The California Association of REALTORS® announced yesterday it received a letter from the California Franchise Tax Board (FTB), obtained by Board of Equalization (BOE) member George Runner, clarifying that California families who lost their home in a short sale are not subject to state income tax liability on debt forgiveness “phantom income” they never received in a short sale.
Last month, in a letter to California Senator Barbara Boxer, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) recognized that the debt written off in a short sale does not constitute recourse debt under California law, and thus does not create so called “cancellation of debt” income to the underwater home seller for federal income tax purposes. Following the IRS’s clarification, C.A.R. sought a similar ruling by the California FTB. Now with the FTB’s clarification, underwater home sellers are also assured that they are not subject to state income tax liability, rescuing tens of thousands distressed home sellers from California tax liability for debt written off by lenders in short sales.
“We are pleased with the recent clarifications issued by the IRS and California Franchise Tax Board, which protect distressed homeowners from debt relief income tax associated with a short sale in California,” said C.A.R. President Kevin Brown. “We would like to thank Senator Boxer and BOE member Runner for their leadership in obtaining this guidance from the IRS and FTB. Distressed California homeowners can now avoid foreclosure or bankruptcy and can opt for a short sale instead, without incurring federal and state tax liability, even after the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act of 2007 expires at the end of the year.”
This is wonderful news for California families still struggling with an underwater home. We still recommend all REALTORS® encourage their clients to speak with a tax professional who can advise them on their specific situation. This information in no way should be taken as either legal or tax advice.
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