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Senate Clears Homebuyer Tax Credit Extension

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Senate Clears Homebuyer Tax Credit Extension

Postby GreenRealty » Thu Nov 05, 2009 12:12 pm

Senate Clears Homebuyer Tax Credit Extension; May Pass as Early as This Week
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By Steve Cook and Brett Arends

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RISMEDIA, November 5, 2009—After two weeks of delay, the Senate cleared the way to pass a seven month extension and expansion of the tax credit for homebuyers. By an 85 to 2 roll call vote, the Senate voted to cut off debate on a package of measures that includes the homebuyer credit, making it virtually certain that the legislation will reach President Obama for his signature this week.

The homebuyer tax credit, due to expire at the end of November would be extended through April 30 of next year. First-time buyers who are in the process of making a purchase would not need to worry about qualifying for the $8,000 credit if they close after the November 30 deadline.

For the first time, the legislation that was recently cleared makes move-up buyers as well as first-time buyers eligible for a credit. The $8,000 maximum first-timer credit will continue and will now be available to couples with income up to $225,000, a nearly $55,000 increase above the level in existing law. A new $6,500 maximum credit would also be available to move-up homeowners who have lived in their current residence for five of the prior eight years.

For homebuyers across the country, the expanded tax credit would allow more people to qualify for the credit. While two-thirds of American families own their own home, and most earn less than the income limits that have been established within the extension, more buyers may be eligible. Move-up buyers don’t have to sell their current home to qualify for the new credit, but the money cannot be used to buy a vacation home. “It’s only for a primary residence,” said Regan Lachapelle, a spokeswoman for Sen. Harry Redi (D-Nev.), who helped engineer the deal. “In expanding the tax credit, we are helping first-time home buyers, as well as homeowners looking to move up to a new home, but we would exclude from the credit speculators who may have recently purchased a home intending to flip it for a fast profit,” said Senator Max Baucus, Democrat of Montana and chairman of the Finance Committee.

The tax credit has fired-up the housing market, driving existing home sales to the highest level in over two years. The National Association Realtors reported sales jumped 9.4% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.57 million units in September and are 9.2% higher than the 5.10 million-unit pace in September 2008.

The legislation included provisions added to address complaints of fraud as well. The Internal Revenue Service is given greater authority to oversee the process to root out fraud, and provisions are added in response to past abuses of false sales or underage buyers. An investigation by the Treasury Department’s Inspector General for Tax Administration found that more than 580 children, some as young as four years old, had received $627,000 in first-time homebuyer credits. The IRS has identified 167 suspected criminal schemes and opened nearly 107,000 examinations of potential civil violations of the first-time homebuyer tax credit.

For more information, visit realestateeconomywatch.com and wsj.com

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Re: Senate Clears Homebuyer Tax Credit Extension

Postby GreenRealty » Thu Nov 05, 2009 12:24 pm

Buying a home is about to get cheaper for a whole new crop of homebuyers — $6,500 cheaper.

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By STEPHEN OHLEMACHER, Associated Press Writer Stephen Ohlemacher, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON - First-time homebuyers have been getting tax credits of up to $8,000 since January as part of the economic stimulus package enacted earlier this year. But with the program scheduled to expire at the end of November, the Senate voted Wednesday to extend and expand the tax credit to include many buyers who already own homes. The House is scheduled to vote on the bill Thursday.

Buyers who have owned their current homes at least five years would be eligible for tax credits of up to $6,500. First-time homebuyers — or anyone who hasn't owned a home in the last three years — would still get up to $8,000. To qualify, buyers in both groups have to sign a purchase agreement by April 30, 2010, and close by June 30.

"This is probably the last extension," said Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., a former real estate executive who championed the credits.

The homebuyers tax credit is one of two tax breaks totaling more than $21 billion that the Senate included in a bill extending unemployment benefits for those without a job for more than a year. The other would let companies now losing money recoup taxes they paid on profits earned in the previous five years.

"We are still in a world of economic hurt, and Congress must continue to act boldly and creatively," said Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. "With the right mix of tax breaks and investments we will get through this recession and get folks working again."

The real estate industry has been pushing to extend and expand the housing tax credit. About 1.4 million first-time homebuyers have qualified for the credit through August. The National Association of Realtors estimates that 350,000 of them would not have purchased their homes without the credit.

Extending and expanding the tax credit for homebuyers is projected to cost the government about $10.8 billion in lost taxes. While the measure passed the Senate by a 98-0 vote, Sen. Kit Bond, R-Mo., questioned its efficiency in stimulating home sales.

"For the vast majority of cases, the homebuyer tax credit amounted to a free gift since it did not affect their decision to purchase a home," Bond said. "And for the small minority of buyers whose decision was directly caused by the credit, this raises the question of whether we are subsidizing buyers who may not have been able to afford buying a home in the first place."

The credit is available for the purchase of principal homes costing $800,000 or less, meaning vacation homes are ineligible. The credit would be phased out for individuals with annual incomes above $125,000 and for joint filers with incomes above $225,000.

The credit would be extended an additional year, until June 30, 2011, for members of the military serving outside the United States for at least 90 days.

Expanding the tax credit for money-losing companies is projected to cost $10.4 billion.

The business tax break would allow money-losing companies to use current losses to offset taxable profits earned in the previous five years, giving them refunds of taxes paid in those years. Under current law, businesses with annual gross receipts of more than $15 million can claim losses back only two years.

The tax break would help industries suffering losses in 2008 or 2009, including retailers, homebuilders and newspapers. Congress included a scaled-back version of the tax break — for companies with revenues of $15 million or less — in the economic recovery package enacted in February. The new tax break would be available to companies of any size, providing a quick source of cash.

The U.S Chamber of Commerce has been a big backer of the tax break for money-losing companies.

"It frees up capital that they can use to maintain jobs and potentially even hire new people as the economy returns," said Caroline Harris, senior tax counsel for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

The tax breaks would be paid for largely by delaying a tax break for multinational companies that pay foreign taxes. It was passed in 2004 and originally was to have taken effect this year, but would now be delayed until 2018.

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The bill is H.R. 3548.

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On the Net:

Congress: http://thomas.loc.gov

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