The Mortgage Debt Relief Act of 2007 is set to expire

The tax-relief provisions enacted by Congress during the housing crisis to help financially strapped homeowners is about to come to an end. This is the 2007 law that allows taxpayers to exclude from income the amount of debt that is forgiven or canceled by their lender. The good news is that if your considering a Short Sale, there is still time to take advantage of this very important law.

Although the law doesn’t officially expire until Dec 31, 2012, anyone considering a short sale should get started now. We’ve had short sale files in our office that have taken up to two years to complete. It’s true that banks are moving Florida short sales along much faster now but overall they still move pretty slow.

I’m not saying that people who are struggling to hold onto their homes should throw in the towel solely because of the pending tax bite, but it is certainly something to consider.

According to the law, borrowed money doesn’t need not be reported as income because you have an obligation to repay. But if your lender subsequently cancels what you owe, the IRS requires that you report that debt as income because the duty to repay it no longer exists. So, if you owe $350,000 and your lender forgives $50,000 of that debt in a $300,000 refinancing, that $50,000 is considered income. If your combined federal and state marginal tax rate is 36 percent, you would owe $18,000 in taxes. Ouch!!!

However, under the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act of 2007, taxpayers are allowed to exclude from income the discharge of debt on their principal residence when they do a short sale— at least until 2013.

This means that when your lender agrees to a short sale, there is no tax on the difference between the selling price and the amount you owe. When your lender forecloses, there is no tax on the canceled debt. Even when you refinance at a lower loan balance, there is no tax on the difference between what you owed on the old loan and what you now owe on the new one.

Unless Congress extends the law, [and there is no indication lawmakers are even thinking about that] all residential mortgage debt relief that takes place on or after Jan. 1, 2013, will once again be considered taxable income.

If you are on the fence about doing a short sale on your house, consult with a short sale expert and get informed about your options.

Author's Bio: 

Jenny Zamora RE Broker has been a Top Orlando Short Sale Agent since 2005. In that time she has closed thousands of Orlando Short Sales as well as traditional transactions working with both sellers and buyers. She has put together a team consisting of the Industry’s leading Orlando Real Estate Experts. From the best Real Estate Attorneys to the sharpest Realtors in the industry.