Have you claimed the first-time homebuyer tax credit? For some buyers, it’s time to start repaying Uncle Sam.
Introduced in 2008, the first-time homebuyer tax credit originally was a type of interest-free loan. Anyone who purchased a house in 2008 and claimed the credit the following spring on their tax return would have to repay the sum starting two years later.
That means the first payment is due in April.
The government waived the payback rule for homes purchased in 2009 and after unless the home ceases to be the taxpayer’s main residence within a three-year period following the purchase.
Still, the Internal Revenue Service maintains specific rules for getting the full benefit of the tax credit.
Here’s what you need to know:
The repayment plan
If you claimed the first-time homebuyer tax credit in 2008, you have to start paying it back this tax-filing season. Repayment is made in equal installments over 15 years. So, if you claimed the maximum $7,500 credit, you’ll owe $500 per year.
To make the payment, you have to file Form 5405, which is available in the free and basic versions of most tax-prep software, including those offered through the Internal Revenue Service’s Free File program.
Don’t know how much you owe? Check your mail: The IRS sent letters outlining the amount of credit you received and what you owe this year.
Exceptions to the rule
There are few ways to avoid repaying the credit, unfortunately.
“You can’t get around this,” said Mark Luscombe, principal federal tax analyst for CCH, a provider of tax-prep software. “Even though Congress eliminated the repayment requirement in 2009, they didn’t do it retroactively.”
Some exceptions exist, however.
For one, if you’ve since gotten divorced and transferred the house to your ex as part of the settlement, you are no longer responsible for payments. Your ex-spouse is. Or, if you’ve sold the home, you owe only up to the amount of gain you made on the sale. In other words, if you pocketed $5,000 from selling your home, you’re on the hook for only $5,000, not the full $7,500, if you claimed the maximum credit.
If you incurred a loss, your debt to the IRS gets erased.
To see a complete list of exceptions, visit tinyurl.com/co4sng.
You could owe the lump sum
If you sell your home or stop using the property as your main residence, the 15-year repayment plan goes out the window, and the full credit (or balance) is due in full that tax-filing season.
A similar rule applies if you claimed the first-time homebuyer’s credit in 2009 or 2010: For those buyers only, you owe the full credit if the home no longer serves as your principal residence within 36 months of buying the property.
Sell after that three-year period, and you don’t owe the credit.
The maximum credit in 2009 and 2010 was $8,000 if you were buying a principal home for the first time, or $6,500 if you had been a homeowner. The government considers first-time homebuyers those “taxpayers who have not owned another principal residence at any time during the three years prior to the date of purchase,” according to IRS.gov.