Short Sale Tax Consequences

As a Massachusetts Realtor that has been doing quite a few successful short sales, one of the things I like to make sure of when I meet a potential client that is looking to do a short sale is to give them a complete understanding of how they work.

Short sales can be complicated transactions. Anyone who regularly participates in short sales knows that almost every single transaction is different. Every lender has their own set of rules on how they go about completing a short sale.

One of the things in particular that I feel is extremely important to educate a seller doing a short sale is the tax consequences. There are different sets of rules regarding short sale tax liability depending on whether or not the home was a primary residence or not.

If you are selling your primary residence as a short sale, The Mortgage Debt Relief Act of 2007 generally allows taxpayers to exclude income from the discharge of debt. The debt reduced through mortgage restructuring, as well as mortgage debt forgiven in connection with a short sale or foreclosure, qualifies for the relief granted.

The Mortgage Debt Relief Act applies to debt forgiven in calendar years 2007 through January 2014. The Debt Relief Act actually was set to expire at the end of 2012 however, congress has since extended the act for another year. Up to $2 million of forgiven debt is eligible for this exclusion or $1 million if married but filing separately. The exclusion does not apply if the discharge is due to services performed for the lender or any other reason not directly related to a decline in the home’s value or the taxpayer’s financial condition. This act was put in place for the specific purpose of helping home owners avoid the financial hardship caused by doing a short sale.

Prior to this relief act being put in place the IRS would treat the forgiveness of a debt as taxable income. The logic behind this is when you take out a mortgage there as an assumed obligation that you will be paying it back. When money is borrowed, the borrower is not required to include the loan proceeds as income because the borrower has to pay back the loan. When the obligation to pay back the loan is removed, the amount of the proceeds the buyer received becomes reportable as income because there is no longer an obligation to repay.

When there is a cancellation of debt, the lender is usually required to report the amount of the canceled debt to you and the IRS on a Form 1099-C, Cancellation of Debt. Eligible home owners also must complete IRS form 982 which must be included with the Federal tax return to claim the mortgage relief.

If you are selling a property and it is not your principle residence you will be paying taxes on the short sale deficiency that is forgiven!

Short sale debt removal

This is obviously a key consideration when determining whether doing a short sale is the right move or not. Debts forgiven that do not fall under the debt relief act include rental properties, business properties, 2nd homes and car loans. Credit cards also do not apply unless you were insolvent just prior to the cancellation of debt.

The most common situations when the cancellation of debt income is NOT taxable include:

  • Qualified principal residence indebtedness: This is the exception created by The Mortgage Debt Relief Act of 2007 and applies to most homeowners.
  • Bankruptcy: Debts discharged through bankruptcy are not considered taxable income.
  • Insolvency: If you are insolvent when the debt is cancelled, some or all of the cancelled debt may not be taxable to you. You are insolvent when your total liabilities exceed the fair market value of your total assets.
  • Certain farm debts: If you incurred the debt for the purpose of running a farm, more than half your income from the prior three years was from farming, and the loan was owed to a person or agency regularly engaged in lending, your cancelled debt is generally not considered taxable income.
  • Non-recourse loans: A non-recourse loan is a loan for which the lender’s only remedy in case of default is to repossess the property being financed or used as collateral. In other words the lender is not allowed to pursue you personally in case of a default. Forgiveness of a non-recourse loan resulting from a foreclosure does not result in cancellation of debt income. However, it may result in other tax consequences.

Whenever I am dealing with a short sale and there are tax questions, I always recommend speaking to a qualified tax professional or attorney who is well versed in these matters.

One of the other things I would pay careful attention to is getting your Massachusetts short sale debt discharged. There are a lot of Realtors who are doing short sales and do not have a clue about debt release. You do not want to get caught with your pants down on this! Having a collection agency chase you for unpaid debts is probably not a pleasant experience!

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If you are needing to complete a short sale of your home or condo in Ashland, Bellingham, Blackstone, Douglas, Framingham, Franklin, Grafton, Holliston, Hopkinton, Hopedale, Medway, Mendon, Milford, Millbury, Millville, Natick, Northboro, Northbridge, Shrewsbury, Southboro, Sutton, Wayland, Westboro, Whitinsville, Worcester, Upton and Uxbridge MA. Get in touch! I would love to interview for the chance to represent your best interests.

I am successfully completing short sales through out the Metrowest Massachusetts area. So far, knock on wood, I have a 100% success rate for short sale approval!

If you are not in the Metrowest Massachusetts area and need to do a short sale please feel free to contact me and I would be happy to refer you to a Realtor in your location that handles short sales and knows what they are doing!


About the author: The above Real Estate information on short sale tax consequences was provided by Bill Gassett, a Nationally recognized leader in his field. Bill can be reached via email at or by phone at 508-435-5356. Bill has helped people move in and out ofmany Metrowest towns for the last 24+ Years.

Thinking of selling your home? I have a passion for Real Estate and love to share my marketing expertise!

I service the following towns in Metrowest MA: Ashland, Bellingham, Blackstone, Douglas, Framingham, Franklin, Grafton, Holliston, Hopkinton, Hopedale, Medway, Mendon, Milford, Millbury, Millville, Natick, Northboro, Northbridge, Shrewsbury, Southboro, Sutton, Wayland, Westboro, Whitinsville, Worcester, Upton and Uxbridge MA.