Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Update: The Mortgage Debt Forgiveness Tax Break

by Bill McBride on 9/18/2012 03:19:00 PM

I expect this to get extended, but it is probably motivating some people to try to close their short sale before the end of the year.

From Carolyn Said at the San Francisco Chronicle: Clock ticking on forgiven-debt tax break

Before the housing downturn hit, "forgiven debt" on home mortgages could be taxed as income. For instance, if your lender lopped $50,000 off what you owed (a type of loan modification called principal reduction), if you short-sold the property for $50,000 less than your mortgage or if your lender foreclosed on a property worth $50,000 less than you owed, the $50,000 would be treated as income, adding up to a potential big bill for state and federal taxes.

But with millions of struggling homeowners in such situations, both the Congress and the California Legislature passed bills to exempt forgiven home debt from taxes.

But now the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act of 2007 is due to expire on Dec. 31. The election-year Congress, already famously fractious, is not expected to act on it in 2012, although industry experts hope it could get extended next year. ...
Even if the act eventually gets renewed, it doesn't cover all homeowners.

"It applies only to the mortgage you originally got to acquire the home or to a refi used to improve the home," said Stephen Moskowitz, a tax attorney in San Francisco.

Homeowners who did cash-out refinances and used the money for any other purpose than fixing up their house could still be on the hook for forgiven debt.