What Can a Landlord Deduct From Your Deposit? A Primer for Current and Former Renters

Maybe you didn’t think twice when you put a big security deposit on that fancy apartment two summers ago. But now that you’re getting ready to move again, you might be wondering how much of that deposit you’ll actually get back.

Believe it or not, your deposit isn’t at the mercy of your landlord. Tenants have rights, and landlords have limitations on what they can deduct from your deposit.

In Florida, for example, “if the landlord fails to return the security deposit in a timely manner, or deducts for normal wear and tear, then the tenant can sue the landlord to get their deposit back and the landlord will have to pay the tenant’s attorney fee,” says Larry Tolchinsky, a real estate lawyer and partner at Sackrin & Tolchinsky in Hallandale Beach, FL.

But to avoid getting to that point, it’s important for tenants to understand the basics on deposits. In most states, the timely return of your deposit means there’s a deadline—such as 30 days—so be sure to leave a forwarding address.

When landlords deduct from your deposit, they will typically include an itemized statement explaining how the deposit was applied. In California, for example, if a landlord deducts any more than $126, they must provide receipts for their deductions.

Landlords can’t deduct from your deposit for any old reason; there has to be a legit circumstance. The rules may vary from city to city (or state to state), so read up on what your landlord can and can’t do in your area. But, in general, here are some things landlords can deduct from your deposit.

Nonpayment of rent

Unemployment as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic has hit many tenants hard, rendering them unable to pay rent. Some landlords and management companies have offered rent relief, but others have claimed that unpaid rent is unpaid rent. In this situation, landlords can collect unpaid rent—and late fees—from your deposit as necessary.

“Rent that is not paid is considered damages when a tenant vacates,” says Eric Drenckhahn, a real estate investor and property manager, who runs the blog NoNonsenseLandlord.com. “A tenant cannot use the damage deposit to pay their rent without the landlord’s approval, but a landlord can deduct it for nonpayment after a tenant has left.”

Unpaid utilities

Forgetting to pay your utility bill happens. But if you pay for things like trash and water through your property management company, be aware that your landlord could tap your security deposit to cover any bills you missed.

Tolchinsky says there is no black and white law on this, but it is possible. It all depends on the terms of your lease and local rules governing the jurisdiction that you reside in.

Abnormal cleaning costs

If you left the place trashed and filthy, expect your landlord to dig into your deposit. Landlords can deduct from your deposit for excessive dirtiness, beyond normal cleaning costs.

Drenckhahn says the place should be “broom clean,” or as clean as when you moved in.

“Dirt and grease left behind is not wear and tear,” says Drenckhahn. “Examples of excessive dirtiness includes removing stains from the carpet, replacing the carpet due to a cat using a closet for a litter box, or replacing door trim due to cat scratches.”

Doing a little cleaning before leaving isn’t a bad idea, but it doesn’t guarantee it’ll save your security deposit.

Tolchinksy says if a tenant hires a professional cleaner, rents a steam cleaner, or buys paint to paint the walls, he or she “should maintain all invoices and receipts” to provide proof to the landlord.

Damage to the property

Security deposit laws allow a landlord to deduct from a security deposit for any damage. This is different from normal wear and tear, such as faded paint or worn carpet that is naturally occurring and not due to the tenant. Examples of damage to the property include a broken bathroom vanity, cracked kitchen countertop, or broken doors.

Tolchinsky says it’s a good idea for a tenant to request a move-in and a move-out checklist and document by pictures and video the condition of the apartment.

Items left behind

Packing and moving everything you own is a huge undertaking. But regardless of how exhausted you are, don’t leave any items behind; it could be a costly mistake.

“Mattresses and box springs left behind are expensive to get rid of, and you will be charged accordingly,” says Drenckhahn. “It is not unusual to be charged $50 or more for each piece.”

If you do need to get rid of a bunch of large items, hire a junk hauling company, try to sell them online, or look into donating them to charity.

Breaking the lease

In some circumstances, breaking your lease is the only option. But breaking your lease early makes it less likely that you will reunite with your deposit.

A landlord can keep all, or part, of your deposit to cover costs if you break your lease early, per landlord-tenant state laws and what’s written in your lease contract. If you can, try to move when your lease is up.

“In my places, you are required to be out by 10 a.m. There is no late checkout, as I have tenants generally moving in the next day,” says Drenckhahn. “When you have the place clean, and even move out a few days early, it’s very easy to refund 100% of the damage deposit.”

Source: realtor.com

Homebuying Must-Haves: How COVID-19 Has Changed What’s Hot or Not in a Home

The last two months of stay-at-home orders and quarantines have drastically changed how people are utilizing and enjoying their home. The needs of homeowners have changed and that has altered what home buyers are now looking for in a home. What used to be the “must-have” item or space in a home is changing as homes have become people’s offices, playrooms, restaurants, and classrooms. Here’s what you can expect to come back in style, and fade out, in a post-coronavirus market.

What’s In

The Rise in Home Offices

As both children and parents are now working from home, homeowners are discovering the necessity for dedicated home offices. While the new normal post-coronavirus remains to be seen, companies are already planning for employees to work remotely more often. The days of utilizing the dining table as a workspace are proving to not be functional or realistic for the new reality. With an estimated 56% of the US workforce employed in a remote work compatible field and an estimated 66% of employees currently working from home during the Coronavirus pandemic, it’s now a critical element for home buyers that a home has a dedicated home office or an area that could be utilized as one. As sellers list their homes this summer, they’d be wise to cater to this new need by staging a room or area as an office for home buyers to see the potential.

Comfortable workplace with computer near wooden wall in stylish room interior. Home office designComfortable workplace with computer near wooden wall in stylish room interior. Home office design

Taking the Living Room Outside

The yard and extended living areas have always been a factor in the home buyer’s mind. But as community swimming pools and playgrounds are shuttered due to the outbreak, the importance of ample backyard space or additional outdoor areas to enjoy and relax have risen in popularity. As quarantine grows, many are looking for ways to escape their four walls in a safe way. Since COVID-19 and food scarcity, many homeowners value the area to create their own garden. Buyers will be looking for existing gardens or spaces to create one.

A Need for Flexible Spaces

As homeowners utilize their homes in new ways, spaces that can serve double (or triple) duty has major appeal. A guest bedroom that also provides a home office area, or a bonus room that serves as a media room and an at-home classroom. Homeowners are getting creative with their spaces and needing their spaces to serve multiple purposes. For those selling in the coming months, staging to promote and define flexible spaces would appeal to home buyers!

What’s Out

Open Concept Floor Plans

Although it has been all-the-rage for the last several years, open concept makes it difficult for homeowners that are cooking, Zoom-learning, and conference calling more often. As many modern designs offer one large room that serves as the living room, dining room, and kitchen, its popularity has waned as families need more individual, quiet spaces to work and learn at home.

Stainless Steel

What has been the “gold” standard in kitchens for many years, in a post-COVID world, home buyers are looking for sanitary surfaces. If you’ve ever stepped back to look at your stainless steel dishwasher, you’ve probably seen its front cluttered with fingerprints and handprints. Having lived through Coronavirus, we know the detrimental power of transferring germs and viruses from touch. More sanitary surfaces such as copper will most likely grow in popularity with buyers. In fact, in a recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine and funded by the National Institute of Health, researchers discovered that the novel coronavirus survived for only four hours on copper versus three days on stainless steel.

While the future “new normal” is still up in the air, the real estate market is still moving homes. As with other previous events, COVID-19 has forced a change in the needs of buyers—and those needs may continue to evolve as more of our day-to-day lives are changed because of the pandemic. But, buyers are already shifting their needs and wants which we can reasonably expect to have a long term effect on home design.


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Jennifer is an accidental house flipper turned Realtor and real estate investor. She is the voice behind the blog, Bachelorette Pad Flip. Over five years, Jennifer paid off $70,000 in student loan debt through real estate investing. She’s passionate about the power of real estate. She’s also passionate about southern cooking, good architecture, and thrift store treasure hunting. She calls Northwest Arkansas home with her cat Smokey, but she has a deep love affair with South Florida.

Source: homes.com

Refinance soon to avoid the FHFA adverse market refinance fee

FHFA fee starts on December 1, but rates will go up before that

Starting on December 1, a new “Adverse Market Refinance Fee” will be imposed on most conventional refinances.

But homeowners won’t pay the new fee at closing.

Instead, lenders will cover it by raising refinance rates — likely by as much as 0.125% to 0.25% on average.

To avoid higher rates, you’ll want to refinance before the fee takes effect.

But there’s a catch: to avoid FHFA’s fee, your refinance loan needs to be closed and delivered to Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac before December 1.

Homeowners who want the lowest-possible refinance rate should apply 2-3 months before December 1 — which is pretty much right now.

Find and a low refinance rate now (Feb 9th, 2021)

What is the Adverse Market Refinance Fee?

On August 12, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac announced they would assess a new fee on all conventional refinance loans.

The fee is equal to 0.5% of the loan amount.

That means if you had a $200,000 refinance, the new fee would amount to an additional cost of $1,000.

Refinances take a long time to close and deliver, so a September 1 start date meant the fee was already being added to refinances in process.

Originally, the fee was meant to start on September first — meaning it would have applied to all loans not yet delivered to Fannie or Freddie by that date.

But because refinances take a long time to close and deliver, the fee effectively started being added to loans that were already in process prior to September 1.

However, Fannie and Freddie have since changed the rules (and delayed the start date for the fee) in response to a strong industry backlash against it.

Changes to the FHFA refinance fee

On August 25th, FHFA announced two changes to the new refinance fee.

  • The start date moved from September 1 to December 1
  • The new charge will not apply to loan amounts below $125,000, or to HomeReady and Home Possible loans

This is good news for borrowers. It means rates may stay a little lower, a little longer.

It also means that borrowers who were already in the process of refinancing might not see their rates go up as a result of the fee.

In fact, loans currently in the pipeline might have their loan costs re-adjusted in borrowers’ favor, notes Matthew Graham of Mortgage News Daily.

But each lender will handle its own loans differently, so make sure you talk to your mortgage company if you were in the process of refinancing.

Also, note that loans must be delivered to Fannie or Freddie before December 1 to avoid the fee.

That means the refinance will have to close much earlier (in October or early November), so time your refinance accordingly.

Find and lock a low refinance rate (Feb 9th, 2021)

The new fee could push refinance rates up by 0.125% or more

When the new fee does go into effect, borrowers won’t pay it directly.

Instead, it’s likely to be charged to borrowers in the form of higher rates.

“The fee is 50bps [0.50%] in terms of PRICE, and that equates to roughly 0.125% in terms of interest rate,” says Graham.

Though others have estimated that refinance rates could rise as much as 0.375% on average when the fee goes into effect.

Either way, that’s a significant difference in refinance rates for borrowers.

For those who planned to refinance in the near future, it makes sense to get the ball rolling as soon as possible.

The earlier you start your refinance, the better your odds of closing and having the loan delivered to Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac before the fee once again goes into effect.

Find a low refinance rate today (Feb 9th, 2021)

Will all refinances be affected by the new fee?

The Adverse Market Refinance Fee will only apply to refinance loans sold to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

In other words, it applies to ‘conventional’ refinance loans.

But other types of mortgages could be affected indirectly.

In fact, the initial announcement set off higher rates for both purchase and refinancing loans, including some not intended for sale to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Those who had not locked in rates suddenly faced higher interest costs.

So in the coming months, it seems safe to assume that conventional refinances won’t be the only type affected by rising rates.

No refinance fee on loans under $125,000

One piece of good news from Fannie and Freddie’s most recent announcement is that the refinance fee won’t be charged on loans under $125,000.

Note, that’s based on the loan balance — not the home’s value.

So if your home is worth significantly more than $125,000, but you’ve paid down a lot of the balance, you might end up refinancing less than $125K and the fee won’t affect you.

In addition, the fee won’t be charged to those refinancing a Freddie Mac Home Possible loan or Fannie Mae HomeReady loan.

Why was a new fee developed?

We have faced the COVID-19 economy for months. Some 55 million people have filed for unemployment, and lenders have had to adjust many of their policies to account for the added uncertainty.

But did something new happen to justify this extra fee?

According to Freddie Mac, the new fee was necessary “as a result of risk management and loss forecasting precipitated by COVID-19 related economic and market uncertainty.”

Fannie Mae explained that it was adding the fee “in light of market and economic uncertainty resulting in higher risk and costs.”

But on August 25th, a different answer emerged.

According to the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) — the regulator that runs Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac — the new money was “necessary to cover projected COVID-19 losses of at least $6 billion at the Enterprises.”

“Specifically,” says FHFA, “the actions taken by the Enterprises during the pandemic to protect renters and borrowers are conservatively projected to cost the Enterprises at least $6 billion and could be higher depending on the path of the economic recovery.”

This refers to relief packages passed during COVID-19, which allowed borrowers to skip mortgage payments without penalty and prevented lenders from foreclosing on any delinquent loans.

But this amount is a fraction of the $109.5 billion in profits Fannie and Freddie have added to government coffers, even after paying back bailout funds they received during the 2008 housing crisis, according to ProPublica.

Using a small percentage of past years’ profits to help homeowners through a worldwide pandemic seems like a good idea to us, anyway.

Will Congress stop the new fee before it goes into effect?

The Adverse Market Refinance fee is now set to start after the November election.

So, could the results of the election impact whether or not the fee actually goes into effect?

That’s not certain. Both Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA), Chairwoman of the House Committee on Financial Services, and Congressman Wm. Lacy Clay (D-MO), Chair of the Subcommittee on Housing, Community Development and Insurance, oppose the new charge.

If opposition to the fee is strong enough, there could potentially be an investigation into the fee and an attempt to stop it. But there’s no guarantee this will happen.

What to do if you want to refinance

Rates are still sitting near record lows — below 3% in many cases. This is basically unheard of in the mortgage world.

Rates are likely to go up as the new refinance fee start date nears. But that’s just one of the many, many factors that can impact mortgage and refinance rates.

If the economy starts to see a real recovery any time soon, rates could start going up regardless of what happens with the refinance fee. On the flip side, they’re not likely to go much lower than they are now.

So for borrowers hoping to refinance at record-low rates, it makes sense to get started sooner rather than later.

Verify your new rate (Feb 9th, 2021)

Source: themortgagereports.com

Mortgage applications dip as rates climb

The seesaw nature of mortgage applications continued for the week ending Feb. 5, as applications decreased 4.1% from the prior week, according to the latest data from the Mortgage Bankers Association.

Applications were up 8.5% the week ending Jan. 29 – breaking a two-week stretch of decreases – before falling again last week.

Mortgage rates have increased in four of the six weeks of 2021, according to Joel Kan, MBA’s associate vice president of economic and industry forecasting, which could be causing the dip in applications.

“Jumbo rates [were] the only loan type that saw a decline last week,” Kan said. “Despite some weekly volatility, Treasury rates have been driven higher by expectations of faster economic growth as the COVID-19 vaccine rollout continues.”

The refinance index decreased 4% from the previous week but was still 46% higher year-over-year. The seasonally adjusted purchase index also decreased from one week earlier – down 5% – though the unadjusted purchase Index increased 2% compared with the prior week and was 17% higher than the same week in 2020.

The 30-year fixed mortgage rate increased to 2.96% – a high not seen since November 2020, Kan said. This has led to an uptick in refinancing, he said, as borrowers race to lock in a rate below 3%.

“Government refinance applications did buck the trend and increase, and overall activity was still 46% higher than a year ago,” he said. “Demand for refinances is still very strong this winter. Homebuyers are still very active.”

The higher-priced segment of the market continues to perform well, Kan said, with the average purchase loan sizes increasing to a survey-high of $402,200.

The FHA share of total mortgage applications increased to 9.5% from 9.1% the week prior. The VA share of total mortgage applications increased to 13.3% from 12.1% the week prior.

Here is a more detailed breakdown of this week’s mortgage application data:

  • The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with conforming loan balances ($548,250 or less) increased to 2.96% from 2.92%
  • The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with jumbo loan balances (greater than $548,250) decreased to 3.11% from 3.12% – the third week in a row of decreases
  • The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages increased to 2.97% from 2.94%
  • The average contract interest rate for 15-year fixed-rate mortgages increased to 2.50% from 2.44%
  • The average contract interest rate for 5/1 ARMs increased to 2.92% from 2.88%

Source: housingwire.com

Housing, civil rights groups ask Congress for $25B

A large partnership of housing and civil rights organizations reached out on Monday to congressional leaders advocating for further relief for homeowners in the next COVID-19 stimulus package.  

The letter was signed by representatives of more than 350 housing and civil rights organizations, including American Bankers Association, Mortgage Bankers Association, National Association of Realtors, National Association of Home Builders and the Housing Policy Council, the NAACP, National Urban League, National Fair Housing Alliance and National Consumer Law Center.

The letter calls for $25 billion in direct assistance to homeowners facing hardships as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, at least $100 million for housing counseling, and just under $40 million for the Fair Housing Initiatives Program.

Of the approximately 3.8 million homeowners past due on their mortgages, over half of them are persons of color, according to Census Bureau.

Recent homebuyers that relied on low- or no-down payment loans from FHA, VA or the Rural Housing Service are at particular risk, the group contends, noting that even six months of forbearance can put borrowers underwater on their mortgages, owing more than their home is worth.


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“Moreover, these borrowers are predominantly Black and Latinx families, first-time buyers and low to moderate-income families,” the letter says. “Mortgage payments assistance will be critically important to the nearly 3 million borrowers that remain in long-term forbearance plans from their mortgage servicers. We cannot begin to tackle the racial homeownership and wealth gaps if we do not take steps to prevent a wave of COVID-induced foreclosures and loss of home equity.”

The group is hoping the bulk of the requested $25 billion comes through the recently reintroduced Homeowner Assistance Fund, which can be used by state housing finance agencies. In the letter to Congress, the group states that the HAF can help homeowners by providing direct assistance with mortgage payments and get into affordable loan modifications, while assisting with utility payments, property tax and insurance payments, homeowner association dues and other support to prevent the loss of home equity.

The outreach from housing and civil rights groups comes at a pivotal time for the American housing industry. Recently appointed Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has said she will play a key role in pushing the Biden administration’s economic agenda on Capitol Hill – which includes aggressive aid distribution in order to avoid an even longer recession.

President Joe Biden has repeatedly said his administration is focused on providing aid for those in need of affordable housing, and his $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan was recently voted into the budget reconciliation process in order to speed up passage. The plan calls for an additional $30 billion in funding for emergency rental, energy and water assistance for hard-hit households, plus $5 billion in emergency assistance to people experiencing or at risk of homelessness.

All of this at a time in the country where Black homeownership has declined year-over-year, according to a recent Census Bureau report, and the percentage of Americans experiencing housing insecurity has risen to 9.5% – up from 7.2% in late 2020.

“A critical lesson of the Great Recession is that the communities most impacted need targeted, early intervention,” the group wrote in the letter. “Acting now to include these key provisions in the pending COVID-19 relief package will help stem what could be a damaging housing crisis in the U.S. concentrated in low income communities and communities of color.”

Source: housingwire.com

What Happens if You Lie on Your Taxes?

November 21, 2019 &• 5 min read by Kat Tretina Comments 0 Comments

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Disclaimer

NOTE: Due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, the IRS has extended the federal tax filing and payment deadline to July 15, 2020. The recent relief package passed by Congress may have additional tax implications. Please contact a tax adviser for information you may need to complete your taxes this year. Learn more.

According to the IRS, the average tax refund in 2018 was $3,103. When you hear that number and then do your own taxes, you expect your refund to be close to that amount. If it’s not–or worse, you owe money–it can be tempting to fudge the numbers to increase your refund. However, misrepresenting yourself on your return is tax fraud, and it has grave consequences.

Consequences of lying on your taxes can include:

  • Being audited
  • Fines and penalties up to hundreds of thousands of dollars
  • Jail time

Learn more about the penalties below and how to avoid them.

Will I Get Caught if I Lie on My Taxes?

The IRS gets all of the W-2s and 1099s that you receive, so it knows if you don’t report all of your income. Even if the income you’re trying to hide came in the form of cash payments, your financial activity can send up a red flag with the IRS that might trigger an audit.

What Is an IRS audit?

An IRS audit is an extensive review of your taxes and financial records to ensure you reported everything accurately. Though most people have a less than 1% chance of being audited, it’s not worth the risk.

Undergoing an audit is a time-intensive and costly process that involves providing years of documentation and even in-person interviews. If the IRS audits you, you can hire a professional to represent you and your interests.

While the IRS may have only flagged one return for audit, it can review any return from the past six years. If it finds more issues, it can add penalties and fines for every year with problems. If you made tax mistakes for the past several years, you could end up owing thousands for taxes you misrepresented.

Can You Go to Jail for an IRS Audit?

While being audited in itself doesn’t mean you did anything wrong, if you’re found guilty of tax evasion or fraud, that’s a different story. The outcome of an audit is a determining factor in whether or not you will be charged with an offense that carries jail time.

What Is the Penalty for an Incorrect Tax Return?

If the IRS finds errors on your return and audits you, the penalties and fines assessed can be steep.

According to Joshua Zimmelman, president of Westwood Tax and Consulting, lying on your taxes to reduce your tax bill or boost your refund may end up costing you more in the long run.

“If you don’t pay your tax liability by the due date, the IRS will charge you a late payment penalty. Even if you file on time, you may still be charged a late payment penalty if you under-report your income and the IRS find out,” Zimmelman said.

In addition to that penalty, the IRS can also charge you interest on the underpayment. “If you’re found guilty of tax evasion or tax fraud, you might end up having to pay serious fines,” said Zimmelman.

While tax evasion or tax fraud is normally imagined as something that affects high earners and big executives, even those with lower incomes need to be careful. When describing the penalties for tax fraud, the IRS does not differentiate between income amounts or how much you underpaid your taxes. If you falsify any information on a return, it can fine you up to $250,000.

Can the IRS Put a Person in Jail?

In addition to owing thousands of dollars in penalties, fees and interest, you may also face criminal charges that result in jail time. While the IRS itself cannot jail offenders, the courts can.

Criminal investigations and charges start when an IRS auditor detects possible fraud during an audit of your returns. Courts convict approximately 3,000 people every year of tax fraud, signaling how serious the IRS takes lying on your taxes.

How Long Is the Jail Sentence for Lying on a Tax Return?

The length of the sentence for lying on a tax return depends largely upon the specific details of your situation. These details determine the exact charge against you. That determines the penalties you may face.

The odds of the IRS charging you for fraud is relatively small. Even if you are investigated, the chances of you facing a criminal charge are pretty slim. However, with the potential consequences being as severe as they are, lying on a tax return is not worth the risk just to get a little extra money in your refund.

Are There Other Ramifications of Lying on Your Taxes?

In addition to massive fines, penalties and potential jail time, lying on your taxes to reduce your income can have other negative ramifications. For example, it can impact your ability to secure lines of credit.

“If you under-report your income, it might hurt you when you try to buy a house or apply for a personal loan,” said Zimmelman. “You might not get it if it looks like you cannot afford to pay it back, so lying on your taxes may hurt in that respect.”

When mortgage companies and banks review your application, they request copies of your tax returns to check your total income. If you lied about your income to lower your tax liability, your full income won’t be on the return. That means you may be denied for the loan you need, hurting your financial future.

Moreover, failing to file a return at all can completely tank your credit report. So, not only do lenders not have an accurate picture of your income, they see a less than stellar credit report as well.

How Can You Get More on Your Tax Return Legally?

Nobody likes owing money to the IRS at the end of the year or getting a miserly refund. However, tax fraud is a serious crime. Glossing over your income, boosting your deductions or any other form of “fudging numbers” is lying on your tax return, and that’s tax fraud.

That doesn’t mean you’re stuck with owing or receiving less than you desire. There are a number of legal ways to get a bigger tax refund.

Even if none of those avenues are open to you, it’s still better to tell the truth. Saving yourself a little money at filing time can end up costing you thousands of dollars. It may even land you in jail.

Save yourself the headache and report your information accurately and on time. And, make sure you know what you need to do to avoid common mistakes made on taxes.


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Source: credit.com