Dear Harry: We are in the process of buying a new house. We've been married for three years and have lived in an apartment until now. The broker has told us that we'll get a tax credit on our 2009 tax return for $8,000. He wasn't sure of the details, because this is so new as part of the stimulus packages coming out of Washington. Is he just feeding us hope in order to hype-up the sale, or is this really so?
What Harry says: It's on the books as part of the program to spur home sales. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act increases the maximum credit from the $7,500 available in 2008 to $8,000 for purchases in 2009 up to Nov. 30. That's like an $8,000 reduction in the price. It's also limited to 10 percent of the price. There's no recapture (or giveback) unless the house is sold or no longer used as a principal residence during the next three years. There's one more break if you sell or change it from a principal residence. The giveback is limited to the amount of the gain (even if the gain is not taxable). Things like this give me a good feeling about how we're handling this economic downturn. *