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Monday, July 18, 2011

Repayment of the Homebuyer Tax Credit After Destruction of the Property or Other Involuntary Conversion

Carol A. Pettit
Legislative Attorney

Taxpayers who purchased a principal residence in 2008-2010 (and in some cases, 2011) may have qualified for a tax credit under § 36 of the Internal Revenue Code—the first-time homebuyer credit. This credit was amended several times with changes being made to the amount of the credit, the requirements for qualifying for the credit, and the requirements for repaying the credit. These details are available in CRS Report RL34664, The First-Time Homebuyer Tax Credit, by Carol A. Pettit.

Generally, taxpayers claiming the credit based on a 2008 credit are required to repay the credit over a 15-year period beginning with the 2010 tax return. Taxpayers who purchased after 2008 generally are not required to repay the credit.

However, repayment of the credit may be accelerated when the taxpayer no longer uses the property as the principal residence. For those who purchased property in 2008, acceleration means that any outstanding credit balance must be repaid with the tax return for the year in which the taxpayer ceased using the property as the principal residence. For those who purchased after 2008, the credit must be repaid in full if the taxpayer ceased using the property as the principal residence within the 36 months immediately following the date of purchase.

There are several exceptions to the repayment requirements. This report focuses on the exception due to involuntary conversion and the limitation based on gain.

The term “involuntary conversion” includes either the partial or complete destruction of the property due to a casualty such as a fire, flood, or tornado. Alternatively, the term may mean the loss of some or all of the property by theft or condemnation, which would include a sale under threat of condemnation. Generally, an involuntary conversion will not trigger acceleration of repayment in the tax year in which the involuntary conversion occurs.

Under the exception for involuntary conversions, taxpayers who have received the homebuyer tax credit have two years from the date of the involuntary conversion to replace the property and, thereby, avoid acceleration of repayment. However, those who purchased in 2008 will need to continue repaying 1/15 of their credit annually in the interim. If a taxpayer does not replace the residence within the allowed two-year period, the outstanding credit balance generally would be included in the tax liability for the tax return for the year in which the two-year period expires. However, repayment of the credit could be limited by the gain realized on the involuntary conversion.

If the taxpayer realized a loss on the involuntary conversion, there would be no obligation to repay the outstanding credit balance. If the taxpayer realized a gain, but the gain was less than the outstanding credit balance, the credit repayment would be limited to the amount of gain. That lower amount would be added to the taxpayer’s tax liability for the year in which the two-year period expired. In either case, the taxpayer would have no obligation to repay any remaining credit balance in future years.

This report includes an appendix with questions that are representative of questions being raised by constituents in areas that have been affected recently by flooding and are applicable to other sorts of involuntary conversions.

Date of Report: July 14, 2011
Number of Pages: 8
Order Number: R41915
Price: $19.95

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