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Repeat home buyer tax credit details, paperwork available

Revised IRS paperwork ready for repeat home buyer tax credit

WASHINGTON — If you've been holding back on getting involved with the new $6,500 federal tax credit for repeat home purchases, wait no more.

The IRS has finally published the details of the tax credit that was created in early November. On Jan. 15, the IRS posted its revised Form 5405 at irs.gov, six weeks after warning taxpayers not to file claims for the $6,500 credit without using the revised form and new instructions.

The repeat buyer credit — inelegantly dubbed the "long-time resident of the same main home" credit by the IRS — supplements the popular $8,000 credit for first-time purchasers. Owners of existing homes — specifically taxpayers who have occupied the same property as a principal residence for any five consecutive years during the previous eight years — may now be able to claim a tax credit on a purchase of another house they intend to use as a principal residence.

The credit is for up to 10 percent of the price of the replacement home, capped at $6,500. The purchase contract must be dated anywhere from Nov. 7, 2009, to April 30, and the closing must occur no later than June 30. Members of the armed forces and federal diplomatic and intelligence personnel stationed overseas get an extra year to claim the credit.

The maximum purchase price eligible for the credit is $800,000. Purchasers are not required to sell their previous house, but must demonstrate that the replacement house is or will be their principal residence.

The detailed rules answer questions that had been uncertain. For example, they describe what documentation home buyers must submit along with their $6,500 credit claim. On 2009 and 2010 tax returns, buyers should attach:

• A copy of the signed HUD-1 settlement sheet, including contract sale price and date of closing. This is to document that the timing of the transaction meets the program's requirements.

• Evidence of ownership and occupancy of the previous house to meet the five consecutive years test. This can be property tax records, homeowners' insurance records or IRS Form 1098 interest statements for the five-year period.

• For buyers claiming a credit on a newly constructed home, where a HUD-1 settlement sheet is not available, the IRS will accept a copy of the certificate of occupancy showing the purchasers' names, the property address and date.

• For buyers of mobile homes who are not able to get a settlement statement, the IRS will accept a copy of the retail sales contract showing the property's address, purchase price and date of purchase.

The extra documentation is being required after audits uncovered widespread abuses by first-time buyers seeking the $8,000 credit. This time around, the IRS says it is going to rigorously investigate all claims filed, starting with a review of the documentation submitted.

The new IRS guidance also spells out the revised income limits for home buyers claiming credits: Your modified adjusted gross income must be $125,000 or less if you are single, $225,000 or less if you are married and filing jointly. Above these limits, the allowable credit amount begins to drop in increments and is eliminated completely once incomes hit $145,000 for singles and $245,000 for married joint filers.

There are pitfalls as well: An advisory from the IRS spells out situations where recipients of tax credits may have to repay them to the government. These include taxpayers who sell their houses within a 36-month period after purchase. Recipients must also repay the credit if they convert their principal residence to a rental or business property, or if their lender forecloses on the house.

With all the rules in place, here's the message: Speed up your home search. You only have 14 weeks to sign a contract and just five months to go to closing.

Ken Harney can be reached at kenharney@earthlink.net.

Repeat home buyer tax credit details, paperwork available 01/23/10 [Last modified: Saturday, January 23, 2010 1:08am]

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