Analysis of a Short Sale of a Principal Residence

Short sales and tax consequences, part 3 of 7

In this post, we will review an example of the short sale of a principal residence. In some ensuing posts, I will review the definitions of “discharge of indebtedness income” and also “taxable debt forgiveness income” to follow up on this and earlier posts that discuss foreclosures and short sales. The tax foreclosure or short sale of a commercial or rental property will likely be much different that described in this post.

The $250,000 capital gains exclusion plays a large role in whether you have taxable income on your personal residence post short sale.

Note that this analysis is limited to your personal residence in which you have lived for at least two years. As stated earlier, investment, commercial and rental properties will have a much different result than discussed here-remember to always consult your tax professional. Properties you received as a gift or inheritance can have a different result as well, so always consult your tax professional.

Discharge of Indebtedness Income is not necessarily always the same as taxable debt forgiveness income, according to the NCLC manual “Foreclosure Prevention Counseling”, 2009 edition, on page 149. The National Consumer Law Center’s publication “Foreclosure Prevention Counseling”, 2009 edition, is available for $60.00 at www.consumerlaw.org.

Example: a single person completing a short sale

  • $50,000: original purchase price of principal residence many years ago (no funds expended on improvements during ownership so as to increase basis)
  • $210,000: amount on mortgage after many rounds of refinancing to “pull out equity”
  • -$150,000 less: short sale price when homeowner falls into financial distress
  • $60,000: indebtedness not paid due to short sale
  • $100,000 capital gain: ($150,000 short sale price-$50,000 acquisition price = $100,000)
  • $60,000: Discharge of Indebtedness Income (but Debtor may not have to pay tax on the $60,000 amount. Please read later blog posts in this series as we work through defining and differentiating “Discharge of Indebtedness Income vs. taxable debt forgiveness income)
  • $100,000 capital gain: no tax due, because the capital gain exclusion is $250,000 for a single person on a principal residence.

Please remember that my staff and I are here to help you, regardless of whether you are facing a foreclosure or short sale, anywhere in western Washington state.

The Law Offices of James H MaGee Washington Bankruptcy Attorney
1108 N 6th Street TacomaWashington98403-1615 USA 
 • (253) 383-1001

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