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UPDATE: Mortgage Debt Cancellation Tax Relief

National Association of REALTORs
National Association of REALTORs

NAR Issue Brief
Mortgage Debt Cancellation Tax Relief

Update on the current status of the mortgage debt cancellation tax relief provision that expired at the end of 2013. As soon as the last one-year extension was passed on New Years’ Day 2013, NAR began working on another extension of this critical tax provision. With NAR’s encouragement, champions of this provision introduced bi-partisan bills in both the House and Senate (H.R. 2994/S. 1187), to extend the provision for one or two years. Unfortunately, the current prospect of these bills being enacted in the short term is not particularly high. We are facing four big hurdles.

1. The Chairmen of both of Congress’s tax committees (Senate Finance and House Ways and Means) have committed to passing comprehensive tax reform legislation before the end of 2014. As part of reform, they have both indicated that they plan to go through the long list of expiring items, including mortgage debt cancellation, and cull those that are not worthy of permanence and make all the “worthy” ones a permanent part of the tax law. However, tax reform is unlikely to be completed in the coming months. If Congress were to extend the expiring provisions now, it might appear that they were giving up on tax reform. This is not a signal they wish to send.

2. There are over 50 such expiring tax provisions (often referred to as “extenders”). Congress rarely passes single tax provisions by themselves. The rules in both the House (and especially the Senate) could allow for added amendments that would turn a simple bill with wide support into a politically divisive bill.

3. The extension of the tax relief “costs” money to the Treasury. The Joint Committee on Taxation estimates that a one-year extension of the mortgage debt cancellation relief would cost $3.7 billion. Some Members of Congress will insist that amount be offset by raising taxes elsewhere or cuts in spending – an ongoing debate in Congress.

4. The Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Senator Max Baucus of Montana, has been nominated by President Obama to serve as the next United States Ambassador to China. His departure from the Senate will turn the chairmanship over to Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon. As with any change in committee leadership, there will be an adjustment period.

In sum, NAR tried to have the extension passed by year-end but it was not possible. Because of the factors listed above, NAR has so far decided not to issue Member-wide Call for Action at this time, but has instead focused on working with Congressional leadership and the bill sponsors to find additional support for moving this legislation now that Congress has returned to Washington. Our lobbyists are in daily meetings with Members of Congress, pressing for an extension and providing the most up to date data on short sales and foreclosures to continue to highlight this as a top priority.

What can you do? First, you can contact your Representative and Senators to urge them to act on these bills. If you are in distressed situation, urge them to do so as well. The more Members hear from constituents, the better.

NAR cautions REALTORS® against giving clients tax advice, as every situation is different, but at this point our best estimate is that Congress will pass some extension of this law, probably late in 2014, and make it retroactive. There is precedent for Congress doing this, but no guarantee.

NAR cautions REALTORS® against giving clients tax advice, as every situation is different, but at this point our best estimate is that Congress will pass some extension of this law in 2014 and make it retroactive. There is precedent for Congress doing this, but no guarantee.

Short Sale Debt Forgiveness is Back!

Debt Forgiveness Elk Grove Short Sales, Sacramento Short Sales
Debt Forgiveness Elk Grove Short Sales, Sacramento Short Sales

The California Association of REALTORS® announced yesterday it received a letter from the California Franchise Tax Board (FTB), obtained by Board of Equalization (BOE) member George Runner, clarifying that California families who lost their home in a short sale are not subject to state income tax liability on debt forgiveness “phantom income” they never received in a short sale.

Last month, in a letter to California Senator Barbara Boxer, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) recognized that the debt written off in a short sale does not constitute recourse debt under California law, and thus does not create so called “cancellation of debt” income to the underwater home seller for federal income tax purposes. Following the IRS’s clarification, C.A.R. sought a similar ruling by the California FTB. Now with the FTB’s clarification, underwater home sellers are also assured that they are not subject to state income tax liability, rescuing tens of thousands distressed home sellers from California tax liability for debt written off by lenders in short sales.

“We are pleased with the recent clarifications issued by the IRS and California Franchise Tax Board, which protect distressed homeowners from debt relief income tax associated with a short sale in California,” said C.A.R. President Kevin Brown. “We would like to thank Senator Boxer and BOE member Runner for their leadership in obtaining this guidance from the IRS and FTB. Distressed California homeowners can now avoid foreclosure or bankruptcy and can opt for a short sale instead, without incurring federal and state tax liability, even after the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act of 2007 expires at the end of the year.”

This is wonderful news for California families still struggling with an underwater home. We still recommend all REALTORS® encourage their clients to speak with a tax professional who can advise them on their specific situation. This information in no way should be taken as either legal or tax advice.

(Sacramento Association of REALTORS® Web Log, Caylyn Brown Thursday, December 5th, 2013)

$5000 More to Help You Move: Distressed California Homeowners May Qualify for California’s Keep Your Home California Transition Assistance Program (TAP)

Elk Grove Short Sales, Sacramento Short Sales
Elk Grove Short Sales, Sacramento Short Sales
If you are financially distressed in the state of California and can no longer afford your home and are pursuing a short sale or a deed in lieu of foreclosure, you may be eligible for financial help with your relocation to alternative housing.   The funds come from the Transition Assistance Program (TAP), part of the Keep Your Home California Program.

The state of California is providing up to $5,000 in transition assistance to qualified homeowners who can no longer afford to stay in their homes.  You must:

• Apply for the funds through www.KeepYourHomeCalifornia.com or (if you are a Bank of America Customer) by calling 1.888.954.5337.

• Maintain your property until your house is sold or returned to the lender via a negotiated deed in lieu of foreclosure.

For qualified homeowners, these state funds may be used in addition to any other transition assistance that you may receive by participating in the Federal Home Affordable Foreclosure Alternatives (HAFA) program or in any other pre-offer short sale program.

To learn more about the Transition Assistance Program’s guidelines, and how you may qualify, please visit the website at http://keepyourhomecalifornia.org. Or call 1.888.954.5337 if you are a Bank of America customer.

Check Your Mail – Payments to 4.2 Million “Distressed” Borrowers Happening Now

Actual check received in the amount of $2000 by one of my past clients in her mail today; she had completed a short sale. Envelope reads "Important Payment Agreement Informaton Enclosed" from the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System
Actual check received today by one of my past clients who completed a short sale. Envelope reads “Important Payment Agreement Informaton Enclosed” from the Office of the Compftroller of the Currency and the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System
If you have been foreclosed on or have completed a short sale, don’t be so quick to throw away mail from your past lender. Payments to 4.2 million borrowers will be distributed to those whose homes were in any stage of the foreclosure process in 2009 or 2010 and whose mortgages were serviced by one of the following companies, their affiliates, or subsidiaries: Aurora, Bank of America, Citibank, Goldman Sachs, HSBC, JPMorgan Chase, MetLife Bank, Morgan Stanley, PNC, Sovereign, SunTrust, U.S. Bank, and Wells Fargo.

In most cases, eligible borrowers will receive a letter with an enclosed check sent by the Paying Agent–Rust Consulting, Inc. Some borrowers may receive letters from Rust requesting additional information needed to process their payments. Rust is sending all payments and correspondence regarding the foreclosure agreement at the direction of the OCC and the Federal Reserve.

Borrowers can call Rust at 1-888-952-9105 to update their contact information or to verify that they are covered by the agreement. Information provided to Rust will only be used for purposes related to the agreement.

Watch out for scams. Beware of anyone who asks you to call a different phone number than the number above or to pay a fee to receive a payment under the agreement.

SO WHAT’S THIS ALL ABOUT
The Federal Reserve Board issued enforcement actions against four large mortgage servicers
–GMAC Mortgage, HSBC Finance Corporation, SunTrust Mortgage, and EMC Mortgage Corporation–in April 2011. Under those actions, the four servicers were required to retain independent consultants to review foreclosures that were initiated, pending, or completed during 2009 or 2010. The review was intended to determine if borrowers suffered financial harm directly resulting from errors, misrepresentations, or other deficiencies that may have occurred during the foreclosure process.

A number of servicers supervised by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) were also required to conduct independent reviews.

The deadline to request an independent review was December 31, 2012.