First time home buyer tax credit extension gets unanimous Senate approval

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An extension and expansion of the popular tax credit is expected to give both new and move-up buyers a tax incentive to buy a home until at least April 30, 2010, longer for military personnel.

by Broderick Perkins
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Deadline NewsroomDeadlineNews.Com – A measure to extend and expand the first-time home buyer tax credit won unanimous Senate approval Wednesday on a 98-0 vote, and House passage would send it to President Barack Obama for his signature into law.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, a Maryland Democrat, said the chamber may act on it Thursday.

If passed into law, the new tax credit would extend the existing credit for first-time homebuyers, worth up to $8,000, and offer a new credit of up to $6,500 for some existing homeowners.

The reduced credit would be available to all home buyers who have been in their current residence for a consecutive five-year period in the past eight years.

The new rule also raises the qualifying income limits to $125,000 for single taxpayers and $225,000 for joint taxpayers, from the current $75,000 and $150,000.

The maximum allowed home purchase price would be $800,000.

A home buyer must have a sale agreement in hand by April 30 and close escrow by June 30, 2010.

Military personnel, deployed overseas for a minimum of 90 days in 2008 or 2009, would have until April 30, 2011 to claim the tax credit.

That’s all good news for the housing market.

The National Association of Realtors says as many as 400,000 resale transactions (1.2 million for both new and resale homes) were completed specifically because of the first-time home buyer tax credit, since it began, and that put a dent in the housing inventory.

Home sales also add property and sales tax revenues to the coffers of local governments as reduced inventory helps boost prices and home values.

Fortunately, the tax credit also has been available at a time when often have been below 5 percent.

Fortunately, the first-time home buyer tax credit’s availablity has coincided with mortgage rates often hanging below 5 percent, according to Jeff Howard, CEO of Erate.com.

As the Nov. 30 tax credit deadline neared, reports from the Commerce Department, revealed new home sales slipped 3.6 percent in September and were down 7.8 percent from September 2008.

Tax credit history

As part of the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008, Congress first created a $7,500 first-time home buyer tax credit for those who purchased a home between April 8, 2008, and July 1, 2009.

Later, under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, Congress extended the credit and raised it to an$8,000 tax credit for those who purchased homes by the current Nov. 30, 2009 expiration date.

By October 9, 2009, more than 1.2 million tax returns had claimed about $8.5 billion in the refundable tax credit, for both new and resale homes – according to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA).

A TIGTA audit also revealed last month that nearly 90,000 taxpayers — including nearly 600 children — may have fraudulently enjoyed the credit, hoodwinking the government out of more than $600 million.

The new legislation includes provisions to stifle fraud after the Internal Revenue Service identified 167 suspected criminal schemes and opened nearly 107,000 examinations of potential civil violations of the first-time home buyer tax credit.

Cheating the IRS is a federal felony that comes with a fine of up to $250,000 and three years in a federal pen, or both.

To combat fraud, a HUD-1 Settlement Statement will have to be attached to the tax return to secure the credit.

Broderick Perkins operates a Silicon Valley, CA-based digital news service, the DeadlineNews Group. Contact him at news@deadlinenews.com

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