As published in Scotsman Guide's Residential Edition, November 2008.
The Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008, passed in July, includes a first-time-homebuyer tax credit. Mortgage brokers should understand whether their clients are eligible for the tax credit, as well as how the credit will benefit them and the economy as a whole.
Because it is designed to stimulate demand for housing and shore up home prices nationwide, this tax credit also can benefit more than just the first-time homebuyers who receive it.
Claiming the credit
To be eligible for the first-time-homebuyer tax credit, your customers must fall into the following categories:
They have not owned a home in the past three years or have never owned a home.
They buy their home between this past April 9 and this coming July 1.
They are not nonresident aliens.
They aren't using a state or local-agency tax-exempt mortgage-revenue-bond program.
They plan to live in the property they are purchasing as their primary residence.
They are not residents of Washington, D.C., using the district's credit program for first-time buyers.
Eligible clients can claim a federal tax credit of 10 percent of their property's purchase price to a maximum of $7,500. Closing costs are counted as part of the purchase price. For buyers with adjusted gross incomes of more than $75,000 if single or $150,000 if married and filing taxes jointly, the credit starts to phase out. The credit is not available for homebuyers with adjusted gross incomes of more than $95,000 for single buyers or more than $170,000 for married homebuyers who are filing jointly.
Homebuyers can claim the tax credit on their federal income-tax returns. Buyers who purchase their home in 2009 can even take the credit against their 2008 taxes by filing an amended 2008 return to claim the credit, or they can wait until they file their 2009 taxes. The 2008 and 2009 federal income-tax forms are being modified to allow first-time homebuyers to claim the credit on their taxes.
Tell your clients to keep in mind that they must repay this tax credit over a 15-year period. Starting in the second tax year after the home purchase, the tax credit must be repaid on a pro rata basis via the borrower's federal tax return.
For instance, borrowers who receive the full $7,500 credit will pay $500 per year for 15 years, assuming they stay in the home for that long. Borrowers who sell before the 15-year repayment period ends must repay the outstanding credit from the profit of their sale. If they do not realize a gain on their sale, they will not owe the balance of the credit.
As it helps more homebuyers afford housing, the first-time-homebuyer tax credit likely will have a multiplier effect on the housing market. For instance, when homeowners can sell their homes, they can in turn buy new homes.
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