First-Time Homebuyer Temporary Federal Tax Credit Extended and Expanded

On November 6, 2009, President Obama signed the Worker, Homeownership and Business Assistance Act of 2009. The new law extends the first-time homebuyer temporary federal tax credit for qualifying home purchases to April 30, 2010 and expands the eligibility requirements for purchasers.

Under the new law an eligible taxpayer must buy, or enter into a binding contract to buy, a principal residence on or before April 30, 2010 and close on the home by June 30, 2010. The new law also authorizes the credit for long-time homeowners buying a replacement principal residence and raises the income limitations for qualified homeowners claiming the credit.  

Homebuyers who purchased a home in 2008, 2009 or 2010 may be able to take advantage of the first-time homebuyer credit. The credit:

  • Applies only to homes used as a taxpayer's principal residence.
  • Reduces a taxpayer's tax bill or increases his or her refund, dollar for dollar.
  • Is fully refundable, meaning the credit will be paid out to eligible taxpayers, even if they owe no tax or the credit is more than the tax owed.

Under the new law, the maximum credit amount remains at $8,000 for a first-time homebuyer (single person or married filing jointly or $4,000 for married persons filing separate returns). A “first-time buyer” is a purchaser who has not owned a primary residence during the three years up to the date of purchase.

The new law also provides a “long-time resident” tax credit of up to $6,500 to others who do not qualify as “first-time homebuyers” (single person or married filing jointly or $3,250 for married persons filing separate returns). To qualify as a “long-time resident,” a buyer must have owned and used the same home as a principal or primary residence for at least five consecutive years of the eight-year period ending on the date of purchase of a new home as a primary residence.

For all qualifying purchases in 2010, taxpayers have the option of claiming the credit on either their 2009 or 2010 tax returns. To claim the credit, a taxpayer must file Form 5405 with the Internal Revenue Service, which you file with your original or amended individual federal income tax return.

Income Limits Increased under New Law

The new law raises the income limits for people who purchase homes after November 6, 2009. The full credit will be available to taxpayers with modified adjusted gross incomes (MAGI) up to $125,000, or $225,000 for joint filers. Those with MAGI between $125,000 and $145,000, or $225,000 and $245,000 for joint filers, are eligible for a reduced credit. Those with higher incomes do not qualify.

For homes purchased prior to Nov. 7, 2009, existing MAGI limits remain in place. The full credit is available to taxpayers with MAGI up to $75,000, or $150,000 for joint filers. Those with MAGI between $75,000 and $95,000, or $150,000 and $170,000 for joint filers, are eligible for a reduced credit. Those with higher incomes do not qualify.

New Requirements under the New Law

The new law contains new restrictions on purchases after Nov. 6, 2009:

  • Dependents are not eligible to claim the credit.
  • The purchase price of the home cannot be more than $800,000.
  • A purchaser must be at least 18 years of age on the date of purchase.

For Members of the Military

Members of the Armed Forces and certain federal employees serving outside the U.S. have an extra year to buy a principal residence in the U.S. and still qualify for the credit. An eligible taxpayer must buy or enter into a binding contract to buy a home by April 30, 2011, and close on the purchase no later June 30, 2011.


Combating Mortgage Fraud

Effective June 1, 2009 all residential properties (single family homes, condominium units and buildings with up to four units) in Cook County, Illinois will become subject to the amendments to the Illinois Notary Public Act contained in Illinois Public Act 095-0988 (the "Act") in an effort to combat mortgage fraud in Illinois residential real estate transactions.  The practical effect of the Act is that Illinois notaries will have to comply with the Act for all covered Cook County conveyances.

The Act is a pilot program applicable only to Cook County real property conveyances from June 1, 2009 through July 1, 2013.  The Act will require Illinois notaries to take and save a copy of the right thumbprint of all individuals selling residential property in Cook County.  The Act provides that if a right thumbprint is not available, alternative digits can be used.  The thumbprint record must be saved by the notary for seven years and is not subject to copying or inspection under the Freedom of Information Act.  The Act proscribes a Notarial Record form for the collection and retention of the record of the thumbprint.  The Act does not exclude developers of individual condominium units in multi-unit projects from the fingerprinting requirements.  Developers who do not want their in-house notaries to be bothered with the Act's record retention requirements should plan on attending closings at a title insurance company for at least the next five years !