Mortgage Debt Foregiveness

Forgiven Or Reduced Mortgage Debt

So what situations in the past would people have been liable to pay taxes for a forgiven or reduced mortgage debt amount?  In cases where your mortgage was reduced, like in a mortgage restructuring, refinance, foreclosure or in a short sale, you would have been liable for taxes on the forgiven amount.  The company that forgave the debt would send out a 1099-C to report the cancelled debt, and it then becomes taxable income on your taxes.

With the passage of the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act of 2007 the forgiven debt amount no longer needs to be reported as income along with your taxes. Please refer to this document on the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) website for the most recent information about mortgage debt forgiveness. 
So what are the criteria for qualifying for the debt relief act and not having to report the canceled debt as income? 

  • Forgiven debt must be on your principal residence.
  • Debt reduced through mortgage restructuring, as well as mortgage debt forgiven in a foreclosure or short sale are excluded from income and taxes.
  • Up to $2 million of forgiven debt is eligible for this exclusion.  $1 million for married person filing separate.
  • Act applies only to forgiven or canceled debt used to buy, build or substantially improve your principal residence, or to refinance debt incurred for those purposes.

So what types of mortgage debt do not qualify for the canceled debt income exclusion?

  • Proceeds from refinanced debt used for purposes other than to buy, build or improve the residence (like to pay off credit card debt) don’t qualify for the income tax exclusion.
  • Debt forgiven on second homes, rental property, business property, credit cards or car loans don’t qualify for the income tax exclusion.

If you do have a mortgage debt forgiven at some point you should receive a for 1099-C, Cancellation of Debt from your mortgage lender. It will show how much of your debt was forgiven as well as the fair market value for your home.   You will use these numbers when reporting the canceled debt on your taxes in form 982.

Other Times Cancelled Debt Can Be Excluded From Taxes

There are other cases where canceled debt can be excluded from taxable income, even if it isn’t for mortgage debt covered by the above law.  Usually, they involve situations where the taxpayer is insolvent, going through bankruptcy, or otherwise not able to pay.  Here is how the IRS describes other situations where canceled debt may be excluded from taxes:

forgiven debt may qualify under the insolvency exclusion. Normally, you are not required to include forgiven debts in income to the extent that you are insolvent.  You are insolvent when your total liabilities 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.

So there you have it, through the end of 2012 if you have mortgage debt forgiven you most likely won’t be liable to pay taxes on the canceled debt because of the Mortgage Debt Forgiveness Relief Act.   If it is a mortgage on a second home or a refinance where funds were used for paying other debts (like credit card debt), you may still be liable.   Here’s a video from the IRS talking about the provision.

  • Publication 4681, Canceled Debts, Foreclosures, Repossessions, and Abandonments (for Individuals).
  • Form 982 The amount of debt forgiven must be reported on Form 982. The form must be attached to your tax return.

Make Peace With Your Mortgage