Tuesday, January 5, 2010

New $6500 Tax Credit for Repeat Home Buyers

Happy New Year! I just posted the South Bay and Palos Verdes Peninsula sales charts for 2009 on my Facebook. The stats are from November 2008 through November 2009 and the trends are quite obvious. We are heading back into market momentum. With interest rates still at an all time low and destined to begin a steep increase this year, this is really the right time for first time buyers and move-up buyers to secure a great home at a great price with long term 30 year fixed rate financing. It just won't get any better than this! Here are some "Good News" Facts:

Q: Who can claim the $6,500 tax credit?
Qualified move-up or repeat home buyers purchasing any kind of home intended as his/her primary residence are eligible to claim this credit. The tax credit does NOT apply to second homes, vacation homes, or investment property.

Q: What is the definition of a move-up or repeat home buyer?
The law defines a tax credit qualified move-up home buyer (long-time resident) as a home owner who has owned and resided in a home for at least five consecutive years of the eight years prior to the purchase date. For married taxpayers, the law tests the homeownership history of both the home buyer and his/her spouse. Repeat home buyers do not have to purchase a home that is more expensive than their previous home to qualify for the tax credit.

Q: When does the credit take effect, and how long will it last?
Transition buyers are eligible for all contracted purchases dated Nov. 7th, 2009 through April 30, 2010, with closing occurring on or before June 30, 2010.

Q: How is the amount of the tax credit determined?
The tax credit is equal to 10 % of the home’s purchase price up to a maximum of $6,500. Purchases of homes priced above $800,000 are not eligible for the tax credit.
Q: Are there any income limits for claiming the tax credit?
Yes. The income limit for single taxpayers is $125,000; & $225,000 for married taxpayers filing a joint return. The tax credit amount is reduced for buyers with a modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) above those limits. The phaseout range for the tax credit program is equal to $20,000. That is, the tax credit amount is reduced to zero for taxpayers with MAGI of more than $145,000 (single) or $245,000 (married) and is reduced proportionally for taxpayers with MAGIs between these amounts. (NOTE: I suggest you consult your CPA or accountant regarding your MAGI questions. There are several complications that are best defined by a professional.)

Q: If my modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) is above the limit, do I qualify for any tax credit?
Possibly. It depends on your income. Partial credits of less than $6,500 are available for some taxpayers whose MAGI exceeds the phaseout limits.

Q: How is this home buyer tax credit different from the tax credit that Congress enacted in July of 2008? How is this different than the rules established in early 2009?
The previous tax credits applied only to first-time home buyers and were for different amounts of money.

Q: How do I claim the tax credit? Do I need to complete a form or application? Are there documentation requirements?
You claim the tax credit on your federal income tax return. Specifically, home buyers should complete IRS Form 5405 to determine their tax credit amount, and then claim this amount on line 67 of the 1040 income tax form for 2009 returns.

No other applications are required, and no pre-approval is necessary. However, you will want to be sure that you qualify for the credit under the income limits and repeat home buyer tests. Note that you cannot claim the credit on IRS Form 5405 for an intended purchase for some future date; it must be a completed purchase. Home buyers must attach a copy of their HUD-1 settlement form (closing statement) to IRS Form 5405 as proof of the completed home purchase.

Q: What types of homes will qualify for the tax credit?
Any home that will be used as a principal residence will qualify for the credit, provided the home is purchased for a price less than or equal to $800,000. This includes single-family detached homes, attached homes like townhouses and condominiums, manufactured homes (also known as mobile homes) and houseboats. The definition of principal residence is identical to the one used to determine whether you may qualify for the $250,000 / $500,000 capital gain tax exclusion for principal residences per the IRS.

It is important to note that you cannot purchase a home from — among other family members — your ancestors (parents, grandparents, etc.), your lineal descendants (children, grandchildren, etc.) or your spouse or your spouse’s family members. Please consult with your tax advisor for more information. Also see IRS Form 5405.

Q: I've heard that I could be required to repay the credit if I do not occupy the new home for at least 36 months from the purchase date. Is this true?
Yes. If, within 36 months of the date of purchase, the property is no longer used as your principal residence, you are required to repay the credit. Repayment of the full amount of the credit is due at that time the income tax return for the year the home ceased to be your principal residence is due. The full amount of the credit is reflected as additional tax on that year's tax return. Form 5405 and its instructions will be revised for tax year 2009 to include information about repayment of the credit.

Q: Instead of buying a new home from a home builder, I hired a contractor to construct a home on a lot that I already own. Do I still qualify for the tax credit?
Yes. However, for the purposes of the home buyer tax credit, a principal residence that is constructed by the home owner is treated by the tax code as having been purchased on the date the owner first occupies the house, not when the lot was purchased or construction began on the property. In this situation, the date of first occupancy must be after November 6, 2009 and on or before April 30, 2010 (or by June 30, 2010, provided a binding sales contract was in force by April 30, 2010).

Q: I am not a U.S. citizen. Can I claim the tax credit?
Perhaps. Anyone who is not a nonresident alien (as defined by the IRS) and who has owned and resided in a principal residence in the United States for at least five consecutive years of the eight years prior to the purchase date can claim the tax credit if they meet the income limits. For married taxpayers, the law tests the homeownership history of both the home buyer and his/her spouse. The IRS provides a definition of nonresident alien in IRS Publication 519.

Q: Is a tax credit the same as a tax deduction?
No. A tax credit is a dollar-for-dollar reduction in what the taxpayer owes. That means that a taxpayer who owes $6,500 in income taxes and who receives an $6,500 tax credit would owe nothing to the IRS.

Q: Is there a way for a home buyer to access the money allocable to the credit sooner than waiting to file their 2009 or 2010 tax return?
Yes. Prospective home buyers who believe they qualify for the tax credit are permitted to reduce their income tax withholding. Reducing tax withholding (up to the amount of the credit) will enable the buyer to accumulate cash by raising his/her take home pay. This money can then be applied to the downpayment.

Q: HUD allows monetization of the tax credit. What does that mean?
It means that (in theory) HUD will allow buyers using FHA-insured mortgages to apply their anticipated tax credit toward their home purchase immediately rather than waiting until they file their 2009 or 2010 income taxes to receive a refund, provided the FHA lender offers the option of purchasing the tax credit in advance.

Q: For a home purchase in 2009 or 2010, can I choose whether to treat the purchase as occurring in the prior or present year, depending on in which year my credit amount is the largest?
Yes. If the applicable income phaseout would reduce your home buyer tax credit amount in the present year and a larger credit would be available using the prior year MAGI amounts, then you can choose the year that yields the largest credit amount. (Again, your CPA or accountant should be consulted on this.)

Q: Where should I get the most reliable and up-to-date information from regarding the $6500 repeat home buyer credit?
From your tax advisor or the IRS directly. While the credit is specific to the purchase of qualified real property, it is still a tax issue, and not a real estate or mortgage matter. As such, it falls under the taxation and revenue codes of the IRS. Your tax professional or an advisor at the Internal Revenue Service is best equipped to provide you current information about this new credit.

Looking forward to working with you this year. Please feel free to call with any questions. I don't have all the answers but I generally know someone who does. And, I am NEVER too busy for any of your referrals!