If you owe a debt to someone and they cancel or forgive that debt, the canceled amount may be taxable. Same goes for mortgage debts. Hence, the creation in 2007 of the Mortgage Debt Forgiveness Relief Act. The IRS explains the concept surprisingly well. This act expires in 96 days, the end of this year, after the holidays; much sooner than you realize.

People have been opining this whole year about the possible extension of the $1 billion mortgage debt forgiveness relief provision at the end of the year. I’ve been hearing the following:

“Should I short sell before the end of the year?”

“Can I count on the hopeful January 1 extension?”

“The $1 billion mortgage debt relief provision allows me to avoid paying taxes on mortgage debt forgiven by my lender, but it expires at the end of the year! My chance to short sell and still seek tax relief is disappearing quickly!

“But I hear these holiday months aren’t as slow as one might think. Oh, no! I’m almost out of time to avoid the tax repercussions of selling my home short!”

Let’s be clear on what the act does.

The 2007 Mortgage Debt Relief Act allows taxpayers to exclude up to $2 million of forgiven debt on their principal residence in calendar years 2007 through 2012. With one caveat: The discharge of debt must be directly related to the decline in the residence’s value or in the financial condition of the taxpayer.

The Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act was originally going to expire at the end of 2010, but lawmakers decided to extend it until the end of 2012. If it does expire, anyone who receives mortgage forgiveness on day one of 2013, or after that, will have to face paying income tax on a forgiven debt.

Isn’t it in the President’s budget?
Didn’t it pass the committee level in the Senate?

Yes/But… We don’t know the outcome of the election in November and nothing is moving in Congress for the next 6 weeks. This time bomb very likely won’t be voted on before the end of the year, what with their attention consumed with the nation’s budget crisis.

Furthermore, given that it takes 3 to 6 months to close on a short sale…Are you really willing to take the risk that the act will be extended?

What’s the bottom line?

List now and be more certain that you will avoid that tax liability. I strongly advise you consult with a tax attorney!

[referee photo: compujeremy] [house photo: surprise truck]

Written by phxAdmin