Friday, November 6, 2009
by Broderick Perkins
© 2008 DeadlineNews.Com
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Deadline Newsroom - President Barack Obama, this morning, signed legislation that extends a first time home buyer tax credit and extends a smaller tax credit to move-up and other buyers.
The extension and expansion of the popular home buyers tax credit gives both new and move-up buyers a tax incentive to buy a home until at least April 30, 2010, longer for military personnel.
The new law extends the existing credit for first-time homebuyers, worth up to $8,000, through April 30, 2010.
A new credit of up to $6,500 is available to qualifying existing homeowners who buy a new primary residence (or have one built) by April 30, 2010, if they owned their existing home for five consecutive years over the last eight years. Second homes don't qualify.
Home buyers have to repay the credit if they live in their primary residence less than 36 months and are not members of the military.
The new rule also raises the qualifying income limits to $125,000 for single taxpayers and $225,000 for joint taxpayers, from the current $75,000 and $150,000.
The maximum allowed home purchase price is $800,000.
Both first-time home buyers and others must close escrow by June 30, 2010.
Military personnel, deployed overseas for a minimum of 90 days in 2008 or 2009, would have until April 30, 2011 to claim the tax credit.
Buyers can claim the credit on their 2009 taxes, even if the purchase is made in 2010 by filing an amended return. Buyers who don't owe taxes can have the credit refunded to them.
More information is available from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS}, including a question and answer page.
That's all good news for the housing market.
The National Association of Realtors says as many as 400,000 resale transactions (1.2 million for both new and resale homes) were completed specifically because of the first-time home buyer tax credit, since it began, and that put a dent in the housing inventory.
Home sales also add property and sales tax revenues to the coffers of local governments as reduced inventory helps boost prices and home values.
Fortunately, the tax credit also has been available at a time when often have been below 5 percent.
Fortunately, the first-time home buyer tax credit's availability has coincided with mortgage rates often hanging below 5 percent, according to Jeff Howard, CEO of Erate.com.
As the Nov. 30 tax credit deadline neared, reports from the Commerce Department, revealed new home sales slipped 3.6 percent in September and were down 7.8 percent from September 2008.
Tax credit history
As part of the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008, Congress first created a $7,500 first-time home buyer tax credit for those who purchased a home between April 8, 2008, and July 1, 2009.
Later, under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, Congress extended the credit and raised it to an $8,000 tax credit for those who purchased homes by the current Nov. 30, 2009 expiration date.
By October 9, 2009, more than 1.2 million tax returns had claimed about $8.5 billion in the refundable tax credit, for both new and resale homes - according to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA).
A TIGTA audit also revealed last month that nearly 90,000 taxpayers -- including nearly 600 children -- may have fraudulently enjoyed the credit, hoodwinking the government out of more than $600 million.
The new legislation includes provisions to stifle fraud after the Internal Revenue Service identified 167 suspected criminal schemes and opened nearly 107,000 examinations of potential civil violations of the first-time homebuyer tax credit.
Cheating the IRS is a federal felony that comes with a fine of up to $250,000 and three years in a federal pen, or both.
To combat fraud, a HUD-1 Settlement Statement will have to be attached to the tax return to secure the credit.
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Broderick Perkins, an award-winning consumer journalist, parlayed 30 years of old-school journalism into a digital real estate news service, the San Jose, CA-based DeadlineNews Group, including DeadlineNews.Com, a real estate news and consulting service and Web site, and the Deadline Newsroom, DeadlineNews.Com's news back shop.
Perkins is also the first Examiner to cover three beats for the Examiner.com news service:
National Offbeat News Examiner
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