Key Provisions in The Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008

September 6, 2008

On July 30, 2008, President Bush signed H.R. 3221, the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008 (the “Act”).

The Housing Act is intended to revamp the housing finance industry, encourage home ownership and help prevent foreclosures. Below is a summary of some of the tax provisions in the bill that will affect current and future home owners:

* The Hope for Homeowners Program: The Act creates a new Federal Housing Authority (FHA) program designed to help borrowers in danger of losing their homes to foreclosure. Eligible homeowners may be able to pay off their original (foreclosing) lenders with a fixed-rate, 30-year-term mortgage for up to 90 percent of the appraised value of the property.

Eligible homeowners are those who originated their loans before January 1, 2008, spend more than 31 percent of their monthly income on their mortgage, and are currently in danger of foreclosure. Borrowers would have to share future equity with the FHA. The program is completely voluntary; banks may elect not to participate. The program begins on October 1, 2008 and ends in September of 2011.

* Temporary mortgage foreclosure protection for military members: The Act provides mortgage foreclosure protection for members of the U.S. Armed Services by temporarily increasing (through December 31, 2008) the maximum loan guarantee for VA loans. The period a lender must wait before initiating foreclosure proceedings after a service member returns from service is extended from 90 days to 9 months. Increases in mortgage interest rates above 6 percent are suspended during the period of service and for one year after a service member ends service. This provision will sunset on January 1, 2011.

* Temporary tax “credit” for first-time homebuyers: First-time homebuyers of a principal residence purchased after April 8, 2008 and before July 1, 2009 may take a refundable tax credit of 10 percent (up to a maximum of $7,500; $3,750 for married persons filing separate returns) of the purchase price of the property. The credit is phased out for individual taxpayers with adjusted gross incomes (AGIs) ranging from $75,000 to $95,000 ($150,000 to $170,000 if married filing jointly). However, taxpayers must repay the credit taken over 15 years in equal installments as a surcharge on their annual income tax return.

* Temporary standard property tax deduction for taxpayers who don’t itemize their deductions: For 2008 only, taxpayers who do not itemize their deductions will be allowed to take a real property tax standard deduction (in addition to the standard deduction) of up to $1,000 if married filing jointly ($500 for all other filers).

* Reduced homesale exclusion for nonqualified use: For sales and exchanges of a principal residence after December 31, 2008, the $250,000 ($500,000 if married filing jointly) homesale exclusion won’t apply to the extent the gain is allocated to periods (not including any period before January 1, 2009) during which the property is not used as the principal residence of the taxpayer or the taxpayer’s spouse.

These are just a few of the provisions in the new act. For more information, please visit ‘Housing Rescue Bill…’


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Kristine McKinley, CFP®, CPA, is the founding principal of Beacon Financial Advisors, LLC, an independent, fee-only financial planning firm located in Lee’s Summit, Missouri and serving the greater Kansas City area.

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