First Time Homebuyer Tax Credit: So What’s The Scenario?

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Suze Orman’s told you about it. Dave Ramsey’s told you about it. Your mother-in-law has told you about it. At this point, Spencer and Heidi have probably told you about it.

Now that we’ve all taken First Time Homebuyer Tax Credit 101 (and if you haven’t, or just need a refresher, click here for more info), let’s move on to First Time Homebuyer Tax Credit 201: Scenarios (if you’re a hip hop fan, cue “”Scenario“” by A Tribe Called Quest as your soundtrack to this IRS-led course!).

The following information comes straight from the IRS, and should help clarify some more specific questions that the homebuyer tax credit has raised. As always, I recommend contacting a qualified tax professional to help you navigate matters regarding the tax man, but this should be a helpful resource:

S1. If a single person (Taxpayer A) qualifies as a first-time homebuyer at the time he/she purchases a home with someone (Taxpayer B) that is not a first-time homebuyer and then later that year they marry each other, is the credit still allowed?

A. Eligibility for the first-time homebuyer credit is determined on the date of purchase. If Taxpayer A, a first-time homebuyer, buys a house and then later that year marries Taxpayer B, not a first-time homebuyer, the credit is allowable to Taxpayer A. Taxpayer A may take the maximum credit.

S2. Taxpayer A is a single first-time home buyer. Taxpayer B (parent) cosigns for A and does not qualify. Both names are on the mortgage. Can Taxpayer A claim the credit and, if so, how much?

A. Yes. Taxpayer B is not a first-time homebuyer and cannot claim any portion of the credit, but A may claim the entire credit ($7,500 for purchase in 2008; $8,000 for purchase in 2009), if the home was purchased as Taxpayer A’s primary residence.

S3. A taxpayer owned her principal residence. Several years ago, she decided to relocate to a rented apartment, but did not sell the former residence. Instead, she rented it out to tenants. Now the taxpayer plans to buy another house and make it her new principal residence. Does she qualify for the first-time homebuyer credit?
A. A taxpayer who owned rental property within the past three years is still eligible for the credit. The taxpayer cannot have owned and used a home as his or her principal residence within the last three years.

S4. If husband and wife wanted to sell the home that the wife owned when they got married, and the husband had not owned a home within the past three years, could he qualify as a first-time homebuyer for the credit even though the wife would not qualify?

A. No. The purchase date determines whether a taxpayer is a first-time homebuyer. Since the wife had ownership interest in a principal residence within the prior three years, neither taxpayer may take the first-time homebuyer credit. Section 36(c)(1) of the Internal Revenue Code requires that the taxpayer and the taxpayer’s spouse not have an ownership interest in a principal residence within the prior three years from the date of purchase. The husband may not take the credit even if he filed on a separate return.

S5. Taxpayer purchased a home on April 24, 2008, while she was separated from her husband. Later in the year, they reconciled and were living together at the end of 2008. She has not owned a home since 2004 but he owned sold his home in 2006. They remained married the entire time. Is the taxpayer eligible for the first-time homebuyer credit?

A. No. The purchase date determines whether a taxpayer is a first-time homebuyer. Since the husband had ownership interest in a principal residence within the prior three years, and the taxpayers were legally married, neither taxpayer may take the first-time homebuyer credit. Section 36(c)(1) requires that the taxpayer and the taxpayer’s spouse not have an ownership interest in a principal residence within the prior three years from the date of purchase. While individuals do not have to be married to get the credit, marriage (and legal separation) imputes ownership of a previous home upon the other spouse. The wife may not take the credit even if she filed on a separate return.

S6. have been estranged from my spouse for over three years and file married filing separate. I don’t know if my spouse has owned a main home in the last three years, but I have not. If I buy a house in 2009 that otherwise qualifies for the first-time homebuyer credit, can I claim the credit?

A. Section 36(c)(1) requires that the taxpayer and the taxpayer’s spouse not have an ownership interest in a principal residence within the three years prior to the date of purchase. While individuals do not have to be married to get the credit, marriage (and legal separation) imputes ownership of a previous home upon the other spouse. If your spouse has not owned a main home in the last three years, then you may claim the credit.

S7. I am separated from my spouse and considered unmarried, and qualify for the unmarried head of household filing status. My spouse has owned a main home in the last three years, but I have not. If I buy a home on May 1, 2009, that otherwise qualifies, can I claim the first-time homebuyer credit?

A. No. Section 36(c)(1) requires that the taxpayer and the taxpayer’s spouse not have an ownership interest in a principal residence within the three years prior to the date of purchase. While individuals do not have to be married to get the credit, marriage (and legal separation) imputes ownership of a previous home upon the other spouse. The taxpayer may not take the credit even if filed on a separate return.

S8. A qualifying taxpayer bought a home in August 2008 that needed a lot of work before occupying. They finished the renovations and moved in the home in January 2009. Can they claim the $8,000, since they did not occupy the home until 2009?

A. No. Taxpayers who purchase an existing home and renovate the property before moving in are eligible for the first-time homebuyer credit based on the date of purchase, not the date of occupancy.

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