Free pet adoptions, car sales tax deductions, free home winterization, federal tax exclusions for forgiven debts and preferential veteran treatment… who knew?
Discounted or Free Dog Adoption and Other Dog Owner Benefits for Low-Income Disabled or Senior Citizens
Los Angeles Animal Services and the Department of Animal Services Licensing Division have banded together to make dog ownership affordable for low-income senior citizens aged 62 and up as well as the disabled. It is a well-known fact that owning a dog improves a senior’s (and really anyone’s) sense of well being, activity level, and physical health.
It is also well known that the upfront cost of adopting, altering and registering a dog is oftentimes prohibitive for the disabled or seniors on a fixed income – defined as being below $30,300 — even though they could well afford the day to day cost of pet ownership. Qualify today for free L.A. dog licensing, spaying or neutering, 50% off dog adoptions and free microchipping.
New Vehicle Purchase Sales Tax Deduction for Everyone Making Less than $125,000 ($250,000 for Married Couples)
If you read my article “April Fools Day History Now Includes Very Real California Sales Tax Hike,” you know that California sales tax hikes on April 1, 2009, reached 10.250% and up. In Los Angeles, the sales tax is 9.750%. Multiply this by $49,500, which might be the purchase price of the average lower end family sedan, and you are looking at a sales tax of $4,826.
As part of the Federal Recovery Act, such as it is administered by the L.A. Recovery program, new car buyers may now take a federal tax deduction for state or local sales taxes associated with the purchase of a car between 02-16-09 and 01-01-2010. It needs to be a new car, have a weight rating of 8,500 pounds or less, and it only applies to the first $49,500 of the vehicle’s price.
Free Home Winterization for Low Income Households
The California Department of Community Services and Development benefited from the passage of the Recovery Act by funding the Weatherization Assistance Program. Low income seniors, the disabled and families with children may qualify to receive a free winterization of their homes. This includes insulation, HVAC repairs, caulking and water heater coverings. This service also encompasses an appliance check for carbon monoxide leaks. Qualify by contacting your energy service provider.
Federal Tax Exclusion of Discharged Debts Related to Vehicle Repossessions, Real Estate Foreclosures and Home Loan Modifications
California is ground zero to home foreclosures and there was the danger of having those, who lost their homes, now also having to pony up for the sudden increase in net worth, depending on the amount of debt that was forgiven. This tax credit has now been extended to include debts forgiven between 2006 and 2013. Check IRS Publication 4681, because there are still a few rules and regs to consider. This is of special interest also to homeowners participating in the Making Home Affordable program, which may result in a mortgage loan modification with a reduced principal balance.
Preferential Treatment of California’s Unemployed Veterans
California’s Employment Development Department recognizes the debt owed to its United States Armed Forces veterans and funds a number of programs through the Workforce Investment Act for those, who received an honorable discharge from the military, but are unable to find gainful employment. Some of the programs and benefits include schooling, skills training, 24 hour preferential access to job postings on CalJobs before they become available to all and also a faster processing of unemployment claims.
Great Programs … But Do They Work?
All of these programs are excellent and – since they are fully funded by the federal recovery legislation – raring to provide their services. Unfortunately, next to nobody knows about them. Unless you are plugged into the social services network devoted to serving your demographic, such as a veteran in tune with veterans’ organizations or a senior frequently in contact with senior service providers, these programs and available benefits are not advertised on a larger scale.
For example, when I inquired about tax ramifications of home loan modifications from a local provider, the agents were unaware of any tax issues, IRS publications or even potential tax liabilities. This showcases the downfalls of even the best California and federal programs designed to look out for the little guy: those entrusted with implementing them do not always know the ins and outs, and those eligible for benefits may not know that they exist.