Last week, Congress reached an agreement in the “fiscal cliff” negotiations, and President Obama signed the American Taxpayers Relief Act into law last Wednesday.

 

C.A.R. would like to recognize and thank the tens of thousands of C.A.R. members who worked to successfully maintain the mortgage interest deduction by responding to the Call for Actions and open letter advertisements in the state’s major newspapers.

Here are some housing-related provisions included in the federal law:

 

Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act extended for one year

The “Pease Limitations” that reduced the value of itemized deductions, including the mortgage interest deduction, are permanently repealed for most taxpayers but will be reinstituted for high income filers. This provision reduces a taxpayer’s itemized deductions by 3 percent of the amount of his or her adjusted gross income (AGI) that exceeds the threshold amount. Under the new law, the Pease thresholds are $300,000 for married taxpayers filing jointly and $250,000 for single taxpayers (i.e., a married couple with an AGI of $400,000 would be $100,000 over the threshold; the couple’s deductions would be reduced by $3,000 which is 3% of $100,000). No matter how high a taxpayer’s AGI, the Pease reduction cannot exceed 20 percent of the amount of itemized deductions otherwise allowable for the year.

The restoration of a tax deduction for mortgage-insurance premiums, including premiums paid to the Federal Housing Administration and private mortgage insurers. This provision expired at the end of 2011 but has now been retroactively extended for all of 2012 as well as 2013.

10 percent tax credit (up to $500) for homeowners for energy improvements to existing homes is extended through 2013 and made retroactive to cover 2012.

Capital gains rates will remain at 15 percent for those earning less than $400,000 (individual) and $450,000 (joint). Gains above those income levels will be taxed at 20 percent. Gains on the sale of principal residences will remain unchanged and continues to exclude the first $250,000 for single taxpayers and $500,000 taxpayers filing jointly.

 

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RightArrow.gifC.A.R. sponsors bill to help underwater homeowners

In an effort to conform state law to a federal law passed last week that extended mortgage debt forgiveness, C.A.R. is sponsoring Senate Bill 30, so that California homeowners on the brink of foreclosure can get much-needed debt relief.

 

SB 30 (Calderon, D-Montebello) will for one more year exempt the taxation of mortgage debt that is forgiven when homeowners and their mortgage lenders negotiate a short sale or loan modification (including any principal reduction).

 

“We applaud Senator Ron Calderon for acting so quickly on an issue that’s critical to the housing market,” said C.A.R. President Don Faught. “We urge the California Legislature to also act quickly and pass a measure that will give hope to tens of thousands of California homeowners and provide the vital financial relief they need in order to make important personal financial decisions.”

 

The previous California exemption lapsed at the end of 2012, so forgiven mortgage debt is considered taxable state income for the time being. Upon passage of SB 30, the measure will be effective retroactive to Jan. 1, 2013.