Short Sale Tax Relief
Exemption for Tax Liability Created by Short Sale Debt Forgiveness
The Budget Bill signed into law by President Obama on December 18th, 2015, has received a lot of coverage in the news for many reasons. One of the good thing hidden in the Bill is that The Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act, which had expired in 2014, has been retroactively extended through 2016. Let’s take a look at why further relief is necessary when debt is forgiven through short sale.
Debt Forgiveness is a Taxable Event
In this world, very few people are strangers to debt. Whether it is unsecured debt such as credit cards or student loans, or secured debt such as a mortgage on real estate property or car loan, almost everybody owes somebody else money. However, lenders do not always successfully collect debts owed to them. In these cases, the lender may elect to cancel all or part of the debt of the borrower.
With unsecured debt, the lender might not be able to collect the debt or may simply give up on trying to collect. With secured debt, the lender will usually chose to foreclose or repossess the property, or allow a short sale as discussed below.
What many people do not know, is that the forgiveness, discharge or cancellation of debt (whichever term you chose to use), is generally a taxable event. The IRS expects people to pay taxes on the difference between the amount they owed and the amount they actually paid. How does the IRS know? Because the lender is required by Federal Law to file Form 1099-C “Cancellation of Debt”, for any debt forgiveness greater than $600. the 1099-C contains pertinent information such as the borrower and lender identification, amount of debt forgiven and date of discharge. you are then required to show the amount of forgiven debt as income on Form 982 and submitted with your Form 1040 “Income Tax Return”.
How Does Debt Forgiveness Tax Impact Short Sale?
In a Short Sale, the lender allows the property owner and borrower to sell the property for less than they owe, and forgive the remainder of the debt, in an attempt to save themselves the time and cost of foreclosure and property maintenance. Technically, this debt forgiveness would be a taxable event as discussed above.
However, The Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act shields homeowners from tax liabilities created by mortgage debt that is forgiven due to Short Sale of a principal residence (as well as debt forgiven through mortgage modification or deed in lieu of foreclosure). Up to $2,000,000 of forgiven debt is eligible for tax exclusion.
Is Tax Relief for Short Sale Debt Forgiveness Fair?
Whether the forgiveness is fair or not is up for debate, but it definitely makes sense. People seeking Short Sale to avoid foreclosure do not have the money to pay their mortgage. How can the IRS expect the borrower to pay taxes on money they couldn’t pay? With the great number of financially distressed properties in this housing bubble, they can’t.
Consult a Professional
You need to make sure you are making use of the right professionals so that you do not pay the price at a later date. Your account should be consulted whenever a large scale taxable event occurs; such as the forgiveness of thousands of dollars or more in debt. They will need this information to accurately file your tax return. Your real estate attorney needs to make sure that the lender provides you with a 1099-C that is complete and accurate. Finally, you need to make sure that your team is communicating and exchanging information efficiently.