author Flexo from Consumerism Commentary blog:
Thanks to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, formerly known as the “stimulus bill,” first-time home buyers are eligible for a refundable tax credit of up to $8,000 this year. Here is what you need to know in order to claim the credit.
Who qualifies as a first-time homebuyer?
A “first-time homebuyer” is anyone who has not owned a house in the past three years. Furthermore, if you don’t live in the house purchased this year for the three years following the purchase, you will have to pay the credit back to the government. This credit is intended for people who live in their own houses, not house flippers or speculators.
What is a refundable tax credit?
When tax professionals and the IRS talk about “refundable tax credits,” they do not mean that you have to pay the credit back to the government. A refundable tax credit means that if you owe less tax than the amount of the tax credit, you will receive a refund — even if you have no other tax liability for 2008. That’s not a bad deal. In other words, if you owe $200 to the government before claiming the credit, and you qualify for $8,000 for the first-time home buyer credit, rather than paying the government, you will receive a check for $7,800. Even if you had no income in 2008, owed no tax, and purchased a qualifying house in 2009, the government will send you a check for $8,000.
What if I bought the house last year?
If you purchased a house in 2008 and were a first-time buyer, you qualify for the older refundable tax credit with a maximum of $7,500. This does require that you pay the $7,500 tax credit back over the course of fifteen years, starting two years after the date of the purchase. This is still a good deal. As time goes on, thanks to inflation, you are paying back this “loan” with money that has smaller purchasing power.
To qualify for the new credit with the maximum of $8,000, you must be a first-time home buyer and the sale must take place between January 1, 2009 and November 30, 2009.
Do I qualify for the full $8,000?
The actual credit you will receive is 10% of the purchase price of the home or $8,000, whichever amount is lower. If your modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) as a single taxpayer is over $75,000 or if your income as a married couple is over $150,000, your credit will be phased out. The credit will be eliminated if your income is above $95,000 (single) or $170,000 (married).
How do I claim the home buyer tax credit?
You can claim this credit when filing either your 2008 or your 2009 income tax return. For example, if you believe that your income level in 2009 will be too high to qualify for the credit but you already know that your 2008 income is low enough to qualify for the full amount of the credit, you can claim the credit on your 2008 income tax return.
Complete IRS Form 5405 to determine the credit amount. Here is the official revised copy of Form 5405 [pdf] that takes the new $8,000 home buyer tax credit into account. Take the bottom line amount on Form 5405 and enter the number on line 69 of your Form 1040. Not all online tax preparation software has been updated to include instructions for this new credit. I checked H&R Block Tax Cut, TaxACT, and TurboTax Online, and as of last night all three include only the rules for last year’s $7,500 credit. You may wish to wait for the software to catch up with the IRS before completing and filing your 2008 income tax return. Or, if you don’t want to wait, you can do your taxes by hand. See new updates at the bottom of this article for TaxACT and TurboTax.
If you have filed your taxes already, you will be required to file an amended income tax return if you want to receive the credit this year with your 2008 refund.
Please keep in mind that I am not a tax professional and none of what is written here or anywhere else on Consumerism Commentary (or SignsWeMustObserve, grin) should be considered tax advice. You are solely responsible for your own tax return, and any questions should always be directed to your tax accountant or the IRS.