WASHINGTON – Aug. 22, 2014 – The National Association of Realtors® (NAR) issued a statement backing earlier comments by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.
Holder first announced a $7 billion settlement with Bank of America, but he followed up the announcement with a call for Congress to “do the right thing for financially distressed American families who lost homes to foreclosure or short sales this year.”
“Realtors agree,” said NAR President Steve Brown in a statement following Holder’s announcement.
On Dec. 31, 2014, tax forgiveness for short sales and foreclosures ended. Under tax relief, a bank forgives part of a debt – usually the difference between the home’s selling price and the amount remaining on the mortgage – and the forgiven money isn’t considered income for tax purposes.
Effective Jan. 1, however, that money is no longer shielded from taxation. Without Congress authorizing an extension and making it retroactive to Jan. 1, distressed sellers who had part of their mortgage debt forgiven must consider the forgiven amount as income – but income they never received. As a result, the IRS would expect them to pay taxes on that amount in 2015 when they fill out this year’s taxes.
Holder tied the issue to the just-announced settlement with Bank of America, lamenting that Congressional inaction to extend the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act means that the people helped by the settlement funds will instead be penalized on their income taxes.
“The tax relief expired on December 31 last year and unless Congress acts to extend it, every person who has already sold or plans to sell a home in a short sale in 2014, will pay taxes on nonexistent mortgage debt, which is money many don’t have,” said Brown.
“Realtors are strong supporters of the bipartisan Mortgage Forgiveness Tax Relief Act … to prevent underwater borrowers from paying taxes on any mortgage debt forgiven or cancelled by a lender after their home is sold for less money than is owed,” said Brown. “Taxing forgiven mortgage debt as income is an unfair practice that also incentivizes defaults and foreclosures, which could torpedo the housing recovery. Congress should take immediate action to pass this legislation.”
© 2014 Florida Realtors®