Koontz & Associates Blog
IRS Delays Processing of 2013 Taxes The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) announced that due to the 16-day government shutdown, they will begin processing tax returns one- to two-weeks later than planned. The original start date was January 21, 2014. With this delay, the tax season could begin no earlier than January 28 or as late as February 4, 2014. The IRS will not ...
WHY DO I NEED A REAL ESTATE ATTORNEY? There is an old lawyer joke: How many lawyers does it take to change a light bulb? Answer: Fifty four. Eight to argue, one to get a continuance, one to object, one to demur, two to research precedents, one to dictate a letter, one to stipulate, five to turn in their time cards, one to depose, one to write interrogatories, two to ...
Flood Insurance Rate Increase Impacts SW Florida Real Estate Purchases Buyers considering the purchase of a coastal Florida home need to be aware of recent changes in flood insurance coverage. Properties located in designated flood zones V, A (except AR and A99) or D are facing significant flood insurance rate increases over 2012 rates due to the change in federal ...
The Limited Liability Company (LLC) has become an increasingly popular vehicle for the foreigner buyer, or real estate investor seeking to establish a level of personal liability and asset protection, while minimizing their tax liability. An LLC with foreign members has the flexibility to decide whether to be taxed as a partnership, C corporation or, in the case of a ...
The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) announced that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will offer a new, simplified loan modification initiative to minimize losses and to help troubled borrowers avoid foreclosure and stay in their homes. Beginning July 1 2013, servicers will be required to offer eligible borrowers who are at least 90 days delinquent on their mortgage an easy ...
Many Florida real estate investors, or individuals seeking to purchase homes, have likely heard about the growing trend of taking ownership of real property in a Limited Liability Company (LLC). Owning real property in an LLC has many benefits due to the legal liability protections afforded its owners, as well as the asset protection it provides owners from their ...
Federal banking regulators recently announced a new mortgage foreclosure settlement to replace a 2011 settlement between the regulators and certain home loan servicers. Lenders participating in this new settlement, including Bank of America, Citigroup, Wells Fargo, JPMorgan Chase, MetLife Bank, PNC, Sovereign, Sun Trust, U.S. Bank and Aurora, have agreed to distribute $8.5 billion to settle complaints alleging that some homeowners were improperly foreclosed upon. A portion of the settlement, in the amount of $5.2 billion, will be provided to certain borrowers in the form of loan modifications, forgiveness of deficiency judgments and other relief, while the balance of the settlement will be paid directly to other eligible borrowers
The IRS reminds taxpayers who turned 70-1/2 during 2012 that, in most cases, they must start receiving required minimum distributions (RMD) from individual retirement accounts (IRA) and workplace retirement plans by Monday, April 1, 2013. The April 1 deadline applies to owners of traditional IRAs but not Roth IRAs. Normally, it also applies to participants in various ...
A Social Security Number (SSN) is used by a U.S. person and third parties for purposes of reporting income, loss, and interest realized by that particular person. The SSN allows IRS to track the accuracy and satisfaction of each person’s tax filing and payment obligations. For a person, who does not qualify for an SSN, but does have a tax filing and/or payment obligation, IRS may assign an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN). An ITIN may be assigned regardless of an applicant’s immigration status because the Internal Revenue Code (IRC) imposes tax filing obligations on both resident and nonresident aliens. The primary use and purpose of issuing an ITIN is to ensure a non-citizen’s compliance with the IRC. Therefore, to qualify for and obtain an ITIN, an applicant must have a tax filing obligation and file a return, subject to certain exceptions. To ensure ITINs are being used for legitimate tax purposes, IRS recently revised certain procedures to provide that new ITINs will expire after five years.
For Corporations (Form 1120) and S-Corporations (Form 1120-S) with a fiscal year-end of December 31, the deadline to file a tax return is March 15. For many of these businesses, the required documentation may not have been finalized or available to prepare the return, so an extension of time to file may have been requested. The IRS will allow an automatic 6 month extension to file the return if a Form 7004 is filed by the original tax deadline. An extension does not extend the amount of time to pay the tax due on the return. It is an extension of time to file, not an extension of time to pay. Any taxes due are still due on the initial deadline or additional penalties and interest will be assessed from the original filing deadline.
Did you know that if the buyer of a Short Sale is a Limited Liability Company (LLC) or Corporation, there are specific documents that must be completed? If required documents are not provided, processing of the Short Sale will be delayed, and ultimately the file will be closed if not supplied timely.
Federal banking regulators recently announced a new mortgage foreclosure settlement to replace a 2011 settlement between the regulators and certain home loan servicers. Lenders participating in this new settlement, including Bank of America, Citigroup, Wells Fargo, JPMorgan Chase, MetLife Bank, PNC, Sovereign, Sun Trust, U.S. Bank and Aurora, have agreed to distribute $8.5 billion to settle complaints alleging that some homeowners were improperly foreclosed upon. A portion of the settlement, in the amount of $5.2 billion, will be provided to certain borrowers in the form of loan modifications, forgiveness of deficiency judgments and other relief, while the balance of the settlement will be paid directly to other eligible borrowers.
The Bank of America Cooperative Short Sale Program may be able to help homeowners complete a short sale if they owe more on their mortgage than their house is worth and do not qualify for the Home Affordable Foreclosure Alternatives (HAFA) short sale program. This program can streamline the approval process and offers financial assistance to help homeowners with relocation and moving expenses.
After weeks, indeed months of proposals and counter-proposals, seemingly endless negotiations and down-to-the-wire drama, Congress has passed legislation to avert the tax side of the so-called “fiscal cliff.” The American Taxpayer Relief Act permanently extends the Bush-era tax cuts for lower and moderate income taxpayers, permanently “patches” the alternative minimum tax (AMT), provides for a permanent 40 percent federal estate tax rate, renews many individual, business and energy tax extenders, and more. In one immediately noticeable effect, the American Taxpayer Relief Act does not extend the 2012 employee-side payroll tax holiday.
The business tax incentives in the new law, while not receiving as much press as the individual tax provisions, are valuable. Two very popular incentives, bonus depreciation and small business expensing, are extended as are many business tax “extenders.”
Bonus Depreciation/Small Business Expensing. The new law renews 50 percent bonus depreciation through 2013 (2014 in the case of certain longer period production property and transportation property). Code Sec. 179 small business expensing is also extended through 2013 with a generous $500,000 expensing allowance and a $2 million investment limit. Without the new law, the expensing allowance was scheduled to plummet to $25,000 with a $200,000 investment limit.
Small Business Stock. To encourage investment in small businesses, the tax laws in recent years have allowed non-corporate taxpayers to exclude a percentage of the gain realized from the sale or exchange of small business stock held for more than five years. The American Taxpayer Relief Act extends the 100 percent exclusion from the sale or exchange of small business stock through 2013.
Tax Rates: The American Taxpayer Relief Act extends permanently the Bush-era income tax rates for all taxpayers except for taxpayers with taxable income above certain thresholds:
$400,000 for single individuals, $450,000 for married couples filing joint returns, and $425,000 for heads of households. For 2013 and beyond, the federal income tax rates are 10, 15, 25, 28, 33, 35, and 39.6 percent. In comparison, the top rate before 2013 was 35 percent. The IRS is expected to issue revised income tax withholding tables to reflect the 2013 rates as quickly as possible and provide guidance to employers and self-employed individuals.
The United States Senate and House have passed the 2013 American Tax Payer Relief Act; extending the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act (MFDRA) until January 1, 2014.
The Long and the Short of the Tax Impact of Short Sales
Recently, end of year tax planning for businesses has been complicated by uncertainty over the future availability of many tax incentives. The 2012 year end is no different. In 2010, Congress extended many business incentives for one or two years. These incentives are about to expire. In addition, many of the “Bush-era” tax cuts are scheduled to sunset at the end of 2012. It is unclear if Congress will provide further extensions as they debate across-the-board spending cuts scheduled to take effect in 2013. In addition, businesses must prepare to comply with healthcare reform. This combination of events provides tax planning considerations unique to 2012 that requires a multi-year strategy taking into account a variety of scenarios and outcomes.
Time is running out for area homeowners looking to participate in government sponsored Short Sale programs. The Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac Home Affordable Foreclosure Alternative (HAFA) program will expire on December 31, 2012. The HAFA program is a government-sponsored program aimed to provide additional alternatives to foreclosure. Aside from loan modification (the ...
On November 29, 2012, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) announced final revised application procedures and requirements for Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers (ITINs). ITINs are issued to foreign individuals who are not eligible to obtain a social security number, but have filing and/or payment obligations under the Internal Revenue Code.
The revised application procedures (Revised Procedures) build on the interim procedures implemented earlier this year, with the goal of which is protecting the integrity of the ITIN application and refund process.
Re-election of President Obama for a second term now sets in motion negotiations between Democrats and Republicans over Bush-era tax cuts and expiring tax extenders.
At this point effective January 1, 2013:
- Bush-era tax cuts, extended by the Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2010, expire
- Across-the-board spending cuts take effect under the Budget Control Act of 2011
- The employee-side payroll tax holiday ends
- More individual and business tax extenders expire
Operating agreements, which are akin to corporate bylaws, dictate the management and operation of a limited liability company (“LLC”). An operating agreement serves to reinforce the limited liability status a company has elected, may prevent misunderstandings between owners, and plays an important role in determining the requisite authority for conducting LLC business and transactions.
An LLC with multiple members should utilize an operating agreement to specify the profit and loss sharing, management structure of the company, and procedures for the removal and addition of members. In the absence of an operating agreement, a Florida LLC is subject to Florida’s Statutes which may or may not be appropriate for the goals and structure particular company.
IRS Announces 2013 Pension Plan Limitations and Various Tax Benefits Increase Due to Inflation Adjustments
The Internal Revenue Service recently announced cost of living and inflation adjustments for pension plans, retirement related items, and numerous tax provisions for tax year 2013.
Starting a business? Unsure what legal and regulatory steps you should follow?
Did you know when operating as a sole-proprietorship, you are entirely and personally responsible for the actions of the company? The best way to really protect your personal assets is to form a corporation or limited liability company (“LLC”).
Although each situation is unique, yet these 10 fundamental steps can help you plan, prepare and manage your business, while addressing business start-up issues and tax implications.
In today’s economy buyers often require additional time to qualify for necessary financing, due to impaired credit, and sellers often require additional time to complete negotiations with their lender in the context of a short sale. Lease Option or Lease Purchase Agreements, commonly referred to as “Lease-to-Own” Agreements and mistakenly used interchangeably, are agreements which allow a potential buyer to occupy the seller’s property for a period of time before completing the sale. This arrangement can assist either or both parties in meeting their goals and needs with respect to the transaction and their specific circumstances. In some instances, these agreements may even allow a buyer the opportunity to build a bit of equity in the home as well.
It is important to understand the distinction between a Lease Option Agreement (“Lease Option”) and a Lease Purchase Agreement (“Lease Purchase”), however. A Lease Purchase consists of two separate contracts: 1) the residential lease which provides for the tenant-buyer’s lease of the property for a specified term; and 2) the contract for sale which obligates each party to the typical terms of a residential purchase agreement upon the expiration of the specified lease term. Typically this kind of agreement provides what are referred to as cross-default provisions to ensure that a breach of one of the agreements will result in an automatic breach of the other. As the tenant-buyer has contracted to purchase the property in the context of a Lease Purchase, oftentimes the lease will provide that the tenant-buyer is responsible for maintenance and repairs which are typically the duty of the landlord.
It is the dream of every American to own a home someday; for many this dream becomes a complete nightmare. In today's economic climate, homeowners continue to lose their property to foreclosure. As if this weren’t painful and embarrassing enough, the lender can still come after them for the deficiency balance after they foreclose on the home.
A deficiency balance in a mortgage foreclosure is the difference between the outstanding balance due on the loan and the fair market value of the property on the date of the foreclosure sale. For example, if the balance of the mortgage is $200,000 and the fair market value is $130,000, the resulting deficiency would be $70,000. Note that the deficiency is based on the fair market value, not on the ultimate sales price of the home. If the lender sells the same foreclosed home for $100,000, and the fair market is $130,000, the deficiency is $70,000, not $100,000.
When considering a short sale, sellers and agents naturally expect the negotiations to occur between the seller and the mortgage lender(s). Unfortunately, distressed homeowners may encounter other lurking lienholders, such as the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
IRS holds statutory lien rights which may be exercised in the event an individual or business fails to meet their tax obligations. The existence of such a lien can potentially defeat or delay an attempted short sale and cost all parties involved time and frustration. However, this issue may be resolved if addressed early in the process of the negotiations.
Quite a bit of confusion begins to stir around this time of year. Many taxpayers contact us requesting a “second extension” as the deadline approaches because they might not yet be ready to file the return. This stems from the old extension procedures IRS had, when a "second extension" of time to file could be requested using Form 2688. Under the old extension procedures, you would request an automatic 4-month extension followed by a 2-month second extension. Since the inception of the Form 4868 and 7004, the extension now grants you an extra six months to file your taxes, but there is no second extension.
For Individuals and Partnerships with a fiscal year-end of December 31, the deadline to file a tax return was April 15 (extended to April 17 this year because of Emancipation Day). For many of people, the required documentation may not have been finalized or available to prepare the return, so an extension of time to file may have been requested. The IRS will allow an automatic 6 month extension to file the return if a Form 4868 for Individuals or Form 7004 for Partnerships is filed by the original tax deadline. An extension does not extend the amount of time to pay the tax due on the return. It is an extension of time to file, not an extension of time to pay. Any taxes due are still due on the initial deadline or additional penalties and interest will be assessed from the original filing deadline.
Many people become paralyzed with fear when they owe money to such an onerous creditor as the Internal Revenue Service. They cringe at the sight of that dreaded piece of mail – a notice from the IRS. The most important thing is to respond promptly. Ignoring the problem will only make it worse.
An IRS notice includes the amount of tax owed, plus any penalties and interest added from the date the tax was due. If you are unable to pay your balance in full, and fail to respond, the IRS will begin collection actions against you. This may include offsetting any refund to which you may be entitled, filing a notice of federal tax lien against your property, or serving a notice of levy of assets such as wages, bank accounts, Social Security benefits and retirement income. To prevent these drastic actions, you must communicate with the IRS promptly.
Florida’s Uniform Electronic Transactions Act has made it possible to create a real estate contract by way of electronic communication. A valid offer, acceptance and consideration must be present, however, to create such contract.
Agents should be mindful of what they are stating in their email communications when negotiating a real estate transaction. Florida’s statute of frauds requires contracts transferring interests in real property be in writing and signed by the party to be charged. Although one might automatically assume the words “signature” or “signed” contemplate an ink signature, adoption of the Uniform Electronic Transaction Act (UETA) by Florida, has broadened the scope of such terms to include markings, symbols, or even sounds which are intended to serve as a party’s signature to an agreement.
Buyers seeking to purchase property at foreclosure sale face the potential threat of title issues, as title to real property which has made its way through the foreclosure process may be invalid, clouded or subject to certain liens.
Certain errors or omissions in the foreclosure action may render a foreclosure judgment void and result in title of the foreclosure property reverting back to the former homeowner. Some of the most prevalent errors affecting foreclosure properties include insufficient notice, incorrect legal descriptions in the mortgage and/or foreclosure documents, and competing claims on the part of lenders as to ownership of the mortgage debt.
Quite a bit of confusion begins to stir around this time of year. Many taxpayers contact us requesting a “second extension” as the deadline approaches because they might not yet be ready to file their tax return. This stems from old extension procedures IRS had, where a "second extension" of time to file could be requested using Form 2688. Under the old extension procedures, you would request an automatic 4-month extension followed by a 2-month second extension. Since the inception of the Form 7004, the extension now grants you an extra six months to file your taxes, but there is no second extension.
In June 2012, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) announced new interim application requirements (“New Requirements”) for individuals requesting Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITINs). ITINs are issued to foreign individuals who are not eligible to obtain a social security numbers. The New Requirements will remain in effect through the end of the year and, according to IRS, “are designed to strengthen and protect the integrity of the ITIN process while minimizing the impact on taxpayers.”
Prior to implementing the New Requirements, an ITIN application (Form W-7) simply required a notarized copy of an applicant’s passport to confirm his or her identity. The New Requirements now require ITIN applicants to supply original documentation, such as passports, birth certificates, or certified copies of such originals from the issuing agency. For example, if an applicant was issued their passport in their home country (i.e. Canada, United Kingdom, Czech Republic, etc.) to properly submit an ITIN application, such applicant would be required to either surrender their original passport to the IRS or obtain written certification of a copy of the passport from the issuing office in their home country.
A quit claim deed, sometimes incorrectly referred to as a quick-claim deed, is a legal document that transfers the owners interest (the grantor) in real property, to a new owner (the grantee). The grantor thus quits his right to the property. Hence the name; quit claim deed.
Pursuant to Florida Statute Section 201.02, a documentary stamp tax is imposed on all documents that transfer interest in Florida real property. Examples of document that may transfer interest in real property include: warranty deeds, deeds in lieu of foreclosure, and quit claim deeds.
Remember as child those long rides to a summer vacation destination in the back of the family car? They seemed interminable. Cries of “ Are we there yet?” echoed through the car. The process of reaching your destination appeared endless, and that can be what it feels like to be the Seller of a short sale property.
Despite what you read in the newspapers the processing of a short sale is still imperfect. Numerous variables to contend with and without proper management, frustrations may run high. However, here are a few things you can do to assist with the process and to avoid any additional issues or hurdles.
- Consult an attorney and/or tax professional for advice regarding your particular situation. Every short sale is different so you can’t assume yours will be the same as someone you know who went through one already.
Many homeowners find themselves swimming in a pool of financial strain. While the mortgage is typically the largest debt obligation a person has, often, it is not the only financial burden keeping a borrower up all night. Mounting credit card debt, outstanding medical bills and even unpaid taxes are some common sources of stress and can contribute to the feeling of a heavy weight on someone's shoulders. The combination of these debts along with an upside-down home can leave a borrower distraught.
The thought of filing bankruptcy is horrifying for many people and they begin to seek for alternatives. But what can you do if you have fallen behind or have stopped making regular payments? Harassing phone calls, threatening letters and other tactics are used by the creditors to encourage borrowers to pay. Depending on the circumstances, it is possible to stop the stress, phone calls AND avoid bankruptcy.
In many cases, these debts can be settled with creditors for less than the full balance due.
Having more than one lien on a property can slow down the short sale process. If liens are going to be more than the sale proceeds, each must be separately negotiated as a short sale and there are a few additional steps and considerations to be made.
Recently, many 2nd lenders are requiring a short sale approval letter from the primary lender, prior to issuing their approval. Generally, the 2nd lender receives $3,000-$5,000 toward the balance of the mortgage, regardless of the amount owed. Each lender has their own approval process and they may delay the process. Occasionally 2nd lenders will grant complete debt forgiveness for the amount the 1st lender offers, however many times they are only willing to release the mortgage lien.
So you’ve decided not to walk away….what is your next step?
Just like medical problems and IRS notices, ignoring a problem with a property and a lender will not make it go away or get any better. In order to address the issues, you should discuss or negotiate with the lender. The negotiation is handled through the short sale process.
The first priority is to hire a licensed Realtor that will list the property for sale and aggressively market the property to identify potential buyers. Rarely will a lender discuss any settlement terms until an offer is received from a buyer. Once an offer is presented by a buyer and fully executed by all parties, the short sale “package” can be assembled and presented to the lender. The package consists of property data and financial information regarding the seller, and generally includes the following: hardship letter, 30 days of paystubs (or income statement if self-employed), 3 months of bank statements, 2 years of tax returns, a personal financial statement, listing agreement with the Realtor and a comparative market analysis prepared by the Realtor.
Distressed homeowners struggling to reach a resolution with their lender through short sale negotiation or loan modification often become frustrated and impatient with what may be a complicated and lengthy process. Borrowers may become tempted to accept defeat and simply walk away; allowing their lender to take their home through a foreclosure lawsuit.
At first glance walking away might seem easier than fighting a big bank. However, many borrowers who contemplate throwing their keys on the front step of their lender’s local branch fail to consider the post-foreclosure implications. Florida, unlike some states, allows lenders to pursue the remaining balance owed on a mortgage loan after completion of a foreclosure sale. This is known as a deficiency judgment. Deficiency judgments are awarded by the court and permit the lender to impose liens on property, levy bank accounts, and garnish wages of the borrower for up to 20 years.
Prior to investing in real property in the United States, a foreign person should explore several tax, corporate and liability concerns. All too often, investors do not consider these issues until they are prepared to sell the property. Unfortunately, that may cause the investor to incur additional tax, expense or liability, which might have been avoided with the appropriate planning prior to purchase.
Foreign real property owners are subject to certain withholding requirements when selling their U.S. property. In a real estate transaction involving a foreign seller, the Foreign Investment in Real Property Tax Act (“FIRPTA”) requires ten percent of the gross sales price be withheld from the sale proceeds received at closing. This withholding is remitted to the Internal Revenue Service as a deposit on the income tax liability generated from the sale. When the actual income tax resulting from the sale is reported on the seller’s tax return, the withholding will be applied and the seller will either remit a sum to satisfy the outstanding balance or will receive a refund of any excessive withholding.
With the goal of speeding up the short sale process, the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) recently issued minimum timelines for review and completion of both Home Affordable Foreclosure Alternative (HAFA) short sales and regular short sales. Although this initiative in no way guarantees an increase in approval of short sales, it does streamline the short sale process and seeks to reduce the short sale approval limbo that many buyers and sellers have experienced.
Beginning June 15, 2012, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac servicers will be required to review and respond to short sale requests within 30 days of receipt of a short sale offer or completed Borrower Response Package (BRP).