Homebuyers Tax Credit Overview – How to Qualify, Make a Claim, and Will it Make a Comeback?

by Ryan Guina

The Homebuyers Tax Credit was created in 2008 to help prop up the the struggling economy. Real estate prices had crashed in most markets and the country was in the midst of what turned out to be a bad recession. First time home buyers in the years 2008, 2009, and 2010 were eligible for an $8,000 First-time Homebuyers Tax Credit.

What Is the Homebuyer Tax Credit?

Homebuyers who had a contract in place by April 30th with a closing date no later than September 30th were eligible to claim the $8,000 tax credit provided they had a modified adjusted gross income of up to $125,000 for single or $250,000 for couples. These income amounts were increased from the original rules of the tax credit.

The Obama administration originally extended the tax credit in November 2009. At that time, existing homeowners were included in the credit guidelines. Homeowners who were selling their homes could qualify for a tax credit of $6,500. Homes that cost more than $800,000 were not eligible for the tax credit. All claimants must be over the age of 18.

Who Should Take Advantage of the Homebuyers Tax Credit?

Tax credits are powerful because they reduce your tax bill on a one for one basis. An $8,000 tax credit reduces your tax bill by $8,000. A tax deduction only reduces your taxable income. So an $8,000 tax deduction at the 25% tax bracket would only reduce your tax bill by $2,000.

Like I said, tax credits are powerful! But that doesn’t mean you should buy a house just to get a tax credit. Buying a house is a huge commitment. A one-time $8,000 savings pales in comparison to the long-term commitment of making mortgage payments, paying for home-improvements, and taking care of related household expenses. One should only take advantage of the Homebuyer Tax credit if they were already planning on buying a home.

Is the Homebuyer Tax Credit Still Available?

Unfortunately, the Homebuyers Tax Credit is no longer available.

After the April 2010 extension deadline, many were hopeful that another extension would be issued to help new homebuyers. However, once the deadline had passed it became apparent no new extension was forthcoming.

One reason is because the housing market started to bounce back. Home purchases began surging in light of the tax credit and low mortgage rates. Sales exceeded what even the most seasoned analysts anticipated. Home prices have also gone up. In Match, the median price of a new home in the US rose 4.3%.

Another reason an extension wasn’t added was due to the government’s preoccupation with other issues, specifically the state of the government’s debt situation, foreclosures, and health care. Economists feel that the homebuyer tax credit and its subsequent extensions have done their job and brought the housing market back.

Will the Homebuyer Tax Credit Make a Comeback?

At this point, it doesn’t seem as if a homebuyer tax credit extension is on the horizon. However, while the original deadline has passed there are still some groups that remain eligible for the extension through 2011. These groups include active members of the Armed Forces and certain federal employees who are currently working outside of the US. These groups have another year to purchase a primary residence to qualify for the tax credit. They face deadlines of April 30, 2011 for entering into a sales contract with settlement of the purchase to be completed by June 30, 2011.

How to Claim the Credit If You’ve Met the Deadlines

Taxpayers have the option of claiming the credit on either their 2009 or 2010 income taxes. If you missed filing the credit for last year, you will need to get prepared to claim in for this year. Taxpayers must complete Form 5405, First Time Homebuyer Credit. Along with the completed form, the following documents must also be included to redeem proper credit:

Settlement Statement – a copy of the statement that shows the buyer/seller names and signatures, address of the property, sales price, and the purchase price.

Retail Contract – for mobile home purchases, a copy of the executed retail sales contract showing the property information, proper signatures, and purchase price and date is a suitable replacement for the Settlement Statement.

Certificate of Occupancy – for those with a newly constructed home purchase, a copy of the certificate of occupancy that shows the name of the owner, the address of the property, and the date of the certificate can be used in place of the Settlement Statement.

Do You Have to Repay the Homebuyer Tax Credit?

Not all the tax credits were created equal; in some cases, homeowners may be on the hook for repaying the tax credit. In 2008 the tax credit was a loan, in 2009 it was a true tax credit.

First Time Homebuyers in 2008

A plan to provide first time homebuyers with a tax credit in 2008 has been the source of great confusion. This tax credit amounted to 10% of the home’s purchase price or $7,500, whichever number was smaller. However, rather than being a true tax credit, this first time homebuyer tax credit was actually a loan. The government fully expects that you will pay back this tax credit over the course of 15 years. There is no interest on this loan, but if you bought your home between April 8, 2008 and December 31, 2008, you are required to begin repaying the tax credit with your 2010 taxes.

As you probably know, waiting until 2009 would have resulted in a much better deal: a true tax credit.

Homebuyer Tax Credits in 2009 and 2010

First-time homebuyers, and those in existing homes that met certain conditions, were able to take advantage of different tax credits in 2009 and 2010. Buying a home on January 1, 2009 through April 30, 2010 created an opportunity to get a tax credit that would not have to be paid. (The settlement date to meet was September 30, 2010.)

You can claim your tax credit on your 2010 taxes. You might have to pay it back, though, if you do not maintain the home as a primary residence for 36 months. So, if you move out, you become responsible for repaying the government for your tax credit. There are some exclusions to this, though:

  • Military, intelligence or foreign services personnel who are required to live in government quarters or are moved to a duty station more than 50 miles away.
  • Home damage that is involuntarily — but you have to buy a new home within two years.
  • Home sold to someone who is unrelated to you. You have to repay a portion of the tax credit, up to the gain on the home’s sale.
  • Death of the homeowner within 36 months. However, a surviving spouse will have to pay half the credit is he or she moves out.
  • In divorce, the spouse who retains the home is responsible for the credit repayment if he or she moves out within 36 months.

It is worth noting that these exclusions apply to the repayment of the 2008 tax credit as well.

Filing for a Homebuyer Tax Credit

For those taking the homebuyer tax credit, Form 5405 will need to be filed along with your tax return. For those repaying the 2008 credit, it is necessary to make sure you are filing the revised 2010 version of Form 5405. When claiming the credit for 2009 or 2010, you will need to supply additional documentation with your tax return, including a copy of your settlement statement (HUD-1 form). Other documentation may needed, depending on your situation, including Form 1098, tax records, insurance records or copies of signatures from your purchase contract. Consult with a tax professional to see what documentation you might need. And realize that, due to the documentation requirement, you cannot e-file your tax return if you are taking this credit. You can get more information from IRS.gov.

Published or updated August 29, 2016.
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{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Peter

I think you make an excellent point in this post – that just because people say it’s a great time to buy a house, doesn’t mean it’s the right time for you. There is no shame in renting, and allowing yourself some freedom, especially after college – is a great idea.


2 Ryan @ Planting Dollars

I’m glad you guys agree… $8,000 is a lot of money dangling there as incentive, especially for broke college grads. However, in the long term it isn’t really worth it if you’re not happy and end up house poor.


3 Derek

So true, I’ve talked myself out of looking into a new house a couple of times. Though I’m dieing to get out of my apartment, you never know where life is going to take you.


4 Financial Samurai

Yes, you really did dodge a bullet by not closing on your home right after college. That’s just waaaaay too young to be saddled with a mortgage, unless you know at least 90% for sure you want to be there for the next 5-10 years.

After working for 4 years, and experiencing San Fran for 2 years, I pretty much knew I wanted to be here for a very long time. The balance of life and the outdoors (Tahoe, Napa, Hiking, golf, tennis, everything) and work was as optimal as I could find and so I took the plunge. The property is now a cash flow rental, and I will use it towards my retirement.

Save 30% of the value of the property, and work AT LEAST 2 years (whichever comes first) before considering buying something.

Best, Sam


5 Jake

I don’t see too much of an impact with this program. Not like the cash for clunkers of last summers.


6 Ace @ aceofwealth.com

It’d be interesting to see if this does come back. I’ve read numerous reports in the past that claim that it hasn’t really made any lasting impact (There were similar reports for cash for clunkers). As an individual, I think it would have been a great perk if I were looking to purchase during that time. But I would say that most of the people that were already planing to do a first time home-buyer purchase, probably would have done so already.


7 Doug Warshauer

Thanks for the helpful info.

Seems pretty tough to measure the impact accurately. It’s hard to know how many people would have bought their home anyway, since you have no control group to compare to.


8 Ryan

I would agree with that statement. I think most people would have been better off waiting if they weren’t already planning on buying a home – nothing like taking out hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt just to save $8,000! 😉


9 Estate Yard

Most clients I worked with tried their best to find a property to put an offer on and close it before the deadline, but even those who missed the deadline were still continuing to look for a house to purchase. To me it just seemed like icing on the cake for buyers… it’s hard to gauge how much it impacted the market as we clearly bottomed out a year ago and things are slowly improving regardless of the tax credit or not.


10 Brandon

As a future homeowner i would love for this credit to come back. Allthough it will not stop me from buying a house, the 8K would be an ice incentive for me.

I am looking hard and am hoping that it comes back before the end of 2010 allthough i know it wont.


11 Marla

I actually bought my first home because of this incentive. Granted, I closed during the final extension for that period (January 2010), and have yet to receive a check for that tax credit (December 2010) for reasons that are frustrating and not terribly clear (I had to re-send paperwork proving occupancy three separate times) I was counting on that credit to clear certain debts that would allow me to afford this home and still be able to eat.. This has been a difficult year, although I would like to mention that just this week I got a cryptic copy of a letter from the IRS stating that I HAD received the homebuyer credit. No check, just a letter. I’m hoping there’s some sort of follow-up in the mail in the next few weeks, and I’ll be calling the number listed on the form letter as soon as possible.. but their ‘incentive’ has, in my personal experience, been nothing but a series of false hopes and cheats.


12 blah blah

So you bought a home, counting on the tax credit to be able to afford the home you bought? I wonder why there are so many foreclosures


13 Andrea

So I assume I do not qualifty because I was not under contract before April 30th 2010, yet did close on a home before Sep 30th 2010. Wish the government would of done more to help the people to save their homes, we went through foreclosure & being homeless & a pension to have a roof over our heads. Im sure more people still need help.


14 Kath

Will there be a tax credit for 2011. Or they just gone leave us out to pasture. We need help in this trying economy. What books are they reading. LOL


15 Kath

Does anyone know if there are any credits for A/C units


16 blah blah

Yes, but what i learned the hard way and the IRS dont tell you is that credit can only be used as “store credit”. You can only claim the credit for that year and it can only be used if you owe on your taxes, if you do not owe expect it to be gone.


17 Renee

It makes things difficult for everyone when the economy tanks, the homebuyers incentive was nice but not lifesaving for most of us. There are some like my husband who are still able to get this credit but since he isn’t deployed much is unable to take advantage of it. We are under contract and will close on our house at the end of March. We bought our home knowing we would not get this discount. Seems to me like it’s more hassle than good anyway.


18 Kathy

There is any program to help first-time homebuyer in 2011 (Florida)?


19 pd

I have purchased new home in January 2011 in USA. Do I still get First Time Home buyer Tax Credit? I already purchased one home before but not in USA, its in India.


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