Fayetteville Arkansas, University of Arkansas--Old Main Overview

Fayetteville Arkansas, University of Arkansas--Old Main Overview
Overview of Fayetteville, AR

Sunday, March 01, 2009

$8,000 Income Tax Credit for First-Time Homebuyers--WOW what a deal!

The new economic stimulus bill which was recently signed into law has a tremendous benefit for first-time homebuyers – a credit of up to $8,000! This is phenomenal--basically a gift from the federal government if you buy a home this year before December 1.

The credit is 10% of the cost of the home up to a maximum of $8,000 and does not have to be repaid if the buyer lives in the home for at least three years.

This provision is the difference between night and day compared to the $7,500 tax credit that took effect last year for homes purchased after April 9, 2008. The 2008 credit had to be repaid over 15 years, which essentially meant it was an interest free loan. (See my blog of August 30, 2008, “First-Time Homebuyer Tax Credit Explained.”)

So, I repeat: under most circumstances, the credit does not have to be repaid.

The home must be purchased between January 1, 2009 and November 30, 2009. December 1, 2009 is too late! The date ownership legally passes to the buyer is the qualifying date.

Who is a "first-time home buyer?" People who have not had an ownership interest in a primary residence during the last three years are eligible. Ownership in a vacation home would not be considered a primary residence.

Income qualifications for the full credit are $75,000 or less if single or $150,000 for a married couple. Partial credit is available to singles with incomes between $75,000 - $95,000 or married people whose incomes are between $150,000 - $170,000.

This is a refundable credit taken on the buyer’s federal income tax return for 2010. For example, if you will have already paid your full tax liability through withholding, you would still receive a refund of $8,000. Another example: you owed $5,000 in taxes and your withholding was $6,000. Your refund would total of $9,000. Last example: you owed $5,000 in taxes and your withholding was $4,000. Your refund would be $7,000.

Another extraordinary provision of the new law permits the buyer to elect to treat the purchase as if it occurred December 31, 2008 and take the credit on his 2008 income tax return. Even if the return has already been filed, an amended tax return can be filed to obtain the credit. This is especially useful for buyers whose income qualified them for the credit in 2008 but may have too much income in 2009.

Of course, the situation can be turned around. If the buyer would be better served in taking the credit on his 2009 tax return, he can reduce his withholding or estimated tax payments now instead of waiting until tax time in 2010.

All in all, I believe this may be the impetus needed to get people off the fence and into a home. Interest rates are low, inventory is huge, and $8,000 means a lot to most people. And it is so much better than last years $7,500 credit that, as mentioned above, has to be repaid.

The sad part for first-time buyers who purchased last year is that their $7,500 credit still has to be repaid. There is no provision in the law to forgive that and simply avail oneself of the $8,000 credit that does not have to be repaid. I certainly commiserate with them – but who could have possibly foreseen what this year’s law would provide?

IMPORTANT NOTE: This is my interpretation of the basic provisions of the new credit. I have tried to simplify things to give a picture of how this credit works but I urge you to check with your tax professional or accountant for full provisions of the law.

In any case, if you have not owned a home in the past 3 years and are thinking of purchasing a home as your principal residence, now is the time to do so. There are a lot of homes on the market now in NW Arkansas and some very good deals (especially foreclosures and short sales). As the spring progresses a lot of these good buys will be snapped up.

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