Many people who’ve had a home foreclosed on, or a credit card bill written off as uncollectable, are surprised to find out at tax time that the amount of canceled debt may be considered taxable income. Fortunately, there are a number of exceptions available that usually allow people to avoid paying tax on the canceled debt. This IRS Tax Tip focuses on the most common exclusion, the Qualified Principal Residence Indebtedness exclusion.
There are other possible exclusions available for different situations. One important fact that the IRS doesn’t mention here is your state might NOT allow you to exclude the canceled debt from your income. California, for example, almost disallowed this exclusion a couple years ago. Fortunately, they updated the law at the last minute to allow this. But every state has their own rules. The main thing to realize if you’ve had a debt canceled and received a 1099-A or 1099-C during tax time is the rules are quite complex, and this is one area where it’s almost always a good idea to get some professional assistance.
Canceled debt is normally taxable to you, but there are exceptions. One of those exceptions is available to homeowners whose mortgage debt is partly or entirely forgiven during tax years 2007 through 2012.
The IRS would like you to know these 10 facts about Mortgage Debt Forgiveness:
- Normally, debt forgiveness results in taxable income. However, under the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act of 2007, you may be able to exclude up to $2 million of debt forgiven on your principal residence.
- The limit is $1 million for a married person filing a separate return.
- You may exclude debt reduced through mortgage restructuring, as well as mortgage debt forgiven in a foreclosure.
- To qualify, the debt must have been used to buy, build or substantially improve your principal residence and be secured by that residence.
- Refinanced debt proceeds used for the purpose of substantially improving your principal residence also qualify for the exclusion.
- Proceeds of refinanced debt used for other purposes – for example, to pay off credit card debt – do not qualify for the exclusion.
- If you qualify, claim the special exclusion by filling out Form 982, Reduction of Tax Attributes Due to Discharge of Indebtedness, and attach it to your federal income tax return for the tax year in which the qualified debt was forgiven.
- Debt forgiven on second homes, rental property, business property, credit cards or car loans does not qualify for the tax relief provision. In some cases, however, other tax relief provisions – such as insolvency – may be applicable. IRS Form 982 provides more details about these provisions.
- If your debt is reduced or eliminated you normally will receive a year-end statement, Form 1099-C, Cancellation of Debt, from your lender. By law, this form must show the amount of debt forgiven and the fair market value of any property foreclosed.
- Examine the Form 1099-C carefully. Notify the lender immediately if any of the information shown is incorrect. You should pay particular attention to the amount of debt forgiven in Box 2 as well as the value listed for your home in Box 7.
For more information about the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act of 2007, visit http://www.irs.gov. IRS Publication 4681, Canceled Debts, Foreclosures, Repossessions and Abandonments, is also an excellent resource.
You can also use the Interactive Tax Assistant available on the IRS website to determine if your cancelled debt is taxable. The ITA takes you through a series of questions and provides you with responses to tax law questions.
Finally, you may obtain copies of IRS publications and forms either by downloading them from http://www.irs.gov or by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).