What You Need to Know About the Housing Credit

First-time homebuyers tax credit explained
First-time homebuyers tax credit explained

The Homebuyer Assistance and Improvement Act of 2010, signed into law by President Obama in July 2010, modified the terms of the existing first-time homebuyer's credit. The new law extended the closing deadline for home purchases from June 30, 2010, to Sept. 30, 2010; binding contracts for the sale of the home must have been entered into by April 30, 2010.

For purposes of the credit, a first-time homebuyer is defined as someone who has not owned a principal residence during the last three years. For married taxpayers, you have to consider the history of both the homebuyer and the homebuyer's spouse. If one spouse is disqualified, neither can claim the credit. This means, so long as you are considered married (even if you weren't married to your spouse for the entirety of the past three years), you don't qualify for the first-time homebuyer credit if your spouse doesn't qualify.

The same rule doesn't apply for unmarried individuals who purchase a home together. The law allows those taxpayers to split the credit or allocate the amount to any buyer who qualifies as a first-time buyer. See Notice 2009-12 for more details.

The credit is equal to 10% of the home's purchase price up to a maximum of $8,000. A taxpayer who purchased a home for $75,000 would be entitled to 10%, or $7,500. A taxpayer who purchased a home for $80,000 would be entitled to the maximum credit, or $8,000. But a taxpayer who purchased a home for more, say, $150,000, would still only be entitled to the maximum credit, or $8,000.

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