First-Time Homebuyer Tax Credit: Taxpayers' Use of the Credit and Implementation and Compliance Challenges

GAO-10-166T Published: Oct 22, 2009. Publicly Released: Oct 22, 2009.
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This testimony discusses taxpayers' use of the First-time Homebuyer Credit (FTHBC) and the Internal Revenue Service's (IRS) implementation and compliance challenges. As an important part of the recent economic stimulus efforts, Congress enacted the FTHBC to assist the struggling real estate market and encourage taxpayers to purchase their first home. The credit initially was enacted by the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008 (Housing Act) and revised by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (Recovery Act). The 2008 FTHBC provided taxpayers a credit of up to $7,500 that must be paid back over 15 years. The Recovery Act increased the maximum credit for the 2009 FTHBC to $8,000, with no payback required unless the home ceases to be the taxpayer's principal residence within 3 years. This $8,000 credit is a refundable tax credit that is paid out even if there is no tax liability or the credit exceeds the amount of any tax due. The 2009 FTHBC was enacted into law on February 17, 2009, but eligibility was made retroactive for homes purchased beginning January 1, 2009. This testimony today, based on on-going work, describes two issues: (1) the extent to which taxpayers are using the FTHBC, including breakouts by state and income; and (2) IRS's implementation and compliance challenges associated with both the 2008 and 2009 credits.

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