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Debt Relief = Income

by John Riggins

Debt Relief = Income

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Many times a homeowner might feel relieved being out from under the obligation of a mortgage they can’t afford even though the property was lost due to foreclosure or short sale. If a lender cancels or forgives debt, a taxpayer must include the cancelled amount in their income for tax purposes depending on the circumstances. The tax significance could be serious.

Congress enacted the Mortgage Relief Act specifically to help homeowners who might be affected in the housing crisis that started approximately in 2007. The Act expired on 12/31/12 but was temporarily extended by Congress until December 31, 2013.

This relief only applies to a taxpayers’ principal residence which does not include second homes and investment property. The maximum amount is limited to $2 million of mortgage debt forgiveness or $1 million if filing separately.

Another provision is that the debt relief is limited to acquisition indebtedness used to buy, build or improve the property. It excludes cash equity loans whether made separately or in a refinance of the original mortgage.

Due to the serious consequences involved in short sales and foreclosures, it is advised that homeowners faced with this possibility should seek expert advice from their legal and tax professionals. 

Mortgage Interest Deduction

by John Riggins

 

MID Limited per Residence

A recent U.S. Tax Court ruling clarified the IRS position that the $1.1 million limit for mortgage interest deduction applies per residence and not per taxpayer as some high-priced homeowners were hoping.

A married homeowner filing jointly can have fully deductible interest on a mortgage of up to $1,000,000 of acquisition debt and up to an additional $100,000 of home equity debt. If the married couple files separately, each party is limited to deducting the interest on half of those maximum amounts.

The court case came about when two unmarried individuals who owned a home together as joint tenants felt that they were entitled to deduct the interest on $1.1 million of debt each. IRS did not agree with their understanding and neither did the Tax Court. The Court ruled that the limits apply per residence, not per taxpayer even if a home is co-owned by unmarried taxpayers.

The result for the taxpayers in this case was that their deduction was cut in half resulting in much more income tax due. While this situation only affects a few taxpayers, homeowners in this position should have a discussion with their tax professional.

Choose Your Deduction

by John Riggins

 

Choose Your Deduction

One third of all U.S. households, 75% of households with more than $75,000 income and most homeowners itemize their deduction on their federal income tax returns. It makes sense because the interest paid on their mortgage and their property taxes probably exceeds the allowable standard deduction.

However, with interest rates as low as they have been in the last two years and the price of homes having come down considerably, it is possible that the standard deduction may be the better choice.

Each year, the taxpayer can compare the total of the itemized deductions to the standard deduction to select which method will result in the most benefits. The 2011 standard deduction is $11,600 for married couple filing jointly and $5,800 for single filers.

The Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008 allows homeowners to take the standard deduction and the lesser of their actual property taxes of $1,000 if filing their return married jointly. For more information, see Schedule L found on www.IRS.gov and consult your tax advisor.

Displaying blog entries 1-3 of 3

Contact Information

Photo of John Riggins REALTOR RB11175 Real Estate
John Riggins REALTOR RB11175
John Riggins Real Estate
1003 Bishop Street, suite 2700
Honolulu HI 96813
808.523.7653
808.341.0737
Fax: 888.369.3210