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The Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act of 2007 and
Debt Cancellation Source: www.IRS.gov


If you owe a debt to someone else and they cancel or forgive that debt, the canceled
amount may be taxable.

The Mortgage Debt Relief Act of 2007 generally allows taxpayers to exclude income
from the discharge of debt on their principal residence. Debt reduced through mortgage
restructuring, as well as mortgage debt forgiven in connection with a foreclosure,
qualifies for the relief.

This provision applies to debt forgiven in calendar years 2007 through 2012. Up to $2
million of forgiven debt is eligible for this exclusion ($1 million if married filing
separately). The exclusion does not apply if the discharge is due to services performed
for the lender or any other reason not directly related to a decline in the home’s value or
the taxpayer’s financial condition.

More information, including detailed examples can be found in Publication 4681,
Canceled Debts, Foreclosures, Repossessions, and Abandonments. Also see IRS news
release IR-2008-17.

The following are the most commonly asked questions and answers about The Mortgage
Forgiveness Debt Relief Act and debt cancellation:

What is Cancellation of Debt?
If you borrow money from a commercial lender and the lender later cancels or forgives
the debt, you may have to include the cancelled amount in income for tax purposes,
depending on the circumstances. When you borrowed the money you were not required
to include the loan proceeds in income because you had an obligation to repay the
lender. When that obligation is subsequently forgiven, the amount you received as loan
proceeds is normally reportable as income because you no longer have an obligation to
repay the lender. The lender is usually required to report the amount of the canceled debt
to you and the IRS on a Form 1099-C, Cancellation of Debt.

Here’s a very simplified example. You borrow $10,000 and default on the loan after
paying back $2,000. If the lender is unable to collect the remaining debt from you, there
is a cancellation of debt of $8,000, which generally is taxable income to you.

Is Cancellation of Debt income always taxable?

Not always. There are some exceptions. The most common situations when cancellation
of debt income is not taxable involve:

• Qualified principal residence indebtedness: This is the exception created by the
Mortgage Debt Relief Act of 2007 and applies to most homeowners.

• Bankruptcy: Debts discharged through bankruptcy are not considered taxable
income.

• Insolvency: If you are insolvent when the debt is cancelled, some or all of the
cancelled debt may not be taxable to you. You are insolvent when your total
debts are more than the fair market value of your total assets.

• Certain farm debts: If you incurred the debt directly in operation of a farm, more
than half your income from the prior three years was from farming, and the loan
was owed to a person or agency regularly engaged in lending, your cancelled
debt is generally not considered taxable income.

• Non-recourse loans: A non-recourse loan is a loan for which the lender’s only
remedy in case of default is to repossess the property being financed or used as
collateral. That is, the lender cannot pursue you personally in case of default.
Forgiveness of a non-recourse loan resulting from a foreclosure does not result in
cancellation of debt income. However, it may result in other tax consequences.
These exceptions are discussed in detail in Publication 4681.

What is the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act of 2007?
The Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act of 2007 was enacted on December 20, 2007
(see News Release IR-2008-17). Generally, the Act allows exclusion of income realized
as a result of modification of the terms of the mortgage, or foreclosure on your principal
residence.

What does excluson of income mean?
Normally, debt that is forgiven or cancelled by a lender must be included as income on
your tax return and is taxable. But the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act allows you
to exclude certain cancelled debt on your principal residence from income. Debt reduced
through mortgage restructuring, as well as mortgage debt forgiven in connection with a
foreclosure, qualifies for the relief.

Does the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act apply to all forgiven or cancelled
debts?

No. The Act applies only to forgiven or cancelled debt used to buy, build or
substantially improve your principal residence, or to refinance debt incurred for those
purposes. In addition, the debt must be secured by the home. This is known as qualified
principal residence indebtedness. The maximum amount you can treat as qualified
principal residence indebtedness is $2 million or $1 million if married filing
separately.
Does the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act apply to debt incurred to refinance
a home?

Debt used to refinance your home qualifies for this exclusion, but only to the extent that
the principal balance of the old mortgage, immediately before the refinancing, would
have qualified. For more information, including an example, see Publication 4681.

How long is this special relief in effect?
It applies to qualified principal residence indebtedness forgiven in calendar years 2007
through 2012.

Is there a limit on the amount of forgiven qualified principal residence
indebtedness that can be excluded from income?

The maximum amount you can treat as qualified principal residence indebtedness is $2
million ($1 million if married filing separately for the tax year), at the time the loan was
forgiven. If the balance was greater, see the instructions to Form 982 and the detailed
example in Publication 4681.

If the forgiven debt is excluded from income, do I have to report it on my tax
return?

Yes. The amount of debt forgiven must be reported on Form 982 and this form must be
attached to your tax return.

Do I have to complete the entire Form 982?
No. Form 982, Reduction of Tax Attributes Due to Discharge of Indebtedness (and
Section 1082 Adjustment), is used for other purposes in addition to reporting the
exclusion of forgiveness of qualified principal residence indebtedness. If you are using
the form only to report the exclusion of forgiveness of qualified principal residence
indebtedness as the result of foreclosure on your principal residence, you only need to
complete lines 1e and 2. If you kept ownership of your home and modification of the
terms of your mortgage resulted in the forgiveness of qualified principal residence
indebtedness, complete lines 1e, 2, and 10b. Attach the Form 982 to your tax return.

Where can I get this form?
If you use a computer to fill out your return, check your tax-preparation software. You
can also download the form at IRS.gov, or call 1-800-829-3676. If you call to order,
please allow 7-10 days for delivery.

How do I know or find out how much debt was forgiven?

Your lender should send a Form 1099-C, Cancellation of Debt, by February 2, 2009.
The amount of debt forgiven or cancelled will be shown in box 2. If this debt is all
qualified principal residence indebtedness, the amount shown in box 2 will generally be
the amount that you enter on lines 2 and 10b, if applicable, on Form 982.

Can I exclude debt forgiven on my second home, credit card or car loans?
Not under this provision. Only cancelled debt used to buy, build or improve your
principal residence or refinance debt incurred for those purposes qualifies for this
exclusion. See Publication 4681 for further details.

If part of the forgiven debt doesn't qualify for exclusion from income under this
provision, is it possible that it may qualify for exclusion under a different
provision?

Yes. The 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.

I lost money on the foreclosure of my home. Can I claim a loss on my tax return?
No. Losses from the sale or foreclosure of personal property are not deductible.

If I sold my home at a loss and the remaining loan is forgiven, does this constitute a
cancellation of debt?

Yes. To the extent that a loan from a lender is not fully satisfied and a lender cancels the
unsatisfied debt, you have cancellation of indebtedness income. If the amount forgiven
or canceled is $600 or more, the lender must generally issue Form 1099-C, Cancellation
of Debt, showing the amount of debt canceled. However, you may be able to exclude
part or all of this income if the debt was qualified principal residence indebtedness, you
were insolvent immediately before the discharge, or if the debt was canceled in a title 11
bankruptcy case. An exclusion is also available for the cancellation of certain
nonbusiness debts of a qualified individual as a result of a disaster in a Midwestern
disaster area. See Form 982 for details.

If the remaining balance owed on my mortgage loan that I was personally liable for
was canceled after my foreclosure, may I still exclude the canceled debt from
income under the qualified principal residence exclusion, even though I no longer
own my residence?

Yes, as long as the canceled debt was qualified principal residence indebtedness. See
Example 2 on page 13 of Publication 4681, Canceled Debts, Foreclosures,
Repossessions, and Abandonments.

Will I receive notification of cancellation of debt from my lender?
Yes. Lenders are required to send Form 1099-C, Cancellation of Debt, when they cancel
any debt of $600 or more. The amount cancelled will be in box 2 of the form.

What if I disagree with the amount in box 2?
Contact your lender to work out any discrepancies and have the lender issue a corrected
Form 1099-C.

How do I report the forgiveness of debt that is excluded from gross income?
(1) Check the appropriate box under line 1 on Form 982, Reduction of Tax Attributes
Due to Discharge of Indebtedness (and Section 1082 Basis Adjustment) to indicate the
type of discharge of indebtedness and enter the amount of the discharged debt excluded
from gross income on line 2. Any remaining canceled debt must be included as income
on your tax return.
(2) File Form 982 with your tax return.

My student loan was cancelled; will this result in taxable income?
In some cases, yes. Your student loan cancellation will not result in taxable income if
you agreed to a loan provision requiring you to work in a certain profession for a
specified period of time, and you fulfilled this obligation.

Are there other conditions I should know about to exclude the cancellation of
student debt?

Yes, your student loan must have been made by:
(a) the federal government, or a state or local government or subdivision;
(b) a tax-exempt public benefit corporation which has control of a state, county or
municipal hospital where the employees are considered public employees; or
(c) a school which has a program to encourage students to work in underserved
occupations or areas, and has an agreement with one of the above to fund the program,
under the direction of a governmental unit or a charitable or educational organization.

Can I exclude cancellation of credit card debt?
In some cases, yes. Nonbusiness credit card debt cancellation can be excluded from
income if the cancellation occurred in a title 11 bankruptcy case, or to the extent you
were insolvent just before the cancellation. See the examples in Publication 4681.

How do I know if I was insolvent?
You are insolvent when your total debts exceed the total fair market value of all of your
assets. Assets include everything you own, e.g., your car, house, condominium,
furniture, life insurance policies, stocks, other investments, or your pension and other
retirement accounts.

How should I report the information and items needed to prove insolvency?
Use Form 982, Reduction of Tax Attributes Due to Discharge of Indebtedness (and
Section 1082 Basis Adjustment) to exclude canceled debt from income to the extent you
were insolvent immediately before the cancellation. You were insolvent to the extent
that your liabilities exceeded the fair market value of your assets immediately before the
cancellation.
To claim this exclusion, you must attach Form 982 to your federal income tax return.
Check box 1b on Form 982, and, on line 2, include the smaller of the amount of the debt
canceled or the amount by which you were insolvent immediately prior to the
cancellation. You must also reduce your tax attributes in Part II of Form 982.

My car was repossessed and I received a 1099-C; can I exclude this amount on my
tax return?

Only if the cancellation happened in a title 11 bankruptcy case, or to the extent you were
insolvent just before the cancellation. See Publication 4681 for examples.

Are there any publications I can read for more information?
Yes.
(1) Publication 4681, Canceled Debts, Foreclosures, Repossessions, and Abandonments
(for Individuals) is new and addresses in a single document the tax consequences of
cancellation of debt issues.
(2) See the IRS news release IR-2008-17 with additional questions and answers on
IRS.gov.

http://www.irs.gov/individuals/article/0,,id=179414,00.html