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RISMEDIA, December 7, 2009—The homebuyer tax credit extension that President Barack Obama signed into law last month, will extend the tax credit until April 30, 2010 for both first-time buyers as well as existing homeowners. Here is a detailed look at some of the expansion stipulations that you may find helpful:

The extension is part of a $24 billion economic stimulus bill that extends the $8,000 tax credit for homebuyers who purchase their first home and expands the program to offer a credit of $6,500 to homeowners who have lived in their current home for at least five years and are seeking to relocate. The home must be purchased prior May 1, 2010,

The following details apply to the homebuyer tax credit expansion:

Who Is Eligible

-First-time homebuyers, who are defined by the law as buyers who have not owned a principal residence during the three-year period prior to the purchase, may be eligible for up to an $8,000 tax credit.

-Existing homeowners who have been residing in their principal residence for five consecutive years out of the last eight and are purchasing a home to be their principal residence (“repeat buyer”), may be eligible for up to a $6,500 tax credit.

-All U.S. citizens who file taxes are eligible to participate in the program.

Income Limits

Homebuyers who file as single or head-of-household taxpayers can claim the full credit ($8,000 for first-time buyers and $6,500 for repeat buyers) if their modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) is less than $125,000.

-For married couples filing a joint return, the combined income limit is $225,000.

-Single or head-of-household taxpayers who earn between $125,000 and $145,000, and married couples who earn between $225,000 and $245,000 are eligible to receive a partial credit.

-The credit is not available for single taxpayers whose MAGI is greater than $145,000 and married couples with a MAGI that exceeds $245,000.

Effective Dates

-The eligibility period for the tax credit is for homes purchased after Nov. 6, 2009, and before May 1, 2010. However, home purchases subject to a binding sales contract signed by April 30, 2010, will qualify for the tax credit provided closing occurs prior to July 1, 2010.

Types of Homes that Qualify

-All homes with a purchase price of less than $800,000 qualify, including newly-constructed or resale, and single-family detached, townhomes or condominiums, provided that the home will be used as their principal residence. Vacation home and rental property purchases do NOT qualify.

Tax Credit is Refundable

-A refundable credit means that if the amount of income taxes you owe is less than the credit amount you qualify for, the government will send you a check for the difference.

-For example:

-A first-time buyer who qualifies for the full $8,000 credit who owes $5,000 in federal income taxes would pay nothing to the IRS and receive a $3,000 payment from the government. If you are due to receive a $1,000 refund, you would receive $9,000 ($1,000 plus the $8,000 first-time homebuyer tax credit).

-A repeat buyer who owes $5,000 would pay nothing to the IRS and receive $1,500 back from the government. If you are due to get a $1,000 refund, you would get $7,500 ($1,000 plus the $6,500 repeat buyer tax credit).

-All qualified homebuyers can take the tax credit on their 2009 or 2010 income tax return.

Payback Provisions

The tax credit is a true credit. It does not have to be repaid unless the home owner sells or stops using the home as their principal residence within three years after the purchase.

Examples of Who Can Benefit

“The new version of the tax credit has the potential to stimulate the housing market even more than the old version due to the fact that more people will qualify under the new rules,” said Gibran Nicholas, Chairman of the CMPS Institute, an organization that certifies mortgage bankers and brokers. “Although the tax credit remains at $8,000 for homebuyers that have not owned a primary residence in the last three years, it has been expanded to include a $6,500 tax credit for homebuyers that have lived in their current primary residence for at least five consecutive years out of the past eight years. Under the old rules, move-up homebuyers did not qualify.” Consider these three examples:

Example 1:

Jane purchased a home in 2002, lived there for 5 years as her primary home, moved out in 2007, and turned that home into a rental property. If Jane decides to buy a new primary residence today, she would qualify for the $6,500 tax credit based on the fact that she lived in the same residence as her primary home for at least five consecutive years out of the past eight.

Example 2:

Harry purchased a home in 2004, and lived there for the past 5 years as his primary home. If Harry decides to buy a new primary residence today, he would qualify for the $6,500 tax credit based on the fact that he lived in the same residence as his primary home for at least five consecutive years out of the past eight.

Example 3:

Nicole purchased a home in 2006, and lived there for the past 3 years as her primary home. If Nicole decides to buy a new primary residence today, she would not qualify for the $6,500 tax credit based on the fact that she did not live in the same residence as her primary home for at least five consecutive years out of the past eight.

“If you sign a binding contract to purchase a home before May 1st, you would need to close on the transaction before July 1, 2010,” Nicholas said. “It works kind of like a gift certificate that can be redeemed for cash. You simply file a form with the IRS right after you buy your home, and the IRS will send you a check for the full amount of your credit.”

The income limitation for single tax payers went up from $75,000 under the old rules to $125,000 under the new rules. For married tax payers, the income limitation went up from $150,000 to $225,000. “This means that more people will qualify for the credit – especially in parts of the country with higher costs of living,” Nicholas said. “This should help stimulate parts of the housing market that may not have been impacted by the old version of the credit.”

There are many creative ways of structuring your home purchase transaction in ways that maximize the benefits of the credit. Here are a few examples:

-The credit applies to 1-4 unit homes as long as you live in one of the units as your primary residence – you could live in one unit and rent out the others

-If two unmarried individuals buy a home, and only one of the individuals qualifies for the credit based on their income or past home ownership status, the individual who qualifies for the credit can claim the full credit. (Note: In the case of married couples, both spouses must qualify for the credit).

-The credit applies even if you have co-signers on your mortgage loan

The www.federalhousingtaxcredit.com site has been updated. Check this site or www.CMPSInstitute.org and www.nahb.org for more information.

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