Tax Debt and Other IRS Information About Having Debt

People facing financial difficulties may find that there’s a tax impact to events such as job loss, debt forgiveness or tapping a retirement fund. For example, if your income decreased, you may be newly eligible for certain tax credits, such as the Earned Income Tax Credit. The Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act of 2007 generally allows taxpayers to exclude income from the discharge of debt on their principal residence.

IRS Treatment of Mortgage Debt Forgiveness

Debt reduced through mortgage restructuring, as well as mortgage debt forgiven in connection with a foreclosure, qualify for this relief. This provision applies to debt forgiven in calendar years 2007 through 2014. Up to $2 million of forgiven debt is eligible for this exclusion ($1 million if married filing separately). The exclusion doesn’t 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.

 

What if I lose my home through foreclosure?

Under the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act of 2007, taxpayers generally can exclude income from the discharge of debt on their principal residence or mortgage restructuring. This exception does not apply to second homes or vacation homes. In some cases, you may be able to file an amended tax return for previous tax years. For more information, see The Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act and Debt Cancellation.

 

What if I sell my home for a loss?

Losses from the sale of personal–use property, such as your home or car, are not deductible. It is not eligible for the capital gains loss of up to $3,000 annually. For more information, seeAbout Publication 523, Selling Your Home.

 

What if my debt is forgiven?

The tax impact of debt forgiveness or cancellation depends on your individual facts and circumstances. Generally, 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. 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. There are several exceptions to the taxability of cancelled debt, such as insolvency or bankruptcy.

 

What if I am insolvent?

A taxpayer is insolvent when his or her total liabilities exceed his or her total assets. The forgiven debt may be excluded as income under the “insolvency” exclusion. Normally, a taxpayer is not required to include forgiven debts in income to the extent that the taxpayer is insolvent. 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. For more information, see highlights of the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act.

 

What if I file for bankruptcy protection?

Debts discharged through bankruptcy are not considered taxable income. If you are an individual debtor who files for bankruptcy under chapter 7 or 11 of the Bankruptcy Code, a separate “estate” is created consisting of property that belonged to you before the filing date. This bankruptcy estate is a new taxable entity, completely separate from you as an individual taxpayer. Please note, however, that some tax debts are not dischargeable in a bankruptcy action. For more information, see Publication 908, Bankruptcy Tax Guide.

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 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.

 

IRS 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.