The popular federal tax credit of up to $8,000 provided to first-time home buyers who purchase a home in 2009 due to expire November 30th has been extended until April 30, 2010.  In addition, a new tax credit up to $6,500 will be available to certain "step-up" (or downsizing) homebuyers who are current homeowners who have resided in their homes for at least five years.


The original 2009 tax credit was part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.  On November 6, 2009, President Obama signed the "Worker, Homeownership and Business Assistance Act of 2009" into law.  The first-time homebuyer tax credit is equal to 10% of the purchase price of a home, up to a maximum credit of $8,000.  It is available to certain first-time home buyers who purchase a main residence on or after January 1 and before December 1, 2009.   This tax credit has now been extended to April 30, 2010.  Closing must occur by April 30th, or a binding contract must be entered into by that date with closing to occur within 60 days.  First-time home buyers who purchased their main home in 2008 are entitled to a credit of up to $7,500. The new credit for step-up homebuyers starts on December 1, 2009.  This article is limited to a discussion of the tax credit available for 2009 purchases, including the recent extension and expansion of that credit.


There are some limitations on the available credit as extended.  First, the credit is only available for homes costing up to $800,000.  Homes costing in excess of $800,000 are not eligible.  Purchasers under the age of 18 cannot claim the credits.


There are income limits as well.  Under the original provisions, you were  allowed the full amount of the credit, i.e., $8,000,  if your modified adjusted gross income was $75,000 or less, if single, and $150,000 or less, if married filing jointly.  These income levels have been increased by the recent legislation so that you are allowed the full credit with an income up to $125,000 for single filers and $225,000 for married filers.  The credit is not available to taxpayers with incomes greater than $145,000 for single filers and $245,000 for married filers.  Between these two income levels for each type of filer, the credit is gradually phased out.  


The credit is available to first-time home buyers who are purchasing a main home, i.e., principal residence, whether it is a house – new or resale – mobile home, condominium, cooperative apartment, etc.  The purchase must occur by April 30, 2010, or the purchaser must have entered into a  binding contract by midnight April 30, 2010 with closing to occur within 60 days.   The purchase date is the closing date, when title transfers to the buyer.  For someone who is constructing their main home (not buying it from a home builder), the purchase date is the date you first occupy it.


If the home ceases to be your main home within three years of the closing date, it is possible that the credit will be recouped by the government.


A first-time home buyer is someone over age 18, who has not owned another main home during the 3-year period immediately preceding the closing date of the qualifying purchase.  If you or your spouse owned a main home during the three preceding years, then neither will qualify for the credit. 


The new tax credit of 10% of the purchase price of a home, up to $6,500, is available starting December 1st to homeowners (and their spouses) who have lived in their current home for five consecutive years out of the eight years preceding the closing on their new home.