UPDATE: 12/14/2007 - Senate Passes Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Bill
Given the current state of the San Diego real estate market, it is no surprise that the most frequently asked question we get revolves around the potential tax consequences of a short sale. A short sale occurs when a property is sold for less than what is needed to pay off any loans on the property. When this debt is cancelled, the lender's obligation by law is to file a 1099-C with the Internal Revenue Service.
The IRS has published Questions and Answers on Home Foreclosure and Debt Cancellation. The following excerpt should provide a starting point for questions to be asked a CPA or tax attorney:
1. What is Cancellation of Debt?
If you borrow money from a commercial lender and the lender later cancels or forgives the debt, you may have to include the cancelled amount in income for tax purposes, depending on the circumstances. When you borrowed the money you were not required to include the loan proceeds in income because you had an obligation to repay the lender.When that obligation is subsequently forgiven, the amount you received as loan proceeds is reportable as income because you no longer have an obligation to repay the lender. The lender is usually required to report the amount of the canceled debt to you and the IRS on a Form1099-C, Cancellation of Debt.
2. Is Cancellation of Debt income always taxable?
Not always. There are some exceptions. The most common situations when cancellation of debt income is not taxable involve:
Bankruptcy: Debts discharged through bankruptcy are not considered taxable income.
Insolvency: If you are insolvent when the debt is cancelled, some or all of the cancelled debt may not be taxable to you. You are insolvent when your total debts are more than the fair market value ofyour total assets. Insolvency can be fairly complex to determine and the assistance of a tax professional is recommended if you believe you qualify for this exception.
Certain farm debts: If you incurred the debt directly in operation of a farm, more than half your income from the prior three years was from farming, and the loan was owed to a person or agency regularly engaged in lending, your cancelled debt is generally not considered taxable income. The rules applicable to farmers are complex and the assistance of a tax professional is recommended if you believe you qualify for this exception.
Non-recourse loans: A non-recourse loan is a loan for which the lender’s only remedy in case of default is to repossess the property being financed or used as collateral. That is, the lender cannot pursue you personally in case of default.
Overview of the debt forgiveness bill - Short Sale and Phantom Tax Debt Relief Overview
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