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Archive for December, 2009

Top Ten Tips for Taxpayers Deducting Casualty and Theft Losses

December 28th, 2009

Taxpayers who find themselves the victim of a natural disaster or theft this summer should know the rules for deducting their casualty losses next year when they file their federal tax return. Generally, you may deduct losses to your home, household items and vehicles on your federal income tax return.

Here are ten things the IRS wants you to know about deducting casualty or theft losses.

  1. You may not deduct casualty and theft losses covered by insurance unless you file a timely claim for reimbursement. You must reduce your loss by the amount of the reimbursement.
  2. A casualty does not include normal wear and tear or progressive deterioration from age or termite damage.
  3. The damage must be caused by a sudden, unexpected or unusual event like a car accident, fire, earthquake, flood or vandalism.
  4. If your property is not completely destroyed or if it is personal-use property, the amount of your casualty or theft loss is the lesser of the adjusted basis of your property, or the decrease in fair market value of your property as a result of the casualty or theft, reduced by any insurance or other reimbursement you receive or expect to receive.
  5. If business or income-producing property, such as rental property, is completely destroyed, the amount of your loss is your adjusted basis in the property minus any salvage value, and minus any insurance or other reimbursement you receive or expect to receive.
  6. To claim a casualty or theft loss, you must complete Form 4684, Casualties and Thefts, and attach it to your return. Generally, you may claim casualty or theft loss of personal use property only if you itemize deductions on Form 1040, Schedule A. However, you can deduct a 2008 or 2009 net disaster loss from a federally-declared disaster even if you do not itemize your deductions.
  7. If the property was held by you for personal use, you must further reduce your loss by $100. This $100 reduction for losses of personal-use property applies to each casualty or theft event that occurred during the year other than 2009. For 2009, individuals must reduce their casualty and theft losses for personal-use property by $500 instead of $100. This $500 reduction for losses of personal-use property applies to each casualty or theft event.
  8. The total of all your casualty and theft losses of personal-use property usually must be further reduced by 10 percent of your adjusted gross income. The 10 percent AGI limitation does not apply to net disaster losses resulting from federally declared disasters in 2008 and 2009.
  9. In figuring your loss, do not consider the loss of future profits or income due to the casualty.                      
  10. Casualty losses are normally deductible only in the year the casualty occurred. But if you have a deductible loss from a federally declared disaster you can choose to deduct that loss on your tax return for the previous year. If you have already filed your return for the preceding year, you can claim the loss on the previous year tax return by filing an amended return.

For more information about casualty and theft losses and the special rules for net disaster losses see Publication 547, Casualties, Disasters and Thefts available on the IRS.gov Web site or by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).

For Many Small Businesses, Fall Filing Deadline Looms for Special Refund Claims

December 21st, 2009

Time is running out for many small businesses wishing to take advantage of the expanded business loss carryback option included in this year’s recovery law, the Internal Revenue Service said today. Eligible individuals have until Oct. 15 to choose this expanded carryback option. Eligible calendar-year corporations have until Sept. 15.

This carryback provision offers small businesses that lost money in 2008 an excellent way to quickly get some much needed cash if they were profitable in previous years. This option is only available for a limited time, so small businesses should consider it carefully and act before it’s too late.

Under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), enacted in February, many small businesses that had expenses exceeding their income for 2008 can choose to carry the resulting loss back for up to five years, instead of the usual two. This means that a business that had a net operating loss (NOL) in 2008 could carry that loss as far back as tax-year 2003, rather than the usual 2006. Not only could this mean a special tax refund, but the refund could be larger, because the loss is being spread over as many as five tax years, rather than just two.

This option may be particularly helpful to any eligible small business with a large loss in 2008. A small business that chooses this option can benefit by:

  • Offsetting the loss against income earned in up to five prior tax years,
  • Getting a refund of taxes paid up to five years ago,
  • Using up part or all of the loss now, rather than waiting to claim it on future tax returns.

Under ARRA, eligible taxpayers can choose to carry back a NOL arising in a taxable year beginning or ending in 2008 for three, four or five years instead of two. The option is available for an eligible small business (ESB) that has no more than an average of $15 million in gross receipts over a three-year period ending with the tax year of the NOL. This choice may be made for only one tax year.

Most taxpayers still have time to choose this special carryback and get a refund. A calendar-year corporation that qualifies as an ESB must file a claim by Sept. 15, 2009. For individuals, the deadline is Oct. 15, 2009. This includes a sole proprietor that qualifies as an ESB, an individual partner in a partnership that qualifies as an ESB and a shareholder in an S corporation that qualifies as an ESB. Deadlines vary for fiscal-year taxpayers, depending upon when their fiscal year ends and whether they are making the choice for the tax year that ends or begins in 2008.

Individuals can accelerate a refund by filing Form 1045, Application for Tentative Refund. Similarly, corporations with NOLs may also accelerate a refund by using Form 1139, Corporation Application for Tentative Refund. Normally, refunds are issued within 45 days. These forms, along with answers to frequently-asked questions about this special carryback, and other details can be found on the IRS Web site.

Five Facts about the Home Office Deduction

December 15th, 2009

With technology making it easier than ever for people to operate a business out of their house, many taxpayers may be able to take a home office deduction when filing their 2009 federal tax return next year.

Here are five important things the IRS wants you to know about claiming the home office deduction.

1. Generally, in order to claim a business deduction for your home, you must use part of your home exclusively and regularly:

  • As your principal place of business, or
  • As a place to meet or deal with patients, clients or customers in the normal course of your business, or
  • In the case of a separate structure which is not attached to your home, it must be used in connection with your trade or business

For certain storage use, rental use or daycare-facility use, you are required to use the property regularly but not exclusively.

2. Generally, the amount you can deduct depends on the percentage of your home that you used for business. Your deduction for certain expenses will be limited if your gross income from your business is less than your total business expenses.

3. There are special rules for qualified daycare providers and for persons storing business inventory or product samples.

4. If you are self-employed, use Form 8829, Expenses for Business Use of Your Home, to figure your home office deduction. Report the deduction on line 30 of Schedule C, Form 1040.

5. Different rules apply to claiming the home office deduction if you are an employee. For example, the regular and exclusive business use must be for the convenience of your employer.

For more information see IRS Publication 587, Business Use of Your Home.

Eight Tips for Taxpayers Who Owe Money to the IRS

December 14th, 2009

The vast majority of Americans get a tax refund from the IRS each spring, but what do you do if you are one of those who received a tax bill? Here are eight tips for taxpayers who owe money to the IRS.

1. If you get a bill this summer for late taxes, you are expected to promptly pay the tax owed including any additional penalties and interest.  If you are unable to pay the amount due, it is often in your best interest to get a loan to pay the bill in full rather than to make installment payments to the IRS.

2. You can also pay the bill with your credit card. To pay by credit card contact either Official Payments Corporation at 800-2PAYTAX (also www.officialpayments.com) or Link2Gov at 888-PAY-1040 (also www.pay1040.com).

3. The interest rate on a credit card or bank loan may be lower than the combination of interest and penalties imposed by the Internal Revenue Code.

4. You can also pay the balance owed by electronic funds transfer, check, money order, cashier’s check or cash.  To pay using electronic funds transfer you can take advantage of the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System by calling 800-555-4477 or 800-945-8400 or online at www.eftps.gov.

5. An installment agreement may be requested if you cannot pay the liability in full.  This is an agreement between you and the IRS for the collection of the amount due in monthly installment payments.  To be eligible for an installment agreement, you must first file all returns that are required and be current with estimated tax payments.

6. If you owe $25,000 or less in combined tax, penalties and interest, you can request an installment agreement using the web-based application called Online Payment Agreement found at IRS.gov.

7. You can also complete and mail an IRS Form 9465, Installment Agreement Request, along with your bill in the envelope that you have received from the IRS.  The IRS will inform you usually within 30 days whether your request is approved, denied, or if additional information is needed.  If the amount you owe is $25,000 or less, provide the monthly amount you wish to pay with your request.  At a minimum, the monthly amount you will be allowed to pay without completing a Collection Information Statement, Form 433, is an amount that will full pay the total balance owed within 60 months.

You may still qualify for an installment agreement if you owe more than $25,000, but a Form 433F, Collection Information Statement, is required to be completed before an installment agreement can be considered. If your balance is over $25,000, consider your financial situation and propose the highest amount possible, as that is how the IRS will arrive at your payment amount based upon your financial information.

8. If an agreement is approved, a one-time user fee will be charged.  The user fee for a new agreement is $105 or $52 for agreements where payments are deducted directly from your bank account.  For eligible individuals with incomes at or below certain levels, a reduced fee of $43 will be charged, and is automatically figured based on your income.

For more information about installment agreements and other payment options visit the IRS Web site at IRS.gov.  IRS Publications 594, The IRS Collection Process and 966, Electronic Choices to Pay All Your Federal Taxes also provide additional information regarding your payment options.  These publications and Form 9465 can be obtained on the IRS.gov Web site or by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).

The Lucky Seven…Gambling Winnings and Losses Tax Tips

December 11th, 2009

You may know when to hold ‘em and when to fold ‘em but do you know how and when to report ‘em? Whether you are playing cards or the slots, it is important to know the rules about reporting gambling winnings and losses.

Here are seven things the IRS wants you to know about reporting what Lady Luck has sent your way.

  1. All gambling winnings are fully taxable.
  2. Gambling income includes, but is not limited to, winnings from lotteries, raffles, horse races, poker tournaments and casinos. It includes cash winnings and also the fair market value of prizes such as cars and trips.
  3. A payer is required to issue you a Form W-2G if you receive certain gambling winnings or if you have any gambling winnings subject to federal income tax withholding.
  4. Even if a W-2G is not issued, all gambling winnings must be reported as taxable income. Therefore, you may be required to pay an estimated tax on the gambling winnings. For more information on paying estimated taxes, refer to IRS Publication 505, Tax Withholding and Estimated Tax.
  5. You must report your gambling winnings on Form 1040, line 21.
  6. If you itemize your deductions on Form 1040, Schedule A, you can deduct gambling losses you had during the year, but only up to the amount of your winnings. Your losses are not subject to the 2 percent of AGI Limitation.
  7. It is important to keep an accurate diary or similar record of your gambling winnings and losses. To deduct your losses, you must be able to provide receipts, tickets, statements or other records that show the amount of both your winnings and losses.

For more information, refer to IRS Publications 525, Taxable and Nontaxable Income, and 529, Miscellaneous Deductions. Additional information can also be found in IRS Instructions for Forms W-2G and 5754, Certain Gambling Winnings & Statement by Person(s) Receiving Gambling Winnings. These publications are available at IRS.gov or ordered by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).

SBA and the ARRA

December 10th, 2009

Understanding the SBA Programs in the Recovery Act
• For small businesses, the Recovery Act temporarily eliminates SBA guaranteed 7(a) and 504 loan
fees and offers tax benefits. For lenders, it temporarily eliminates loan fees on Section 504 loans. The fee
eliminations are retroactive to Feb. 17, 2009, the day the Recovery Act was signed. The Act also
provides guarantees up to 90 percent on some types of 7(a) loans to qualified small businesses. The
temporary loan fee eliminations and 90 percent guarantee provisions will apply to approximately
$8.7 billion of 7(a) loans and $3.6 billion of 504 loans. SBA estimates this will cover lending in both
programs through calendar year 2009.
• SBA is developing a loan program created by the Recovery Act to temporarily assist broker-dealers who
buy guaranteed 7(a) loans, which will help restore the secondary markets for 7(a) loans. In addition, the
Treasury will commit up to $15 billion in TARP funds to further help unfreeze the small business
lending market by purchasing pooled 7(a) loan guarantees and 504 first mortgages. These actions will
benefit community banks, credit unions and other small lenders.
• America’s Recovery Capital (ARC) loan program will offer deferred-payment loans of up to $35,000
backed 100 percent by SBA to viable small businesses that need help making payments on an existing,
qualifying loan for up to six months. This new program is intended to give small businesses some
temporary financial relief to keep their doors open and get their cash flow back on track so they can
maintain existing jobs and ultimately create new jobs. Repayment does not begin until 12 months after
the loan is fully disbursed. (ARC loans cannot be made to cover payments on an existing loan that was
guaranteed by SBA before Feb. 17, 2009, the day the bill was signed into law.)
• Expanding SBA’s microloan program provides extra funding for SBA-backed microlenders across the
country. The bill provides enough for $50 million in new SBA microloans, which are delivered by non-
profit, community-based intermediary lenders across the country. These loans can be for up to $35,000
and come with technical assistance and training for every borrower.
• Expanding Surety Bond Program limits will help small businesses compete for the billions of dollars in
contracts that are needed to implement the Recovery Act. By raising the maximum amount for contracts
that qualify for SBA surety bonds to $5 million, and up to $10 million for certain contracts, more small
businesses will be able to help drive economic recovery.
• A new program to guarantee Section 504 program first mortgages will provide fresh liquidity to the first
mortgage market. Through this program SBA will establish a process for private sector entities to apply
for federal guarantees on pools of first lien position Section 504 loans.
• A new Section 504 refinancing program will help expand existing long-term projects by working with
Certified Development Companies to restructure and refinance certain existing loans into SBA-backed
504 loans.
• The Recovery Act also enables SBA to expand its Small Business Investment Company
debenture program to assist this source of venture capital. The SBIC office is working on the necessary
regulations and notices for licensees alerting them that they may be eligible for additional SBA financial
assistance and, also, that they will be required to invest 25 percent of their financing dollars in “smaller”
enterprises.
For more information about the programs offered by the SBA under the Recovery Act, visit the SBA Web page at www.sba.gov/recovery, contact the SBA Answer Desk at 1-800-U-ASK-SBA, or contact your local SBA District Office. For more information about the provisions of the broader Recovery Act, visit
www.recovery.gov.

Does the IRS Owe You Money?

December 9th, 2009

Who couldn’t use a little extra cash this winter!   The IRS may have some money for you.

If you have not filed a prior year tax return and are due a refund, you should consider filing the return to claim that refund. If you are missing a refund for a previously filed tax return, you should contact the IRS to check the status of your refund and confirm your current address.

Unclaimed Refunds

Some people may have had taxes withheld from their wages but were not required to file a tax return because they had too little income. Others may not have had any tax withheld but would be eligible for the refundable Earned Income Tax Credit.

  • To collect this money a return must be filed with the IRS no later than three years from the due date of the return.
  • If no return is filed to claim the refund within three years, the money becomes the property of the U.S. Treasury.  
  • There is no penalty assessed by the IRS for filing a late return qualifying for a refund.
  • Current and prior year tax forms and instructions are available on the Forms and Publications web page of IRS.gov or by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).
  • Information about the Earned Income Tax Credit and how to claim it is also available on IRS.gov.

Undeliverable Refunds

Were you expecting a refund check but didn’t get it?

  • Refund checks are mailed to your last known address. Checks are returned to the IRS if you move without notifying the IRS or the U.S. Postal Service.
  • You may be able to update your address with the IRS on the “Where’s My Refund?” feature available on IRS.gov. You will be prompted to provide an updated address if there is an undeliverable check outstanding within the last 12 months.
  • You can also ensure the IRS has your correct address by filing Form 8822, Change of Address, which is available on IRS.gov or can be ordered by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).
  • If you do not have access to the Internet and think you may be missing a refund, you should first check your records or contact your tax preparer. If your refund information appears correct, call the IRS toll-free assistance line at 800-829-1040 to check the status of your refund and confirm your address.

IRS Alerts Public to New Identity Theft Scams

December 8th, 2009

The Internal Revenue Service reminds consumers to avoid identity theft scams that use the IRS name, logo or Web site in an attempt to convince taxpayers that the scam is a genuine communication from the IRS. Scammers may use other federal agency names, such as the U.S. Department of the Treasury.

In an identity theft scam, a fraudster, often posing as a trusted government, financial or business institution or official, tries to trick a victim into revealing personal and financial information, such as credit card numbers and passwords, bank account numbers and passwords, Social Security numbers and more. Generally, identity thieves use someone’s personal data to steal his or her financial accounts, run up charges on the victim’s existing credit cards, apply for new loans, credit cards, services or benefits in the victim’s name and even file fraudulent tax returns.

The scams may take place through e-mail, fax or phone. When they take place via e-mail, they are called “phishing” scams.

The IRS does not discuss tax account matters with taxpayers by e-mail.

The IRS urges consumers to avoid falling for the following recent schemes:

Making Work Pay Refund

This phishing e-mail, which claims to come from the IRS, references the president and the Making Work Pay provision of the 2009 economic recovery law. It says that there is a refundable credit available to workers, consumers and retirees that can be paid into the recipient’s bank account if the recipient registers their account information with the IRS. The e-mail contains links to register the account and to claim the tax refund.

In reality, most taxpayers receive their Making Work Pay tax credit, which was designed for wage earners, in their paychecks as a result of decreased tax withholding, not as a lump sum distribution from a federal fund. Additionally, consumers and retirees who are not wage earners are not eligible for this tax credit.

Inherited Funds / Lottery Winnings / Cash Consignment

In this phishing scheme, recipients receive an e-mail claiming to come from the U.S. Department of the Treasury notifying them that they will receive millions of dollars in recovered funds or lottery winnings or cash consignment if they provide certain personal information, including phone numbers, via return e-mail. The e-mail may be just the first step in a multi-step scheme, in which the victim is later contacted by telephone or further e-mail and instructed to deposit taxes on the funds or winnings before they can receive any of it. Alternatively, they may be sent a phony check of the funds or winnings and told to deposit it but pay 10 percent in taxes or fees. Thinking that the check must have cleared the bank and is genuine, some people comply. However, the scammers, not the Treasury Department, will get the taxes or fees.

Form W-8BEN

In this scam, fraudsters modify a genuine IRS form, the W-8BEN, Certificate of Foreign Status of Beneficial Owner for United States Tax Withholding, to request detailed personal and financial information. This could include nationality, passport number, bank account and PIN numbers, spouse’s name and mother’s maiden name, or other personal or financial information or security measures for financial accounts. The scammers may use the genuine form number and name or may make up a new form number, such as W-4100B2.

They either e-mail or fax the form or letter. If only a letter, the letter itself contains the request for the personal and financial information. The letter, which claims to come from the IRS, states that the recipient will face additional taxes unless he or she quickly faxes the required information to the number provided by the scammer.

In reality, taxpayers file the genuine Form W-8BEN with their financial institutions, not with the IRS. Additionally, the genuine W-8BEN does not request the taxpayer’s passport number, bank account number, security or similar information.

Refund Scam

The bogus e-mail, which claims to come from the IRS, tells the recipient that he or she is eligible to receive a tax refund for a given amount. It instructs the recipient to click on a link contained in the e-mail to access and complete a form for the tax refund. The form requires the entry of personal and financial information. The refund scam is the most common one seen by the IRS. Several recent variations on this scam have claimed to come from the Exempt Organizations area of the IRS. Some others have included the name and purported signature of a genuine or a made-up IRS executive.

Taxpayers do not have to complete a special form to obtain a refund. Taxpayer refunds are based on the tax return they submit to the IRS.   

How to Spot a Scam

Many e-mail scams are fairly sophisticated and hard to detect. However, there are signs to watch for, such as an e-mail that:

  • Requests detailed or an unusual amount of personal and/or financial information, such as name, SSN, bank or credit card account numbers or security-related information, such as mother’s maiden name, either in the e-mail itself or on another site to which a link in the e-mail sends the recipient.
  • Dangles bait to get the recipient to respond to the e-mail, such as mentioning a tax refund or offering to pay the recipient to participate in an IRS survey.
  • Threatens a consequence for not responding to the e-mail, such as additional taxes or blocking access to the recipient’s funds.
  • Gets the Internal Revenue Service or other federal agency names wrong.
  • Uses incorrect grammar or odd phrasing (many of the e-mail scams originate overseas and are written by non-native English speakers).
  • Uses a really long address in any link contained in the e-mail message or one that does not start with the actual IRS Web site address (www.irs.gov). To see the actual link address, or url, move the mouse over the link included in the text of the e-mail.

What to Do

The IRS does not initiate taxpayer contact via unsolicited e-mail or ask for personal identifying or financial information via e-mail. If you receive a suspicious e-mail claiming to come from the IRS, take the following steps:

  • Do not open any attachments to the e-mail, in case they contain malicious code that will infect your computer.
  • Do not click on any links, for the same reason. Also, be aware that the links often connect to a phony IRS Web site that appears authentic and then prompts the victim for personal identifiers, bank or credit card account numbers or PINs. The phony Web sites appear legitimate because the appearance and much of the content are directly copied from an actual page on the IRS Web site and then modified by the scammers for their own purposes.
  • Contact the IRS at 1-800-829-1040 to determine whether the IRS is trying to contact you.
  • Forward the suspicious e-mail or url address to the IRS mailbox phishing@irs.gov, then delete the e-mail from your inbox.

Genuine IRS Web site

The only genuine IRS Web site is IRS.gov. All IRS.gov Web page addresses begin with http://www.irs.gov/. Anyone wishing to access the IRS Web site should initiate contact by typing the IRS.gov address into their Internet address window, rather than clicking on a link in an e-mail.

Do you need to Amend your Return?

December 7th, 2009

You’ve discovered an error or determined that you are entitled to a previously unclaimed credit or deduction, after your tax return has been filed.  Do you need to amend your tax return? irs-logo

The IRS usually corrects math errors or requests missing forms – such as W-2s or schedules – when processing an original return. In these instances, do not amend your return.

However, you should file an amended return if any of the following were reported incorrectly:

  • Your filing status
  • Your dependents
  • Your total income
  • Your deductions or credits

You may also elect to amend your 2008 return if you are eligible to claim the new first-time homebuyer credit of up to $8,000 for a qualified 2009 home purchase.  The amended tax return will allow you to claim the homebuyer credit on your 2008 return without waiting until next year to claim it on the 2009 return.

Use Form 1040X, Amended U.S. Individual Income Tax Return, to correct a previously filed Form 1040, 1040A or 1040EZ submitted electronically or by mail. Be sure to enter the year of the return you are amending at the top of Form 1040X. If you are amending more than one tax return, prepare a 1040X for each return and mail them in separate envelopes to the IRS processing center for the area in which you live. The 1040X instructions list the addresses for the centers.

The Form 1040X has three columns. Column A is used to show original or adjusted figures from the original return. Column C is used to show the corrected figures. The difference between the figures in Columns A and C is shown in Column B. There is an area on the back of the form where you explain the specific changes being made to the return and the reason for each change.

If the changes involve other schedules or forms, attach them to the Form 1040X. For example, if you are filing a 1040X because you have a qualifying child and now want to claim the Earned Income Credit, you must attach a Schedule EIC to show the qualifying person’s name, year of birth and Social Security number.

If you are filing to claim an additional refund, wait until you have received your original refund before filing Form 1040X. You may cash that check while waiting for any additional refund. If you owe additional tax for 2008, you should file Form 1040X and pay the tax as soon as possible to limit interest and penalty charges. Interest is charged on any tax not paid by the due date of the original return, without regard to extensions.

Generally, to claim a refund, you must file Form 1040X within three years from the date you filed your original return or within two years from the date you paid the tax, whichever is later.

Form 1040X and instructions are available at IRS.gov or by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).

IRS Warns Taxpayers to Beware of First-Time Homebuyer Credit Fraud

December 5th, 2009

The Internal Revenue Service announced its first successful prosecution related to fraud involving the first-time homebuyer credit and warned taxpayers to beware of this type of scheme.

On Thursday July 23, 2009, a Jacksonville, Fla.-tax preparer, James Otto Price III, pled guilty to falsely claiming the first-time homebuyer credit on a client’s federal tax return. Price faces the possibility of up to three years in jail, a fine of as much as $250,000, or both.

To date, the IRS has executed seven search warrants and currently has 24 open criminal investigations in pursuit of potential instances of fraud involving the credit. The agency has a number of sophisticated computer screening tools to quickly identify returns that may contain fraudulent claims for the first-time homebuyer credit.

“We will vigorously pursue anyone who falsely tries to claim this or any other tax credit or deduction,” said Eileen Mayer, Chief, IRS Criminal Investigation. “The penalties for tax fraud are steep. Taxpayers should be wary of anyone who promises to get them a big refund.”

Whether a taxpayer prepares his or her own return or uses the services of a paid preparer, it is the taxpayer who is ultimately responsible for the accuracy of the return. Fraudulent returns may result not only in the required payment of back taxes but also in penalties and interest.

First-Time Homebuyer Credit

The First-Time Homebuyer Credit, originally passed in 2008 and modified in 2009, provides up to $8,000 for first-time homebuyers. The purchaser, however, must qualify as a first-time homebuyer, which for purposes of this credit means someone who has not owned a primary residence in the past three years. If the taxpayer is married, this requirement also applies to the taxpayer’s spouse. The home purchase must close before Dec. 1, 2009, to qualify, and the credit may not be claimed on the purchaser’s tax return until after the taxpayer closes and has purchased the home.

Different rules apply for homes bought in 2008.