FAQs for Fannie Mae’s Alternative HAMP Modification

March 30, 2010

 What is Fannie Mae’s Alternative Modification (Alt Mod)?

The Alt Mod is an alternative to the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP) modification for those borrowers who were eligible for and accepted into a HAMP trial period plan but were subsequently not offered a HAMP permanent modification because of eligibility restrictions.

Are servicers required to offer the Alt Mod?

Yes, for mortgage loans in active HAMP trials initiated prior to March 1, 2010, all Fannie Mae-approved servicers must consider the Alt Mod prior to the initiation of foreclosure for all eligible borrowers who were not offered a permanent HAMP modification after making all required payments under a HAMP trial period plan. All borrowers must meet the eligibility criteria outlined below.

What are the benefits of an Alt Mod?

An Alt Mod offers you a permanent long-term solution to make your mortgage more affordable.

If I didn’t qualify for a permanent modification under HAMP, will I qualify for an Alt Mod?

The requirements for an Alt Mod have been designed specifically to assist borrowers, who were unable to qualify for a permanent modification through HAMP. If borrowers made their HAMP Trial Period Plan payments and have completed the HAMP Trial Period Plan, borrowers are likely a candidate for an Alt Mod. Once the servicer has the borrower’s required information, the servicer will review to see if the borrowers are eligible.

How do I qualify for Alt Mod/What do I need to do to get approved?

To begin the qualification process, review the Alt Mod Loan Modification Agreement and the Hardship Affidavit and return back to the servicer by the specified date.

Why do I need to sign another Loan Modification Agreement…I already did this for HAMP?

Alt Mod is a new loan modification option offered by Fannie Mae (the owner of your loan). It is not a part of the government’s loan modification program, HAMP. The Alt Mod was created for borrowers who were not approved for HAMP. The borrowers’ terms and payment amount should be the same as that of HAMP. All eligible borrowers who want to accept the terms of an Alt Mod, must read, agree, and sign a new Loan Modification Agreement

I am currently paying the trial period payment that was specified under HAMP. Do I keep paying this same amount? Will my payment change if I get an Alternative Modification?

Yes, keep paying the same payment amount you were paying during the HAMP Trial Period. If you are eligible for an Alternative Modification, your payment should stay the same. The Alt Mod Loan Modification Agreement will specify your payment amount and when your payments are due.

When are my payments due?

If you are eligible for an Alternative Modification, you will sign an Alt Mod Loan Modification Agreement which specifies your payment amount and the day each month that your payment is due.

Is there a trial period I have to complete?

No. There is no trial period for Alt Mod. If you are eligible for an Alt Mod, once approved and the Loan Modification Agreement completed, your loan will be permanently modified.

Will I still receive the incentive compensation offered through the HAMP program?

No. An Alt Mod does not offer an incentive compensation for borrowers. The borrower incentive compensation is only available to borrowers who were eligible/qualified for a permanent modification under HAMP.

Is the Alt Mod a temporary servicing policy change?

Yes, Alt Mod cases must be submitted through the HomeSaver Solutions® Network (HSSN) prior to the final date of the program offering, August 31, 2010.

Which Fannie Mae loans are eligible for an Alt Mod?

All conventional mortgage loans held in Fannie Mae’s portfolio and mortgage loans that are part of an MBS pool that has the special servicing option or a shared-risk MBS pool for which Fannie Mae markets the acquired property.

Who qualifies are an Alt Mod?

To be eligible for the Alt Mod:

  • The loan must have been evaluated and considered eligible for HAMP
  • The HAMP trial period must have been initiated prior to March 1, 2010
  • The loan must be secured by a 1- 4 unit owner-occupied property
  • The borrower must have made all required payments in accordance with a HAMP trial period plan, including subsequent payments that may have been due while the servicer attempted to convert the trial period to a permanent modification
  • Any subsequent trial period payment(s) due from the borrower must be submitted prior to executing a permanent modification agreement

Additionally, one of the following is required for Alt Mod eligibility:

  • The monthly mortgage payment ratio based on verified income was less than 31%
  • The target monthly mortgage payment ratio of 31% based on verified income could not be reached using the standard HAMP modification waterfall
  • The borrower failed to provide all income documentation required for a HAMP modification but meets the streamlined income documentation requirements for the Alt Mod as described below

 What are the underwriting guidelines for an Alt Mod?

A servicer must have a property valuation as required for HAMP in Announcement 09-05R. The servicer must use that valuation to underwrite the Alt Mod.

For loans with a current mark-to-market loan-to-value (LTV) of 80% or greater (LTV ratio based upon the HAMP valuation), the payment calculated for HAMP using the standard modification waterfall should be used for the Alt Mod, and verification of income documentation (as described below) is not necessary.

For loans with a current mark-to-market LTV ratio of less than 80%, the payment calculated for HAMP using the standard modification waterfall should be used for the Alt Mod and income verification is required (as described below). However, the Alt Mod mortgage payment may not be reduced below 20% of the borrower’s verified monthly gross income.

  • If the borrower did not qualify for a HAMP modification because the borrower failed to provide all required income documentation but the income documentation meets the streamlined income documentation requirements for the Alt Mod, the servicer may use the payment previously calculated for the HAMP trial period for the Alt Mod provided that the payment meets the criteria outlined above.
  • If, after applying the modification waterfall steps based on verified income documentation, the borrower’s monthly mortgage payment cannot be reduced without going below a 20% monthly mortgage payment ratio, the servicer may not perform the modification without the express written consent of Fannie Mae. A principal write-down or principal forgiveness is prohibited on Fannie Mae mortgage loans.

What are the Alt Mod income verification requirements for loans with current mark-to-market LTV ratios less than 80%?

A servicer may use the verified income documentation required under HAMP to calculate the payment for the Alt Mod. If the borrower is ineligible for a HAMP modification because of failure to provide the required income documentation, the servicer may rely upon the following streamlined documentation requirements for the Alt Mod.

If the borrower is employed: A copy of the most recent paystub indicating year-to-date earnings or if year-to-date earnings are not available, copies of paystubs for the last two months.

If the borrower elects to use other earned income such as bonus, commission, fee, housing allowance, tips, overtime: Reliable third party documentation describing the nature of the income (for example, an employment contract or printouts documenting tip income).

If the borrower is self-employed: A signed copy of the most recent federal income tax return, including all schedules and forms, if available, or signed Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Request for Transcript of Tax Return (Form 4506-T); and copies of bank statements for the business account for the last two months to document continuation of business activity.

If the borrower elects to use alimony or child support income to qualify, acceptable documentation includes: Photocopies of the divorce decree, separation agreement or other type of legal written agreement or court decree that provides for the payment of alimony or child support and states the amount of the award and the period of time over which it will be received; and documents supplying reasonably reliable evidence of full, regular, and timely payments, such as bank deposit slips or bank statements for the last two months.

If the borrower has other income such as Social Security, disability or death benefits, a pension, public assistance or adoption assistance: Acceptable documentation includes letters, exhibits, a disability policy or benefits statement from the provider that states the amount, frequency and duration of the benefit; and the servicer must obtain copies of the most recent bank statement showing these deposits.

If the borrower receives unemployment: Acceptable documentation includes letters, exhibits or a benefits statement from the provider that states the amount, frequency, and duration of the benefit. The servicer must have determined that the income will continue for at least 9 months from the date of the HAMP eligibility determination.

If the borrower has rental income, acceptable documentation includes: Copies of all pages from the borrower’s signed federal income tax return and Schedule E – Supplemental Income and Loss, for the most recent tax year.

  • When Schedule E is not available because the property was not previously rented, servicers may accept a current lease agreement and bank statements or cancelled rent checks.
  • If the borrower has rental income from a 1 – 4 unit property that is also the borrower’s principal residence, the monthly net rental income to be calculated for HAMP purposes must equal 75% of the gross rent, with the remaining 25% being considered vacancy loss and maintenance expense.
  • If the borrower has rental income from a property that is other than the borrower’s primary residence, the income should be 75% of the monthly gross rental income, reduced by the monthly debt service on the property (i.e., principal, interest, taxes, insurance, including mortgage insurance and association fees, if applicable

Income documentation previously obtained during the HAMP evaluation may be relied upon for the purposes of verifying income for the Alt Mod. All other income documentation must not be more than 90 days old from the date of the Alt Mod evaluation.

Is a hardship affidavit required for Alt Mod?

Yes, in all cases a signed hardship affidavit is required. For borrowers that did not provide one under HAMP, a hardship affidavit may be included in the Alt Mod offer package for signature along with the Loan Modification Agreement (Form 3179).

How should servicers treat loans with mortgage insurance?

Fannie Mae is seeking blanket delegations of authority from mortgage insurers so that servicers can more efficiently process Alt Mods without having to obtain mortgage insurer approval on individual loans. Servicers must obtain approval on a case-by-case basis from mortgage insurers that have not provided delegated authority agreements.

Servicers must include the mortgage insurance premium in the borrower’s modified payment and must ensure that any existing mortgage insurance is maintained. Servicers must maintain their mortgage insurance processes and comply with all reporting required by the mortgage insurer for Alt Mod loans.

What are the escrow requirements for Alt Mod?

All of the borrower’s trial period payments under HAMP as well as the payments due under the Alt Mod must include a monthly escrow amount unless prohibited by applicable law.

What are the messaging requirements for the Alt Mod offer from servicers to borrowers?

  • Clearly indicate that, while the Alt Mod contains the same payment terms as the HAMP modification, the borrower did not meet the requirements of HAMP and as a result, the Alt Mod does not include borrower incentive payments that are otherwise payable under HAMP
  • Provide the borrower with a simplified Summary of the Loan Modification Agreement
  • Inform the borrower that, in the event of re-default, the servicer will pursue liquidation options
  • Remind the borrower of the consequences of material misstatements when submitting documentation in connection with a request for a loan modification

What are the timing expectations for Alt Mod offers?

For qualified borrowers who are already identified as ineligible for a permanent HAMP Modification, Alt Mod offers should be sent no later than 30 days from the date of Lender Letter LL-2010-04. Going forward, for other borrowers who:  1) entered into a trial period plan prior to March 1, 2010, 2) fail to qualify for a permanent HAMP modification, and 3) are determined to be eligible for Alt Mod, offers should be sent within 10 days of completion of the trial periods and expiration of the 30-day HAMP Borrower Notice. All Alt Mod offers should also include an expiration date of 30 days from the date of the offer

For borrowers who do not respond to the Alt Mod offer, servicers must conduct follow-up:

  • Between the fifth and the 15th days after the offer is mailed, servicers must attempt at least 3 phone calls.
  • On the 15th day after the offer is mailed, servicers must mail a follow-up letter by either mail or a direct contact, door-knocking campaign.
  • Between the 15th and 30th day, after the offer is mailed, servicers must attempt to contact the borrower a minimum of 3 additional times regarding the offer by either phone calls and/or use of field servicers (door knockers).

What are the incentive fees for Alt Mod?

A servicer will receive compensation of $800 for each completed modification. Incentive fee payments on eligible mortgage loans will be sent to servicers upon receipt of a closed case entered into HSSN. Servicers need not submit requests for payment of modification incentive fees. Modification incentive fees on eligible mortgages will be sent to servicers on a monthly basis.

Unlike HAMP, there are no borrower incentive payments available with Alt Mod.

How should servicers handle a borrower who re-defaults after receiving an Alt Mod?

If a borrower becomes 60 days delinquent on the Alt Mod within the first 12 months after the effective date of the modification, then the servicer must immediately pursue either a pre-foreclosure sale (short sale), deed-in-lieu (DIL) of foreclosure or commence foreclosure proceedings in accordance with applicable state law. Should a servicer determine that another modification is appropriate for the borrower; the servicer must submit the loan information as a non-delegated case into HSSN for Fannie Mae’s prior approval.

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HAMP Update: Documentation Collection Process

January 30, 2010

On January 28, 2010, the Treasury Department and Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)  released updated guidance for the mortgage servicers who initiate the modifications and monitor the trial periods.  The guidance refines the documentation requirements and other procedures in order to expedite conversions of current trial modifications to permanent ones.

Phyllis Caldwell, Chief of Treasury’s Homeownership Preservation Office states that the “guidance represents our commitment to more efficiently move qualified homeowners into permanent modifications.”

“Increasing the number of borrowers receiving permanent modifications under HAMP is critical to our efforts to preserve affordable and sustainable homeownership,” said HUD Senior Advisor for Housing Finance William Apgar. “While we continue to meet our goals to provide immediate assistance, the updates announced today should enable servicers to transition borrowers more quickly and easily from trial to permanent modification.

Guidance Details

Supplemental Directive 10-01 provides guidance on two major issues:

  1. New Requirements that Documentation be Provided Before Trial Modification Begins

A simple, standard package of documents will be required prior to the servicer’s evaluation of the borrower for a trial modification.  This process will be required for all new HAMP modifications that became effective after June 1, 2010, although mortgage servicers may implement it sooner.  The following documents, referred to as the “Initial Package” must include:

Step 1 – Complete the RMA Form

The RMA Form provides the servicer with borrower and co-borrower financial information including the cause of the borrower’s hardship. The financial information and hardship sections of the RMA must be completed and executed by the borrower and, if applicable, the co-borrower. The RMA also solicits data related to the race, ethnicity and gender of the borrower and co-borrower, referred to as Government Monitoring Data (GMD). The borrower and co-borrower are not required to provide GMD. Servicers may not refuse to accept an RMA because the borrower or co-borrower did not complete this section. Click here for instructions for completing the form.

Servicers may require use of the RMA by all borrowers requesting consideration for HAMP or may continue to use other proprietary financial information forms that are substantially similar in content to the RMA. When provided by or on behalf of the borrower, the RMA form must be accepted by servicers in lieu of any servicer specific form(s). When the RMA is not used, servicers must obtain an executed MHA Hardship Affidavit.

Step 2 – Complete the IRS Form 4506-T or 4506T-EZ

The IRS Form 4506-T or 4506T-EZ gives permission to your mortgage servicer to request a copy of your most recent tax return you have filed with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). After you have completed the form, print two copies – one for your records and one to send to your mortgage servicer. Only one taxpayer is required to sign to Tax Form. Click here for instructions for completing the form.

Step 3 – Gather Evidence of Income

Your mortgage servicer is required to verify your income to ensure that the modified mortgage payments will be affordable for you.  The type of documentation you need to provide depends on the source of your income. The simple Proof of Income Checklist will tell you what documents you need to collect if you are a wage earner, self-employed, or receive retirement income.  Be sure to make copies of your income documentation and keep the originals for your records.

***Note: The income evidence and financial information provided by the borrower may not be more than 90 days old as of the date the Initial Package is received by the mortgage servicer.***

Step 4 – Send the Documentation to your Servicer

After you complete, print, and sign the RMA and Tax Form, send these documents, along with your proof of income, to your mortgage servicer.  You will find the correct mailing address and fax number at Contact Your Mortgage Servicer.

***Note: For all documents required by Treasury (other than the Tax Form), electronic submission and signatures are acceptable.***


Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act FAQs

January 18, 2009

faqs

Per the IRS, if you owe a debt to somone else and they cancel or forgive your debt, the cancelled amount may be taxable.

The Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act of 2007 generally allows taxpayers to exclude income from the discharge of debt on their principal residence. Debt reduced through mortgage restructuring, as well as, debt forgiven, in connection with a foreclosure, qualifies for the relief.

This provision applies to debt forgiven in calender years 2007 – 2012. Up to $2 million of forgiven debt is eligible for this exclusion ($1 million if married filing separately). This exclusion does not apply if the discharge is due to services performed by the lender or any other reason not directly related to a decline in the home’s value or the taxpayer’s financial condition.

More information, including detailed examples can be found in Publication 4681, Canceled Debts, Foreclosures, Repossessions, and Abandonments. Also see IRS news release IR-2008-17.

Disclaimer: This article is adapted from IRS.gov. We do not own this information. It is made available freely to the public. It is recommended that you consult a tax attorney or tax accountant for tax advice.

The following are the most frequently asked questions and answers about the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act and debt cancellation:

What is cancellation of debt?

If you borrow money from a commercial lender and the lender later cancels or forgives the debt, you may to include the cancelled amount in income for tax purposes, depending on the circumstances. When you borrowed money you were not required to include the loan proceeds in income because you had an obligation to repay the lender. When that obligation is subsequently forgiven, the amount you received as loan proceeds is normally reportable as income because you no longer have an obligation to repay the lender. The lender is usually required to report the amount of canceled debt to you and the IRS on a Form 1099-C, Cancellation of Debt.

Here’s a very simplified example: You borrow $100,000 and default on the loan after paying back $20,000. If the lender is unable to collect the remaining debt from you, there is a cancellation of debt of $80,000, which is generally taxable income to you.

Is cancellation of debt income always taxable?

Not always. There are some exceptions. The most common situations when cancellation of debt income is not taxable income involve:

  • Qualified principal residence: This is an exception created by the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act of 2007 and applies to most homeowners.
  • Bankruptcy: Debts discharged through bankruptcy are not considered taxable income.
  • Insolvency: If you are insolvent when the debt is cancelled, some or all of the cancelled debt  may not be taxable income to you. You are insolvent when your total debts are more than the fair market value of your total assets.
  • Certain farm debts: If you incurred the debt directly in operation of a farm, more than half your income from the prior three years was farming, and the loan owed to a person or agency regularly engaged in lending, your cancelled debt is generally not considered taxable income.
  • Non-recourse loans: A non-recourse loan is a loan for which the lenders only remedy in case of default is to repossess the property being financed or used as collateral. That is, the lender cannot pursue you personally in case of default. Forgiveness of a non-recourse loan resulting from a foreclosure does not result in cancellation of debt income. However, it may result in other tax consequences.

These exceptions are discussed in detail in Publication 4681.

What is the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act of 2007?

 The Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act of 2007 was enacted on Dec. 20, 2007 (see news release IR-2008-17). Generally, the Act allows exclusion of income realized as a result of modification of the terms of the mortgage, or foreclosure on your principal residence.

What does exclusion of income mean?

Normally, debt that is forgiven or cancelled by a lender must be included as income on your tax return and is taxable. But the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act allows you to exclude certain cancelled debt on your principal residence from income. Debt reduced through mortgage restructuring, as well as, mortgage debt forgiven in connection with a foreclosure, qualifies for relief.

Does the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act apply to all debt incurred to refinance a home?

Debt used to refinance your home qualifies for this exclusion, but only to the extent that the principal balance of the old mortgage, immediately before the refinancing, would have qualified. For more information, including an example, see Publication 4681.

How long is this special relief in effect?

It applies to qualified principal residence indebtedness forgiven in calendar years 2007- 2012.

Is there a limit on the amount of forgiven qualified principal residence indebtedness that can be excluded from income?

There is no dollar amount if the principal balance of the loan was less than $2 million ($1 million if married filing separately for the tax year) at the time the loan was forgiven. If the balance was greater, see the instructions to Form 982 and the detailed example in Publication 4681.

If the forgiven debt is excluded from income, do I have to report it on my tax return?

Yes. The amount of debt forgiven must be reported on Form 982 and this form must be attached to your tax return.

Do I have to complete the entire Form 982?

No. Form 982, Reduction of Tax Attributes Due to Discharge of Indebtedness (and Section 1082 Adjustment), is used for other purposes in addition to reporting the exclusion of forgiveness of qualified principal residence indebtedness. If you are using the form only to report the exclusion of forgiveness of qualified principal residence indebtedness as the result of foreclosure on your principal residence, you only need to complete lines 1e and 2. If you kept ownership of your home and modification of the terms of your mortgage resulted in the forgiveness of qualified principal residence indebtedness, complete lines 1e, 2, and 10b. Attach Form 982 to your tax return.

Where can I get this form?

You can download and save the form to your computer, use your tax-preparation software, or use your tax accountant.

How do I know out how much debt was forgiven?

Your lender should send a Form 1099-C, Cancellation of Debt, by February 2, 2009. The amount of debt forgiven or cancelled will be shown in box 2. If this debt is all qualified principal residence indebtedness, the amount shown in box 2 will generally be the amount that you enter on lines 2 and 10b, if applicable, on Form 982.

Can I exclude debt forgiven on my second home?

Not under this provision. Only cancelled debt used to buy, build, or improve your principal residence or refinance debt incurred for those purposes qualifies for this exclusion. See Publication 4681 for further details.

If part of the forgiven debt doesn’t qualify for exclusion from income under this provision, is it possible that it may qualify for exclusion under a different provision?

Yes. The forgiven debt may qualify under the insolvency exclusion. Normally, you are not actually required to include the forgiven debts in income to the extent that you are insolvent. You are insolvent when your total liabilties exceed your total assets. The forgiven debt may also qualify for exclusion if the debt was discharged in a Title 11 bankruptcy proceeding or if the debt is qualified farm indebtedness or qualified real property business indebtedness. If you believe you qualify for any of these exceptions, see the instructions for Form 982. Publication 4681 discusses each of these exceptions and includes examples.

I lost money on the foreclosure of my home. Can I claim a loss on my tax return?

No. Losses from sale or foreclosure of personal property are not deductible.

If I sold my home at a loss and the remaining loan is forgiven, does this constitute a cancellation of debt?

Yes. To the extent that a loan from a lender is not fully satisfied and a lender cancels the unsatisfied debt, you have cancellation of indebtedness income. If the amount forgiven or canceled is $600 or more, the lender must generally issue Form 1099-C, Cancellation of Debt, showing the amount of debt canceled. However, you may be able to exclude part or all of this income if the debt was qualified principal residence indebtedness, you were insolvent immediately before the discharge, or if the debt was cancelled in a Title 11 bankruptcy case. An exclusion is also available for the cancellation of certain non-business debts of a qualified individual as a result of a disaster in a Midwestern disaster area. See Form 982 for details.

If the remaining balance owed on my mortgage loan that I was personally liable for was cancelled after my foreclosure, may I still exclude the cancelled debt from income under the qualified principal residence exclusion, even though I no longer own my residence?

Yes, as long as the cancelled debt was qualified principal residence indebtedness. See Example 2 on page 13 of Publication 4681, Canceled Debts, Foreclosures, Repossession, and Abandonments.

Will I receive notification of cancellation of debt from my lender?

Yes. Lenders are required to send Form 1099-C, Cancellation of Debt, when they cancel any debt of $600 or more. The amount cancelled will be in box 2 of the form.

What if I disagree with the amount in box 2?

Contact your lender to work out any discrepancies and have the lender issue a corrected Form 1099-C.

How do I report the forgiveness of debt that is excluded from gross income?

  1. Check the appropriate box under line 1 on Form 982, Reduction of Tax Attributes Due to Discharge of Indebtedness (and Section 1082, Basis Adjustment) to indicate the type of discharge of indebtedness and enter the amount of the discharged debt excluded from gross income on line 2. Any remaining cancelled debt must be included as income on your tax return.
  2. File Form 982 with your tax return.

How do I know if I was insolvent?

You are insolvent when you total debts exceed the fair market value of all your assets. Assets include everything you own (e.g. car, house, condo, furniture, life insurance policies, stocks and other investments, pension or other retirement accounts).

How should I report the information and items needed to prove insolvency?

Use Form 982, Reduction of Tax Attributes Due to Discharge of Indebtedness (and Section 1082, Basis Adjustment) to exclude cancelled debt from income to the extent you were insolvent immediately before cancellation. You were insolvent to the extent that your total liabilities exceeded the fair market value of your assets immediately before the cancellation.

To claim this exclusion, you must attach Form 982 to your income tax return. Check box 1b on Form 982, and, on line 2, include the smaller of the amount of the debt cancelled or the amount by which you were insolvent immediately prior to the cancellation. You must also reduce your tax attributes in Part II of Form 982.

Are there any publications I can read for more information?

Yes,

  1. Publication 4681, Canceled Debts, Foreclosures, Repossessions, and Abandonments (for Individuals) is new and addresses in a single document the tax consequences of cancellation of debt issues.
  2. See the IRS news release IR-2008-17 with additional questions and answers on IRS.gov

Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act Reduces Negative Tax Consequences

January 18, 2009

 Home Under Water

Per IRS new release IR-2008-17, homeowners whose mortgage debt was partly or entirely forgiven during calendar years 2007 – 2012 may be able to claim special tax relief by filling out newly-revised Form 982 and attaching it to their federal income tax return, according to the IRS.

Normally, debt forgiveness results in taxable income. But under the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act of 2007, enacted Dec. 20, 2007, taxpayers may exclude debt forgiven on their principal residence if the balance of their loan was less than $2 million. The limit is $1 million for a married person filing a separate return. Details are on Form 982 and its instructions are available now on the IRS website.

 

“The new law contains important provisions for struggling homeowners,” said Acting IRS Commissioner Linda Stiff. “We urge people with mortgage problems to take full advantage of the valuable tax relief available.”

 

Legislation enacted in Oct. 2008 extended this relief through 2012. Thus this relief now applies to debt forgiven in calendar years 2007 – 2012. Debt reduced through mortgage restructuring, as well as mortgage debt forgiven in connection with a foreclosure, may qualify for this relief. In most cases, eligible homeowners only need to fill out a few lines on Form 982 (specifically, lines 1e, 2 and 10b).

 

The debt must have been used to buy, build or substantially improve the taxpayer’s principal residence and must have been secured by that residence. Debt used to refinance qualifying debt is also eligible for the exclusion, but only up to the amount of the old mortgage principal, just before the refinancing. 

 

Debt forgiven on second homes, rental property, business property, credit cards or car loans does not qualify for the new tax-relief provision. In some cases, however, other kinds of tax relief, based on insolvency, for example, may be available. See Form 982 for details.

 

Borrowers whose debt is reduced or eliminated receive a year-end statement (Form 1099-C) from their lender. By law, this form must show the amount of debt forgiven and the fair market value of any property given up through foreclosure.

 

The IRS urges borrowers to check the Form 1099-C carefully. Notify the lender immediately if any of the information shown is incorrect. Borrowers should pay particular attention to the amount of debt forgiven (Box 2) and the value listed for their home ( Box 7).

 

We will post frequently asked questions (FAQs) on the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act  in the next post….


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