When you escape a debt the IRS normally counts the amount of the debt you were forgiven as income, and taxes you accordingly. In terms of a taxable event, this could be significant to you financially.
Example: You owe $550,000 on your mortgage, but the current market value is $350,000. Under an a Short Sale agreement with your lender, you sell your home for the $350,000 and the remaining $200,000 is forgiven. Enter the IRS, who view the $200,000 as taxable income!
The Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act addresses this very scenario, and has been in effect for the last 5 years for distressed home owners who short sell their homes between 2007 and 2012. This act allows a home owner a tax exclusion for the forgiven mortgage debt. However, the measure is due to expire at the end of 2012 with a very good chance it will NOT be extended before the end of this year.
We are still 2.5 months from the end of this year–the deadline to close so that you can benefit from the current Mortgage Debt Relief Act. Getting from listing to close in that time is a challenge but may be doable depending on your lender.
One advantage you have right now is that the inventory of available homes for sale in Sonoma County is drastically low. Buyers are competing aggressively for homes and that is pushing the prices up. Depending on your lender, it may be possible still to accomplish a short sale in time so that you don’t have to hope that the bill is extended next spring.
But if you missed it, and there is a chance you may at this stage…have some hope.
It is believed that the law may be retroactively extended in spring of 2013. So, if you talk to your accountant, you may find that by going ahead with your short sale and doing an extension next year, you would be able to claim the benefit after all. There is still a chance that it won’t be renewed, but if a Short Sale is definitely in your path, then this gives you an added chance to avoid penalty.
By extending your tax return to October 15th, 2013, if the law is extended retroactively in the first half of 2013, you may then be able to exclude the forgiven amount. Remember: consult with a tax professional before deciding.