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If your lender cancelled or forgave your mortgage debt, you generally have to pay tax on that amount. But there are exceptions to this rule for some homeowners who had mortgage debt forgiven in 2012.
Here are 10 key facts from the IRS about mortgage debt forgiveness:
1. Cancelled debt normally results in taxable income. However, you may be able to exclude the cancelled debt from your income if the debt was a mortgage on your main home.
2. To qualify, you must have used the debt to buy, build or substantially improve your principal residence. The residence must also secure the mortgage.
3. The maximum qualified debt that you can exclude under this exception is $2 million. The limit is $1 million for a married person who files a separate tax return.
4. You may be able to exclude from income the amount of mortgage debt reduced through mortgage restructuring. You may also be able to exclude mortgage debt cancelled in a foreclosure.
5. You may also qualify for the exclusion on a refinanced mortgage. This applies only if you used proceeds from the refinancing to buy, build or substantially improve your main home. The exclusion is limited to the amount of the old mortgage principal just before the refinancing.
6. Proceeds of refinanced mortgage debt used for other purposes do not qualify for the exclusion. For example, debt used to pay off credit card debt does not qualify.
7. If you qualify, report the excluded debt on Form 982, Reduction of Tax Attributes Due to Discharge of Indebtedness. Submit the completed form with your federal income tax return.
8. Other types of cancelled debt do not qualify for this special exclusion. This includes debt cancelled on second homes, rental and business property, credit cards or car loans. In some cases, other tax relief provisions may apply, such as debts discharged in certain bankruptcy proceedings. Form 982 provides more details about these provisions.
9. If your lender reduced or cancelled at least $600 of your mortgage debt, they normally send you a statement in January of the next year. Form 1099-C, Cancellation of Debt, shows the amount of cancelled debt and the fair market value of any foreclosed property.
10. Check your Form 1099-C for the cancelled debt amount shown in Box 2, and the value of your home shown in Box 7. Notify the lender immediately of any incorrect information so they can correct the form.
Use the Interactive Tax Assistant tool on IRS.gov to check if your cancelled debt is taxable. Also, see Publication 4681, Canceled Debts, Foreclosures, Repossessions and Abandonments. IRS forms and publications are available online at IRS.gov or by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).
Additional IRS Resources:
Interactive Tax Assistant tool
Publication 4681, Canceled Debts, Foreclosures, Repossessions and Abandonments
Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act and Debt Cancellation
Form 982, Reduction of Tax Attributes Due to Discharge of Indebtedness
IRS YouTube Videos:
Mortgage Debt Forgiveness – English | Spanish | ASL
IRS Announces Guidance on the Principal Reduction Alternative Offered in the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP)
IR-2013-8, Jan. 24, 2013
WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service today announced guidance to borrowers, mortgage loan holders and loan servicers who are participating in the Principal Reduction AlternativeSM offered through the Department of the Treasury’s and Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Home Affordable Modification Program® (HAMP-PRA®).
To help financially distressed homeowners lower their monthly mortgage payments, Treasury and HUD established HAMP, which is described at http://www.makinghomeaffordable.gov. Under HAMP-PRA, the principal of the borrower’s mortgage may be reduced by a predetermined amount called the PRA Forbearance Amount if the borrower satisfies certain conditions during a trial period. The principal reduction occurs over three years.
More specifically, if the loan is in good standing on the first, second and third annual anniversaries of the effective date of the trial period, the loan servicer reduces the unpaid principal balance of the loan by one-third of the initial PRA Forbearance Amount on each anniversary date. This means that if the borrower continues to make timely payments on the loan for three years, the entire PRA Forbearance Amount is forgiven. To encourage mortgage loan holders to participate in HAMP–PRA, the HAMP program administrator will make an incentive payment to the loan holder (called a PRA investor incentive payment) for each of the three years in which the loan principal balance is reduced.
Guidance on Tax Consequences to Borrowers
The guidance issued today provides that PRA investor incentive payments made by the HAMP program administrator to mortgage loan holders are treated as payments on the mortgage loans by the United States government on behalf of the borrowers. These payments are generally not taxable to the borrowers under the general welfare doctrine.
If the principal amount of a mortgage loan is reduced by an amount that exceeds the total amount of the PRA investor incentive payments made to the mortgage loan holder, the borrower may be required to include the excess amount in gross income as income from the discharge of indebtedness. However, many borrowers will qualify for an exclusion from gross income.
For example, a borrower may be eligible to exclude the discharge of indebtedness income from gross income if (1) the discharge of indebtedness occurs (in other words, the loan is modified) before Jan. 1, 2014, and the mortgage loan is qualified principal residence indebtedness, or (2) the discharge of indebtedness occurs when the borrower is insolvent. For additional exclusions that may apply, see Publication 4681, Canceled Debts, Foreclosures, Repossessions, and Abandonments (for Individuals).
Borrowers receiving aid under the HAMP–PRA program may report any discharge of indebtedness income — whether included in, or excluded from, gross income — either in the year of the permanent modification of the mortgage loan or ratably over the three years in which the mortgage loan principal is reduced on the servicer’s books. Borrowers who exclude the discharge of indebtedness income must report both the amount of the income and any resulting reduction in basis or tax attributes on Form 982, Reduction of Tax Attributes Due to Discharge of Indebtedness (and Section 1082 Basis Adjustment).
Guidance on Tax Consequences to Mortgage Loan Holders
The guidance issued today explains that mortgage loan holders are required to file a Form 1099-C with respect to a borrower who realizes discharge of indebtedness income of $600 or more for the year in which the permanent modification of the mortgage loan occurs. This rule applies regardless of when the borrower chooses to report the income (that is, in the year of the permanent modification or one-third each year as the mortgage loan principal is reduced) and regardless of whether the borrower excludes some or all of the amount from gross income.
Penalty relief is provided for mortgage loan holders that fail to timely file and furnish required Forms 1099-C, as long as certain requirements described in the guidance are satisfied.
Details are in Revenue Procedure 2013-16 available on IRS.gov.
Yesterday, the President signed the American Taxpayer Relief Act, which was passed on New Year’s Day. Here is brief summary of selected portions of it, for your review. We can help answer any questions that you may have.
Individual Tax Rates
The Act preserves and permanently extends the Bush-era income tax cuts except for single individuals with taxable income above $400,000; married couples filing joint returns with taxable income above $450,000; and heads of household with taxable income above $425,000. Income above these thresholds will be taxed at a 39.6 percent rate, effective January 1, 2013. The $400,000/$450,000/$425,000 thresholds will be adjusted for inflation after 2013.
The new law, however, does not extend the payroll tax holiday. Effective January 1, 2013, the employee-share of Social Security tax withholding increased from 4.2% to 6.2% (its rate before the payroll tax holiday).
Capital Gains and Dividend Tax Rate
Effective January 1, 2013, the maximum tax rate on qualified capital gains and dividends rises from 15 to 20 percent for taxpayers whose taxable incomes exceed the thresholds set for the 39.6 percent rate (the $400,000/$450,000/$425,000 thresholds discussed above). The maximum tax rate for all other taxpayers remains at 15 percent; and moreover, a zero-percent rate will continue to apply to qualified capital gains and dividends to the extent income falls below the top of the 15- percent tax bracket. Note – The 2010 Affordable Care Act imposes a 3.8% Medicare tax on interest, dividends, capital gains, and other passive income, starting in 2013, and it applies at taxable income over $200,000 for single filers and over $250,000 for joint filers.
Estate and Gift Tax
Federal transfer taxes (estate, gift and generation-skipping transfer (GST) taxes) seem to have been in a constant state of flux in recent years. The Act provides some certainty. Effective January 1, 2013, the maximum estate, gift and GST tax rate is generally 40 percent, which reflects an increase from 35 percent for 2012. The lifetime exclusion amount for estate and gift taxes is unchanged for 2013 and subsequent years at $5 million (adjusted for inflation). The GST exemption amount for 2013 and beyond is also $5 million (adjusted for inflation). The new law also makes permanent portability and some enhancements made in previous tax laws.
Other Act Elements Affecting Individuals
• AMT (Alternative Minimum Tax) – Higher exemptions are made permanent, and indexed for inflation
• IRA distributions to charitable organizations, (for those over age 70) – restored through 2013
• Exclusion for cancellation of debt on principal residence – extended through 2013
• Reduction of itemized deductions for incomes over certain levels, (which was not in place since 2010) – will apply starting in 2013
Business Tax Provisions
Code Sec. 179 business equipment expensing. In recent years, Congress has repeatedly increased dollar and investment limits under Code Sec. 179 to encourage spending by businesses. For tax years beginning in 2010 and 2011, the Code Sec. 179 dollar and investment limits were $500,000 and $2 million, respectively. [This means that you can expense up to $500,000 of equipment or software purchased, so long as you don’t spend more than $2 million in total. Expenditures over the $2 million level reduces the allowable expense amount dollar-for-dollar.] The Act restores the dollar and investment limits for 2012 and 2013 to their 2011 amounts ($500,000 and $2 million) and adjusts those amounts for inflation. However, this increase is temporary. The Code Sec. 179 dollar and investment limits are scheduled, unless changed by Congress, to decrease to $25,000 and $200,000, respectively, after 2013. The new law also provides that off-the-shelf computer software qualifies as eligible property for Code Sec. 179 expensing. The software must be placed in service in a tax year beginning before 2014. Additionally, the Act allows taxpayers to treat up to $250,000 of qualified leasehold and retail improvement property as well as qualified restaurant property, as eligible for Code Sec. 179 expensing.
Bonus depreciation. Bonus depreciation of business equipment is one of the most important tax benefits available to businesses, large or small. In recent years, bonus depreciation has reached 100 percent, which gave taxpayers the opportunity to write off 100 percent of qualifying asset purchases immediately. For 2012, bonus depreciation remained available but was reduced to 50 percent. The Act extends 50 percent bonus depreciation through 2013. The Act also provides that a taxpayer otherwise eligible for additional first-year depreciation may elect to claim additional research or minimum tax credits in lieu of claiming depreciation for qualified property.
While not quite as attractive as 100 percent bonus depreciation, 50 percent bonus depreciation is valuable. For example, a $100,000 piece of equipment with a five-year MACRS life would qualify for a $55,000 write-off: $50,000 in bonus depreciation plus 20 percent of the remaining $50,000 in basis as “regular” depreciation, with the half-year convention applied in the first and last year.
Bonus depreciation also relates to the passenger vehicle depreciation dollar limits under Code Sec. 280F. This provision imposes dollar limitations on the depreciation deduction for the year in which a taxpayer places a passenger automobile/truck in service within a business and for each succeeding year. Because of the new law, the first-year depreciation cap for passenger automobile/truck placed in service in 2013 is increased by $8,000.
Bonus depreciation, unlike Code Sec. 179 expensing, is not capped at a dollar threshold. However, only new property qualifies for bonus depreciation. Code Sec. 179 expensing, in contrast, can be claimed for both new and used property and qualifying property may be expensed at 100 percent.
Research Tax Credit. The research tax credit was restored for 2012 and extended through 2013.
If you have any questions, please contact us.
The facts listed below are good to know. However, it’s just as important to realize that the Mortgage Debt Forgiveness Act is a federal provision. If you are thinking that your mortgage debt forgiveness wont cause you a tax problem, better check out the state rules before you come to that conclusion.
In California for example:
“For tax year 2009, California does not conform to the federal Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act which applies to discharges occurring in 2007 through 2012. 1 Amounts excluded for federal income tax purposes must be added to income for California tax purposes.”
1 Federal law initially applied to discharges occurring from 2007 through 2009 (the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act of 2007, Public Law 110-142, December 20, 2007). Federal mortgage forgiveness debt relief was subsequently extended to apply to discharges occurring from 2009 through 2012 (the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008, Public Law 111-5, October 3, 2008).
Ten Facts about Mortgage Debt Forgiveness
If your mortgage debt is partly or entirely forgiven during tax years 2007 through 2012, you may be able to claim special tax relief and exclude the debt forgiven from your income. Here are 10 facts the IRS wants you to know about Mortgage Debt Forgiveness.
- Normally, debt forgiveness results in taxable income. However, under the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act of 2007, you may be able to exclude up to $2 million of debt forgiven on your principal residence.
- The limit is $1 million for a married person filing a separate return.
- You may exclude debt reduced through mortgage restructuring, as well as mortgage debt forgiven in a foreclosure.
- To qualify, the debt must have been used to buy, build or substantially improve your principal residence and be secured by that residence.
- Refinanced debt proceeds used for the purpose of substantially improving your principal residence also qualify for the exclusion.
- Proceeds of refinanced debt used for other purposes – for example, to pay off credit card debt – do not qualify for the exclusion.
- If you qualify, claim the special exclusion by filling out Form 982, Reduction of Tax Attributes Due to Discharge of Indebtedness, and attach it to your federal income tax return for the tax year in which the qualified debt was forgiven.
- Debt forgiven on second homes, rental property, business property, credit cards or car loans does not qualify for the tax relief provision. In some cases, however, other tax relief provisions – such as insolvency – may be applicable. IRS Form 982 provides more details about these provisions.
- If your debt is reduced or eliminated you normally will receive a year-end statement, Form 1099-C, Cancellation of Debt, from your lender. By law, this form must show the amount of debt forgiven and the fair market value of any property foreclosed.
- Examine the Form 1099-C carefully. Notify the lender immediately if any of the information shown is incorrect. You should pay particular attention to the amount of debt forgiven in Box 2 as well as the value listed for your home in Box 7.
For more information about the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act of 2007, visit IRS.gov. A good resource is IRS Publication 4681, Canceled Debts, Foreclosures, Repossessions and Abandonments. Taxpayers may obtain a copy of this publication and Form 982 either by downloading them from IRS.gov or by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).
[Stacie says: I didn’t have time to write up the post I wanted for today. However, I did read this informative news release about modified mortgages. ]
WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of the Treasury and Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) today kick off a nationwide campaign to help borrowers who are currently in the trial phase of their modified mortgages under the Obama Administration’s Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP) convert to permanent modifications. The modification program, which has helped over 650,000 borrowers, is part of the Administration’s broader commitment to stabilize housing markets and to provide relief to struggling homeowners and is a primary focus of financial stability efforts moving forward. Roughly 375,000 of the borrowers who have begun trial modifications since the start of the program are scheduled to convert to permanent modifications by the end of the year. Through the efforts being announced today, Treasury and HUD will implement new outreach tools and borrower resources to help convert as many trial modifications as possible to permanent ones.
“We are encouraged by the pace at which trial modifications are now being made to provide immediate savings to struggling homeowners,” said the new Chief of Treasury’s Homeownership Preservation Office (HPO), Phyllis Caldwell. “We now must refocus our efforts on the conversion phase to ensure that borrowers and servicers know what their responsibilities are in converting trial modifications to permanent ones.” In her new role, Caldwell will lead HPO’s conversion drive efforts.
“Encouraging borrowers to move through the process of converting trial modifications to permanent modifications remains a top priority for HUD,” said HUD Assistant Secretary for Housing and FHA Commissioner David Stevens. “As a part of our continuing efforts to improve the execution of the HAMP program, HUD is committed to working with servicers, borrowers, housing counselors and others dedicated to homeownership preservation to improve the transition of distressed homeowners into affordable and sustainable mortgages.”
With tens of thousands of trial modifications being made each week, the Administration is now working to ensure that eligible borrowers have the information and the assistance needed to move from the trial to the permanent modification phase. (All mortgage modifications begin with a trial phase to allow borrowers to submit the necessary documentation and determine whether the modified monthly payment is sustainable for them.) As the first round of modifications convert from the trial to permanent phase, the Administration has identified several strategies for addressing the challenges that borrowers confront in receiving permanent modifications.
In addition to the conversion drive that kicks off today, the Obama Administration has already taken several steps to make the transition from trial to permanent modification easier and more transparent by:
Extending the period for trial modifications started on or before September 1st to give homeowners more time to submit required information;
Streamlining the application process to minimize paperwork and simplify the submission process; meeting regularly with servicers to identify necessary improvement to borrower outreach and responsiveness;
Developing operational metrics to hold servicers accountable for their performance, which will soon be reported publicly;
Enhancing borrower resources on the MakingHomeAffordable.gov website and the Homeowner’s HOPETM Hotline (888-995-HOPE) to provide direct access to tools and housing counselors.
The Mortgage Modification Conversion Drive will include the following:
Servicer Accountability. As part of the Administration’s ongoing efforts to hold servicers accountable for their commitment to the program and responsibility to borrowers, the following measures will be added:
Top servicers will be required to submit a schedule demonstrating their plans to reach a decision on each loan for which they have documentation and to communicate either a modification agreement or denial letter to those borrowers. Treasury/Fannie Mae “account liaisons” are being assigned to these servicers and will follow up daily as necessary to monitor progress against the servicer’s plan. Daily progress will be aggregated by the end of each business day and reported to the Administration.
Servicers failing to meet performance obligations under the Servicer Participation Agreement will be subject to consequences which could include monetary penalties and sanctions.
The December MHA Servicer Performance Report will include the data on permanent modifications as well as the number of active trial period modifications that may convert by the end of the year if all borrower documents are successfully submitted, sorted by servicer and date.
Servicers will be required to report to the Administration the status of each modification to provide additional transparency about situations where borrowers face obstacles to moving to the permanent phase.
Web tools for borrowers. Because the document submission process can be a challenge for many borrowers, the Administration has created new resources on http://www.makinghomeaffordable.gov/ to simplify and streamline this step. New resources include:
Links to all of the required documents and an income verification checklist to help borrowers request a modification in four easy steps;
Comprehensive information about how the trial phase works, what borrower responsibilities are to convert to a permanent modification, and a new instructional video which provides step by step instruction for borrowers;
A toolkit for partner organizations to directly assist their constituents;
New web banners and tools for outreach partners to drive more borrowers to the site and Homeowner’s HOPETM Hotline (888-995-HOPE).
Engagement of state, local and community stakeholders. Through the conversion drive, the Administration is engaging all levels of government – state, local and county – to both increase awareness of the program and expand the resources available to borrowers as they navigate the modification process.
HUD will engage staff in its 81 field offices to distribute outreach tools. HUD will also encourage its 2700 HUD-Approved Counseling Organizations to distribute outreach information to participating borrowers.
By engaging the National Governors Association (NGA), National League of Cities (NLC) and National Association of Counties (NACo) the Administration is connecting with the thousands of state, local, and county offices on the frontlines in large and small communities across the country who are hardest hit by the foreclosure crisis. These offices will now have the tools to increase awareness of the program, connect with and educate borrowers and grassroots organizations on how to request a modification and take the additional steps to ensure they are converted to permanent status; and serve as an additional trusted resource for borrowers who are facing challenges with the program.
In partnering with the Conference of State Bank Supervisors and the American Association of Residential Mortgage Regulators, state regulators will now have enhanced tools to assist borrowers who are facing challenges in converting to a permanent modification and to report to the Administration on the progress and challenges borrowers and servicers are facing on the ground. Regulators will also be empowered to work directly with escalation and compliance teams to ensure that HAMP guidelines are consistently applied.
More information about the Obama Administration’s mortgage modification program can be found at http://www.makinghomeaffordable.gov/.
3. I lost my home through foreclosure. Are there tax consequences?
The amount on line 3 will generally equal the amount shown in box 2 of Form 1099-C. This amount is taxable unless you meet one of the exceptions in question 2. Enter it on line 21, Other Income, of your Form 1040.
The amount on line 3 will generally equal the amount shown in box 2 of Form 1099-C. This amount is taxable unless you meet one of the exceptions in question 2. Enter it on line 21, Other Income, of your Form 1040.
The amount on line 6 is your gain from the foreclosure of your home. If you have owned and used the home as your principal residence for periods totaling at least two years during the five year period ending on the date of the foreclosure, you may exclude up to $250,000 (up to $500,000 for married couples filing a joint return) from income. If you do not qualify for this exclusion, or your gain exceeds $250,000 ($500,000 for married couples filing a joint return), report the taxable amount on Schedule D, Capital Gains and Losses.
6. I don’t agree with the information on the Form 1099-C. What should I do?
7. I received a notice from the IRS on this. What should I do?
Publication 523, Selling Your Home
Publication 544, Sales and Other Dispositions of Assets
Publication 908, Bankruptcy Tax Guide
Form 1040, U.S. Individual Income Tax Return
Form 1040, Schedule D, Capital Gains and Losses
Form 1099-C, Cancellation of Debt
Form 9465, Installment Agreement Request