Tax Breaks

Property-Tax Deduction and COBRA Subsidy Updates

Legislators didn't extend the COBRA subsidy. But there's still a chance that the property-tax deduction for non-itemizers will be revived.

Can I deduct my property taxes if I don’t itemize my deductions?

At the moment, no. But don’t give up hope. Non-itemizers were able to add up to $500 ($1,000 for married couples filing jointly) to their standard deduction for real estate taxes they paid in 2008 and 2009. Legislators’ attempt to extend that deduction and several other expired tax breaks for 2010 failed in June. There are several tax issues Congress must still take up before the end of the year, though, including extending income-tax rates that expire this year and reviving the estate tax that expired last year. So lawmakers will have another opportunity to reinstate the property-tax deduction for 2010.

Has the 65% COBRA health-insurance subsidy for laid-off workers been extended?

No. People who lost their jobs between September 1, 2008, and May 31, 2010, qualify for a government subsidy to pay 65% of their premiums for up to 15 months when they continue their health-insurance coverage under their former employer’s plan through COBRA. But the law has not been extended yet, so people who lost their jobs after May 31 are not eligible for the subsidy (people who lost their jobs before then, however, can continue to receive the subsidy for up to 15 months).

Legislation signed into law by the president on July 22 extended unemployment benefits but did not extend the COBRA subsidy. For more information about the COBRA subsidy and frequent updates about its status and any further extensions, see the Department of Labor’s COBRA page.

If you aren’t eligible for the COBRA subsidy, your health-insurance premiums can be quite steep because you have to pay both the employer’s and the employee’s share of the premiums -- which totals $13,375, on average, per year for family coverage, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. If you’re healthy and have to pay the full cost for COBRA coverage, you might be able to find a better deal on your own. You can shop for individual health insurance at eHealthInsurance.com, find a local agent at www.nahu.org or get a list of available policies in your area at www.healthcare.gov. Also see Score Big Savings on Health Coverage for more information and other strategies to help you find affordable coverage.

But if you have a medical condition that makes it difficult or expensive to get insurance on your own, then COBRA may still be your best bet -- even without the subsidy.

Regardless of whether you receive the subsidy, you can keep your former employer’s health-insurance coverage through COBRA only for up to 18 months after you lose your job. See Getting Health Insurance on Your Own for advice about what to do after you exhaust your COBRA benefits.

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