Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


Distressed homeowners no longer have to pay California state income tax on debt forgiven in a short sale, foreclosure, or loan modification. Enacted into law yesterday, Senate Bill 401 generally aligns California's tax treatment of mortgage debt relief income with federal law. For debt forgiven on a loan secured by a "qualified principal residence," borrowers will now be exempt from both federal and state income tax consequences. The existing federal exemption is for indebtedness up to $2 million, whereas the new California exemption is for indebtedness up to $800,000 and forgiven debt up to $500,000.

"Qualified principal residence" indebtedness is defined as debt incurred in acquiring, constructing, or substantially improving a principal residence. It includes both first and second trust deeds. It also includes a refinance loan to the extent the funds were used to payoff a previous loan that would have qualified.

The tax breaks apply to debts discharged from 2009 through 2012. Californians who have already filed their 2009 tax returns may claim the exemption by filing a Form 540X amendment.

Taxpayers who do not qualify for the above exemptions (e.g., second home or rental property) may nevertheless be exempt under other provisions. Most notably, taxpayers who are bankrupt are exempt from debt relief income tax. Also, taxpayers who are insolvent are exempt from debt relief income tax to the extent their current liabilities exceed current assets.

For more information about mortgage forgiveness tax consequences, go to California Franchise Tax Board's Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Extended webpage and the Internal Revenue Service's Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act and Debt Cancellation webpage. The full text of Senate Bill 401 is available at

Information provided by California Association of REALTORS®

Friday, April 9, 2010

Short Sale Tax Relief Pending

On Thursday, April 8, the California Legislature passed SB 401 which could provide homeowners relief from state taxes on mortgage debt that is forgiven in a short sale. Federal tax laws protect homeowners from being taxed on the "phantom income" that occurs when mortgage debt is forgiven. However, they were still subject to California taxes on this "phantom" income.

According to C.A.R., Governor Schwarzenegger is expected to sign the bill before the April 15 tax filing deadline.

Foreclosure Alternatives Program Launched

On Monday, April 5, banks nationwide began offering the Home Affordable Foreclosure Alternatives Program (HAFA). This new federal program will try to help homeowners avoid foreclosure by offering incentives to lenders that offer a short sale or deed-in-lieu of foreclosure.

Earlier this week, NAR reported some lenders and loan services have been slow to implement the program or are unaware of its availability.

NAR has prepared resources to help REALTORS® answer questions about HAFA. Their new short sale Web page includes HAFA forms, breaking news and Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac real estate commission policies. To learn more about the program, please click here.