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Tax Credit For First Time Home Buyers Extension

Published 11/25/09 (Modified 3/9/11)
By MoneyBlueBook

If you're a new home buyer, or an existing homeowner who has been contemplating about selling your house or condominium apartment - you might want to start taking decisive action fast. There is free government money in the way of tax credits to be had for both prospective new home buyers and current homeowners - to the tune of either $8,000 or $6,500, depending on your qualifications.

To keep this stagnating economic train running, President Barack Obama has recently signed a new bill - extending the duration and expanding the coverage of the federal housing tax credit. Previously, the economic stimulus package only provided free tax credit assistance to first time home buyers and was slated to expire in late 2009. But with economists and pundits still doubting the ability of the economy to recover without additional stimulus intervention, the federal government has now officially extended the deadline of the federal homebuyer tax credit program until April 30, 2010 for new home contracts, or until June 30, 2010 for the final closing. The home's closing can occur by June 30, 2010 and still qualify for the free tax credit, but the contract���� to buy the home must be completed by April 30, 2010 at the latest. Those looking for a further extension after early 2010 might be disappointed as current indications suggest that this extension may be the final one.

To incentivize and encourage continued homebuying activity (as much of our economy is intertwined with the housing industry - example: banks, construction related services, home equity based spending), the new federal legislation will not only extend the current program's eligibility deadline for new home buyers, but it will also add additional tax credit incentives for qualifying existing home buyers who choose to move out of their present homes and trade up for new homes. While the whole motivation behind the federal government's approach towards providing housing tax credit assistance is to jump start and spur on sluggish housing sales, it really remains to be seen whether this will ultimately have a sustainable long term impact on the economy. Hopefully, the government's well meaning emergency actions today won't drive us into irreparably dire deficits and higher tax brackets down the line. After all, it's been said that the road to hell is often paved with good intentions.

Buy A New Home Not For The Tax Credit, But Because It's A Good Investment

As a new first time homebuyer myself, I recently purchased a new construction home in August 2009. Despite the fact my high income precludes me from qualifying for the housing tax credit, even if I qualified for it, it's unlikely the tax credit alone would have been the primary impetus for my home purchasing decisions. In almost all of the reputable surveys I've seen on the subject, including ones conducted by the National Association of Realtors (NAR), only a tiny portion of first time home buyers cited the tax credit as the primary reason behind their recent decisions to purchase a new home. I think the strongest encouragement to buy a home now comes not from the federal government's tax credit incentive, but rather from the innately driven love of the American people to own their own homes, and the current prevalence of favorable market conditions in the way of super low mortgage rates and depressed home prices that have plummeted 25-30% from their previous year 2005/2006 highs. I know the primary reason I decided to pull the trigger now and purchase a home for the very first time was not because I wanted to take advantage of any federal housing tax credit, but due to the fact that home prices in my target neighborhood have dropped into incredible lows and now sit at once-in-a-lifetime levels of affordability. For those of you who have been contemplating the prospect of buying a new home for the very first time or even for those of you who are long time homeowners pondering the idea of swapping up for a new and improved home - now may be the time to do it. The free housing tax credit carrot that the federal government is now dangling as an incentive for qualifying individuals might be just what you needed to push you over the decisional edge.

For both the $8,000 tax credit for first time home buyers and the newly expanded $6,500 tax credit for existing homeowners looking to buy a new home, there are a few restrictions in the way of income limits and what type of home may qualify. Buyers claiming the tax credit must be at least 18 years or older, and no individual or couple may receive the credit if he or she may be claimed as a dependent on someone else's tax return. For both housing tax credits, the credit gradually phases out for individual single filers with $125,000 and $145,000 of modified adjusted gross income (MAGI). For married couples, the income range phaseout is between $225,000 and $245,000. Beyond $145,000 for single filers and $245,000 for married filing jointly couples - the tax credit is completely phased out.

How To Qualify For the $8,000 First Time Home Buyer Tax Credit

To be considered eligible, you must first and foremost be a first time home buyer - defined as an individual who has not owned a principal residence home in the past 3 years prior to the present purchase. This definition of "first time home buyer" also includes both partners of a married pair. There is some flexibility as to which tax return year the tax credit must be claimed. Under the new law as was the case under the old, a first time homebuyer who purchases a home in year 2009 may opt to claim the federal tax credit on either their 2008 or 2009 tax returns. Similarly, one who purchases a new home in year 2010 may opt to claim the tax credit on either their 2009 tax returns or on their 2010 tax returns.

In terms of how much money you are permitted to get back on your tax return in the way of tax credits, first time home buyers are permitted to claim up to 10% of the home's final purchase price, up to a maximum tax credit limit of $8,000. One great feature of the first time homebuyer tax credit is that it's a dollar for dollar reduction of tax liability and is completely refundable. What this means is that even if you don't owe the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) sufficient taxes to completely offset the housing tax credit, you can still qualify for a free tax refund check of the difference. Thus if you qualify for the full $8,000 housing tax credit and ultimately only owe the IRS $6,000 in taxes - you can still qualify for a $2,000 tax refund check.

Additionally, there are a few other limitations on who may qualify for the tax credit. The first time homebuyer may not purchase the home from a descendant such as one's children or grandchildren, and the home may not be purchased from a lineal ancestor, such as a parent. The same restriction also applies to purchasing from one's spousal ancestors and descendants as well. Furthermore, for home purchases made after November 6, 2009, the price of the purchased home may not exceed $800,000. Homes priced in excess of that amount are not eligible for the tax credit. Basically, the government doesn't want rich folks to profit from this middle class based credit.

How To Qualify For The $6,500 Repeat Homebuyer Tax Credit

This is an exciting new addition to the federal homebuyer tax credit program. To be considered eligible for the $6,500 existing homeowner's tax credit, the homeowner applicant must have owned his or her current home for at least 5 consecutive years out of the past 8 years, and must purchase a new home by April 30, 2010. The purchase of the new home can include a new construction home, but the purchasing contract must be signed by April 30, 2010, and the final closing date must be on or by June 30, 2010. The income qualification restrictions are the same as that of the first time homebuyer's credit - for single filers, the tax credit phases out between $125,000 and $145,000 of modified adjusted gross income, and for married filing jointly couples, the income range phases out between $225,000 and $245,000.

While there is no explicit requirement that the homeowner must ever pay back the $8,000 or $6,500 housing tax credit to the federal government, the obligation to pay it back does arise if one claims the tax credit but then sells the house or condominium (or otherwise stops using the home as the principal residence) within 3 years (36 months) after the purchase.

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