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The Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act and Debt Cancellation

Authored By: IRS

Information

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 2014.  

The amount of debt forgiven will be taxable, 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.


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 amount of the loan as income because you had an obligation to repay the lender.
When that loan is later forgiven or canceled, the amount of the loan you did not pay back, is normally reportable as income.  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.  The IRS has an insolvency worksheet you can use.
  • 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.


What is the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act of 2007?
The Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act of 2007 was enacted on December 20, 2007.  Generally, the Act says that for a mortgage on your home, if there is any 'income' from modification of the loan, you do not have to pay tax on that income..

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.

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.

How long is this special relief in effect?
It applies to qualified principal residence indebtedness forgiven in calendar years 2007 through 2012.
 
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.  If this applies to you, get help with 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.

How do I know or find out how much debt was forgiven?
Your lender should send a Form 1099-C, Cancellation of Debt, by early February.  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. 

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, get help with your tax return.

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 not have to pay income tax on 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. 
 

More information
Tax Relief for Victims of Freedom and Noble Wildfires in Oklahoma


Tax Law Changes Related to Midwestern Disaster Areas
- Oklahoma is not considered to be in a Midwestern Disaster Area
 


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.

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.


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.

Last Review and Update: Nov 08, 2012
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