Posted December 22 2014, 9:40 AM PST by Richard Eastern

Insolvency Clause Tax-Saving Alternative to Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act in 2015

Posted in Short Sales by Richard Eastern

Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act Extended Retroactively for 2014:
Future of Mortgage Debt Relief Uncertain in 2015

On December 16, 2014, President Obama signed a bill that extended the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act retroactively to cover mortgage debt cancelled in 2014. The Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act (MFDRA) prevents homeowners who went through a short sale from being taxed on the amount of their home mortgage debt that had been forgiven. For homeowners to qualify for a tax break in 2014, their short sale must close by December 31, 2014.

The Act has only been extended through 2014. Congress is expected to debate further extension of the Act as part of a larger tax package in 2015. In the meantime, mortgage debt forgiven by a lender in 2015 might count as taxable income.

According to a brief from the National Association of Realtors (NAR), about 5.3 million homes are still under water. In addition, there are still more than 1 million homes in the process of foreclosure. If the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act is not extended further, hundreds of thousands of American families who did the right thing by short-selling their home will have to pay income tax on income they never received.

IRS “Insolvency Clause” Offers Tax-Saving Alternative

Short sale sellers can still be exempt from tax liability under the “insolvency clause” of the Internal Revenue Code. The clause states that a seller is exempt from paying tax on any forgiven debt to the extent that they are insolvent. In other words, if the seller’s debts and liabilities exceed their assets by more than the amount of debt forgiven, they do not have to pay taxes on the forgiven debt.

Here’s an example of how the Insolvency Clause works:

A seller has a home valued at $300,000, but the mortgage debt is $400,000. We short sell the property for $300K and the bank elects to forgive the debt on the $100,000 shortfall amount. Since debt that has been forgiven counts as taxable income, the IRS would treat the $100,000 of forgiven debt as income.

MORTGAGE DEBT

$400,000

SALE PRICE

-$300,000

FORGIVEN DEBT
(Taxable income)

$100,000

This is where the insolvency clause formula comes in. Begin by adding up all of your debts/liabilities in one column and all of your assets in another. For this formula, the IRS wants you to include the mortgage debt as a liability, and the fair market value of your house as an asset. Let’s say you have $600,000 in assets and $700,000 in debts/liabilities. You are insolvent by $100,000.

ASSETS

$600,000

LIABILITIES

-$700,000

INSOLVENCY

[$100,000]

Since your insolvency amount of $100,000 equals the forgiven debt amount of $100,000, it’s a wash and you will not have to pay taxes on that forgiven debt. You are shielded dollar-for-dollar on the amount of forgiven debt up to your insolvency number. Let’s say you were only insolvent by $80,000. In that case, you would still have to pay income tax on the remaining $20,000 of forgiven debt.

INSOLVENCY

[$100,000]

FORGIVEN DEBT

-$100,000

TAXABLE INCOME

-0-

It is critical that homeowners considering a short sale meet with a professional to review their options and discuss the potential legal and tax implications.

 

Richard Eastern is a Windermere broker in Bellevue, WA and co-founder of Washington Property Solutions, a short sales negotiating company. Since 2003 he has helped more than 900 homeowners sell their homes. A Bellevue native and a University of Washington grad, Richard is an avid sports fan and a devoted Little League and basketball coach. You can learn more about Richard here or at www.washortsales.com.


1 Comment

Comment

  • Hi, I just wanted to point out that IRS insolvency includes any 401K or retirement accounts, which rules out many older people who have done the right thing and saved money for their old age. Even bankruptcy wont touch a 401K but the IRS insolvency will look at all of your assets including retirement accounts.
    I am really glad that the Mortgage Forgiveness Act has been extended. It is painful enough to lose your house without having to pay tax on the loss as well.

    Posted December 26 2014, 4:33 PM by Name

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