build your retirement home now and spend your vacations there each year, then it would qualify as a second home and generate a mortgage interest deduction.
Abramson is a family financial counselor and tax adviser. Questions of general interest on tax matters, insurance, investments, estate planning and other aspects of family finances will be answered in this column. Advice cannot be given on an individual basis. Address all questions to E.M. Abramson, The Washington Post, Business & Finance News, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C., 20071.