How to Claim Home Improvements on a Tax Return

Did you know that home improvements qualify for deductions on your Federal taxes? Due to current market conditions and the downturn in the real estate markets many homeowners are opting to improve the existing home over upgrading to a new home. These home improvements most likely qualify as deduction on your taxes and can be used to reduce the amount you owe on your annual taxes.

What Home Improvements Qualify for Tax Deductions?

Any home improvement which is done for medical reasons such as elevators, ramps, raised sinks and door widening may qualify for a tax deduction. With proper documentation as to costs involved you can recoup a percentage of your home improvement costs but without the right receipts you will have nothing to make a claim with.

Improvements on your home related to energy savings may be eligible for tax credits and rebates both from Federal, State and local governments. In some states you can get as much as 25% of you total cost reimbursed to you for the installation of energy efficient heating and cooling devices. Home energy improvements are also beneficial for lowering your electric bills and additional savings over time. Improvements related to energy can add significant value to a home and increase the resale value as much as 15% or more in certain areas where power consumption costs more.

What Home Improvements Do Not Qualify for Tax Deductions?

As with anything from the government there are a number of requirements and limitations. One example is the difference between a home repair and a home improvement. Home repairs are generally not able to be used as tax deduction and the definition of repairs over improvement has caught more than one homeowner off guard in the past. An example of a home repair may be something like the replacement of a faulty roof or a broken water heater. An improvement would be something not necessary but which offers value in the long run.

Be Careful And Don’t Get Carried Away

The Internal Revenue Service has very strict requirements and standards on what can or cannot be claimed for tax deductions. Be sure to check with your tax accountant or financial advisor about what you can and cannot claim. We are general contractors in Florida and not tax attorneys but our experience has been that many homeowners will neglect to check what they can or cannot claim on their taxes and they often miss out on an opportunity to maximize their investment.

There are limits on how much you can claim and the cost involved. For example building a wheelchair ramp with a covered path may seem nice but in most cases the tax breaks will be on the ramp alone and not the roof system. It’s not a necessary component to the improvement.

Be aware of the many pitfalls and do your research before you make any decisions related to your finances. Tax deductions for improvements are a great way to reduce your total tax debt as long as they are done correctly.

Sauer and Sons Construction Company in Ocala Florida offers professional home improvement and repair services for clients across Central Florida.

Your home is still your greatest asset and home improvements and repairs are still vital to not only sustaining your investment but in watching it grow as well. Home improvements and home repairs are important not only for maintaining the value but also for increasing the comfort and usability of your home. Get the most from your home and renovate your existing home at a fraction of the cost over other so called local construction firms.

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Quality Education Vs Accreditation

Education:

“The act or process of educating or being educated; the knowledge or skill obtained or developed by a learning process!”

Inquiries into furthering my educational aspirations were made to various colleges within my immediate environmental area. Several of the schools contacted required placement exams that I did not challenge, as I am adept and very capable of dealing with college examinations. The thing that got to me was the disparaging remarks from some college recruiters regarding their standards for education as opposed to another college. One of the schools that I’ve attended is a two-year degree school while the other is as well. They hold real estate in the same zip code and competed for students in the same local. They both educated local students as well as out of state and students from other countries and nations.

One school considered itself superior to the other by reason of accreditation. The school that was described as inferior did not have middle states accreditation. The school was described as below standard by the other. The so-called superior school is lead and operated by a non-HBCU affiliation while the other happened to be lead and operated by an African American staff. The self-described superior school has made plans, designs, and did bid for the take-over of the African American school. Albeit, the self-described superior school admits that it does not and will not accept credentials from the so-called inferior school. I have attended both of these institutions and received very good instruction from its teachers as well. While the lessons learned were an invaluable source of information, the education that I received from personal academic research (self-taught) has enhanced my knowledge base. Money was not a factor in my personal research, study, and/or practicum. I would add, the knowledge and information that was derived from the HBCU School proved to be equally rewarding as the other if not better!

Personally, I would say that I received more educational value at the HBCU (Historical Black Colleges and Universities) as opposed to the other collegiate institution. Albeit, they both required money.

When students visit college campuses they are encouraged to become a student at that particular school. The tour guides’ show all of the amenities and accolades that are offered in order to get you enrolled…and to gain your tuition monies. But what about the quality of education offered by the particular schools? The majority of the colleges will often quote their accreditation as compared to another school of choice. What has accreditation to do with a good and valuable quality education? Money! And the ability to make money! Education does not and should not require money!

In 1899 Dr. Matthew Anderson, an outstanding community leader, and his wife Caroline Still Anderson founded Berean Manual and Industrial School. Dr. Anderson was a pivotal influence in the religious, business, and educational history of Philadelphia. Dr. Anderson also founded the Berean Presbyterian Church and the Berean Savings Fund Society.

Caroline Still is the daughter of the great William Still, a Philadelphia Abolitionist and member of the Underground Railroad.

Mr. William Still (a self-educated man), one of seventeen children, was born in Burlington County in 1821. His father escaped slavery from Maryland to New Jersey and later was followed by his wife and children. William Still left New Jersey for Philadelphia in 1844. Three years later he was appointed secretary of the Pennsylvania Abolition Society.

“When Brother William Still was 23, he left the family farm in New Jersey for Philadelphia, to seek his fortune. He arrived, friendless with only five dollars in his possession. Mr. Still taught himself to read and write. In fact, so well, that in three years he was able to gain and hold the position of secretary in the Pennsylvania Abolition Society. Brother Still provided the all-white society with his views on how to aid fugitive slaves. After all, he had been one himself. He was such an asset to the group, that he was elected chairman in 1851. Still held the position for the next ten years. He also became chairman of the Vigilance Committee in 1852. Still was the first black man to join the society and was able to provide first-hand experience of what it was like to be a slave.”

“Mr. Still established a profitable coal business in Philadelphia. His house was used as one of the stations on the Underground Railroad. Brother Still interviewed escaped fugitives and kept careful records of each so that their family and friends might locate them. According to his records, Still helped 649 slaves receive their freedom. The number is compounded with the number of slaves saved by Sister Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad.”

“William Still, a self-educated man, began his campaign to end racial discrimination on Philadelphia streetcars. He wrote an account of this campaign in Struggle for the Civil Rights of the Coloured People of Philadelphia in the City Railway Cars (1867). He followed this with The Underground Railroad (1872) and Voting and Laboring (1874).”

“William Still, a self-educated man, established an orphanage for the children of African-American soldiers and sailors. Other charitable work included the founding of a Mission Sabbath School and working with the Young Men’s Christian Association. William Still died in Philadelphia on 14th July, 1902.”

The Concise History of Berean Institute:

“In 1904 Berean Institute of Philadelphia Pennsylvania qualified for state aid and received a grant of $10,000. Over the years, state aid has enabled the school to expand its services and diversify its programs of study. Funds from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania now provide a significant portion of the total operating budget. Berean Institute embarked on a program of expansion under the dynamic leadership of the late Dr. William H. Gray, Jr., who utilized the support of many influential citizens of Pennsylvania including the former Governor Milton J. Shapp. Dr. Gray served as Chairman of the Berean Board of Trustees. Under Dr. Gray’s leadership Berean Manual and Industrial School began operating as Berean Institute. He also had Berean Institute’s current building constructed in 1973.”

“Mrs. Lucille P. Blondin, who served the school for forty-five years, became Berean Institute’s first President. Mrs. Blondin retired in June 1993. Dr. Norman K. Spencer was appointed to serve as the second President and Chief Executive Officer. Under Dr. Spencer’s leadership, contracted programs funded by the City and Commonwealth agencies as well as community outreach projects have been added. Hon. John Braxton, former Judge, Court of Common Pleas heads a list of distinguished Board of Trustees members.”

“Berean Institute enrolled students in full and part-time programs. Most of the students are residents of the Commonwealth and live in Philadelphia. Other students have come from Central and South America, China, India, Puerto Rico, Tonga, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Tanzania, the Dominican Republic, England, Cambodia, Viet Nam and states along the eastern seaboard of the United States.”

“A number of students come to learn a marketable skill and their Berean training fulfills their current educational aspirations. Many others regard the school as a stepping-stone to further education. Berean has many graduates who have gone on to earn four-year college degrees and others who have completed graduate studies at some of the area’s outstanding institutions of higher learning.”

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s Department of Education granted Berean Institute approval to award the Associate in Specialized Technology Degree on September 15, 1976, and the Associate in Specialized Business Degree on December 27, 1976.

Again, education is:

“The act or process of imparting or acquiring general knowledge, developing the powers of reasoning and judgment, and generally of preparing oneself or others intellectually for mature life; the act or process of imparting or acquiring particular knowledge or skills, as for a profession; a degree, level, or kind of schooling: a university education; .the result produced by instruction, training, or study: to show one’s education; the science or art of teaching; pedagogics.”

A definition of education: ‘The act or process of educating or being educated; the knowledge or skill obtained or developed by a learning process; a program of instruction of a specified kind or level: driver education; a college education; the field of study that is concerned with the pedagogy of teaching and learning; an instructive or enlightening experience:

Dictionary.com Unabridged

Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2009

So why does another school rate it’s accreditation over and above that of another? Money! Many colleges and universities rate its’ educational values based on the amount of money in its’ coffers as well as the amount of money that they can amass! Another tool to increase superiority in the education business is to attain and maintain accreditation and as many acquisitions as possible.

Several opinions suggest education achieved through these venues is designed to prepare people/students for the job market as opposed to being prepared for life skills. The skills required to carry ones posterity and their descendants that follow into prosperous futures.

Is it fair to assess the stature of a collegiate institution above any other based on the amount of money that is needed to be spent or the amount of education that is achieved? Ivy league institutions turn out many students who are not prepared for the challenges of life…but many of them are rich and have spent thousands of dollars to attend those schools as well as graduating from them. On the other hand, many poor people that are lucky enough to qualify for grants, loans, scholarships, etc., are better prepared to face the challenges set before them (so it seems).

Many poor and working poor students seem to value the collegiate level education as if their life depended upon it, so they tend to work a bit harder to achieve the degree status. The document can be deemed worthless when the graduate cannot find the desired job for which he/she has studied. It is even worse when the graduated student finds that they are worse off than when they started college. They are now burdened with school loan debt plus the debts that they have had to meet before attending college. Working at McDonalds and the like, seem to be the only job that is attainable for many of them. The competition is fierce. These students are for the most part, grouped in with many applicants that are not college educated and many do not have high school diplomas as well! The knowledge attained is not considered or tested by many of these employers. Kiosk type pictures on a cash-register computer is what they have to work with. Is this not insulting to a student who has studied computer science, read and write computer programs and its languages, as well as other academics of study?

Why is it that many non-ivy league students find themselves out of work? Why is it that many of them find that they are the first to lose their employment positions compared to their ivy-league colleagues? Why is it that many inner-city college educated graduates find themselves less likely to be selected as team-leaders than their counter part ivy-leaguers? Many employers advertise their openings with statements that don’t require a college level education. They ask that candidates simply have a high school level education. College educated candidates apply to those openings and find themselves scrutinized out of the running, i.e., background checks, credit checks, criminal histories, schooling activities, etc. Why is it college educated candidates find that not only do they have to compete with ivy-leaguers, they have to compete with high school educated folks as well. What is the sense in enduring hours, years, and other sacrifices to attain the coveted two and/or four-year college level degree when you’re not going to qualify for the job anyway?

The notion of accreditation, money, and notable stature should not be the basis of choosing the collegiate route to education. Education should be based on ones ability to achieve, retain, and utilize education. The achievement of education begins in the home (as well as anyone who desires it). It begins with the Childs’ upbringing and the stressed importance placed by the parent and/or guardian. Should the child be highly scholastic in abilities that enable him/her to be described as intellectually talented above average, that student deserves free college education. While the rest of us who are collegiate material may well have to pay for our higher education. Mind you, my argument is based on the ability to access education without having to spend money…teachers need to earn a living, schools need to pay the costs of operating and maintaining buildings and staff. So the money has to come from somewhere. Albeit, the aforementioned disparages between different colleges should cease the practice of who’s a better institution of higher learning. Is it the responsibility of educated people to enlighten people who are not?

While many may not be aware, education is achievable without attending so-called accredited and/or less accredited schools, of higher learning…start with the libraries in your homes as well as the public facilities, news papers, magazines, shared information, and articles. Why is the education attained by others kept to a level of secrecy that one should have to pay for it?

Attained and acquired education is the responsibility of the educational pursuer…the burden is placed solely on the student not the educational pursued. I’m not advocating that one can become a doctor, architect, or a lawyer by simply reading text…there is a difference between education and training.

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The Manager As Choreographer: From Doer To Delegator

Over the course of a career, a ballet dancer will have dedicated literally, tens of thousands of hours practising and performing leaps, jumps, lifts, scales, whirls, and pirouettes. Eventually, the body succumbs to the compounding and debilitating effect of injuries, pain and fatigue. The dancer is forced into retirement and moves on to establish a second career. In this career transition, many dancers will use their knowledge and experience to teach young aspiring ballet dancers, whereas some others might become choreographers.As a choreographer, the former ballet dancer must evolve from a performing mode to a directing and influencing mode – getting other dancers to execute the ballet in a particular manner. The choreographer dreams the ballet and sees every motion and movement as frozen frames. The choreographer needs to articulate this imagination with sufficient scope, detail and texture, in order that the entire ensemble shares a common understanding and interpretation, thereby delivering a harmonious presentation. The choreographer builds upon this process of illumination, by patiently and persistently coaching the ballet dancers to achieve the desired performance.Managers are somewhat like this image of a dancer-turned-choreographer. Their role is to lead their team to a desired level of performance. They do this by:* setting goals and planning activities,
* securing the necessary resources,
* defining expectations and establishing consequences,
* training and coaching to enhance skills and competencies,
* describing and modelling appropriate behaviours, and
* providing the requisite supporting environment.This can be a daunting task, especially for the new supervisor or manager. A better understanding of what might constrain a new manager will help to establish a foundation for enhancing their effectiveness.Let’s deconstruct the usual chain of events. Generally, we take an outstanding performer on a Friday and make them a new supervisor or manager on Monday. I’m always intrigued with what transpired over the weekend. Did they catch some “magic dust” and suddenly experience deep insight into what it means to be a manager? Most likely, they did a little celebrating about the promotion. That’s all.As a new manager, how are they supposed to know what to do? What their new role requires and how to manage employees, some of whom may be close friends, in what is now a reporting relationship? How is the manager supported in this transition by the organization? Far too often, not very well. We seem to have a proud tradition of stranding people in new roles without training or coaching them. So the manager essentially is abandoned – left on her/his own to sink or swim.Immersed in a new portfolio and consumed with a myriad of unfamiliar demands, the manager struggles to establish order and achieve results. The manager seeks performance from the team, but suffers from lack of expertise in directing staff and assigning tasks, resulting in ever-increasing frustration and stress. In some instances, the manager’s behaviour will become erratic, as feelings of inadequacy and loss of control are magnified.Against this backdrop, the manager may default to the familiarity and comfort of what they know well and become task focused. They take on the work that their staff should be performing and, in turn, the staff becomes marginalized and demoralized. Allowed to continue, the outcome is that we lose a good performer and gain a lousy manager.In the case of the choreographer, the body is so worn out that it prohibits a return to actually performing the ballet. The manager, similarly, needs to impose a metaphorical restriction on her/himself in terms of resorting back to fulfilling tasks that should be performed by the staff. To evolve from doer to delegator, the manager will require personal discipline and organizational reinforcement and support.The first step in this maturation is thoughtful consideration of their new role. Having been so task focused, the new manager often is inclined to see their responsibility simply as accomplishing many more tasks. Even though at first it may appear counter-intuitive, their true function is fundamentally different.The manager needs to achieve the desired outcomes by working through people. S/he needs to orchestrate the actions and performance of the staff. The paramount objective, therefore, becomes a focused approach to developing their people. Tasks get accomplished and goals are achieved by getting people to perform.Just as the choreographer needed to envision the ballet in order to coach the ensemble to achieve the desired performance, it is essential that the manager first scopes-out the objectives for the portfolio, the expected deliverables and a plan of action to guide the staff. The objectives, deliverables and action plan become the framework for ongoing discussions with staff. In this way, the manager establishes a series of goals and activities that are consistent and in alignment.For instance, it is unreasonable to hold an expectation for a standard of performance from someone who is not competent in undertaking the assignment. The manager, therefore, needs to assess and confirm the skills and competencies of the staff. Where there are gaps, training interventions are warranted. The manager also must provide consistent coaching to support employees in their development. Fulfilment of these pre-conditions must be verified, before the manager can delegate responsibilities to the staff.Most managers struggle with delegating tasks and assignments. Very clear and explicit communication is required to establish goals, expectations, standards, and operating procedures. This takes time and attention, particularly when the employee is new to the task. The manager needs to be deliberate and methodical in this process of delegation. (See also the article, “The Art of Delegating”.)As the manager makes the difficult transition from doer to delegator, new dimensions of experiences become available. The manager, no longer being task focused, develops a broadened and enriched perspective. In this process, they learn to appreciate much more the integrative nature of work. They derive satisfaction and fulfilment from helping their staff to develop greater competencies and to assume ever-greater responsibilities.With the development of competent staff, the workload can be shared more equitably; resulting in significantly enhanced overall performance. The manager will have more time available for reflection and planning, all the while coordinating the activities of the staff. And like the seasoned choreographer, the effective manager also will be able to delight in enjoying the performance of others in this grand ballet.

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