The Pileup Behind the Fiscal Slope, and the Consequences of Inaction

By: Friday December 21, 2012 10:23 am

Say what you will about the 2010 deal to extend the Bush tax cuts, which helped to set up what we’re seeing this month. But there was definitely a virtue in getting it done by early December, allowing for a productive lame duck session that repealed Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, passed the New START arms reduction treaty, and several other measures. Because this entire lame duck has been consumed with fiscal slope negotiations, and really only the tax rate and social insurance part of it, bills that might have had a chance to pass through Congress if the pipeline were unclogged instead remain dormant. And unlike 2010, the bills in question in 2012 are more of the must-pass variety.

 

The Housing Cliff

By: Monday December 10, 2012 9:02 am

Forgive me if I slip into a cliff metaphor, but the employment of the tool actually makes more sense in this context. The fact is that the expiration of the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act, as explained by Adam Levin of Credit.com, represents a real threat to a nascent housing recovery, because it will put a deep freeze on a very large chunk of current US home sales.

Short Sales Increase As Debt Relief Tax Time Bomb Nears

By: Friday December 7, 2012 5:54 am

I’ve had more than a few assurances that Congress would get its act together and pass an extension of the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act, so that underwater homeowners who get some debt relief won’t have a big tax bill staring them in the face to make their financial situation even worse. But if that’s the case, you have to wonder why lenders are packing in so many short sales as we near the expiration date.

FHFA’s Christmastime Moral Relativism and the New New Housing Market

By: Wednesday December 5, 2012 9:45 am

FHFA has situational ethics here. They rail against states with long foreclosure timelines, even increasing their guarantee fees. But when faced with headlines about foreclosures during Christmas, they become beneficent, and act to increase foreclosure timelines.

Lack of a “Foreclosure Wave” Determined By Banks

By: Friday November 30, 2012 6:37 am

Missing here is any understanding of who controls the timing of a so-called foreclosure wave. Banks do the foreclosing, after all, and it’s really up to them whether or not to put inventory on the market or to foreclose at all. And in both cases, they haven’t moved forward for very specific reasons.

Financial Services Roundtable Joins Up With Homeowner Group to Urge Extension of Mortgage Debt Forgiveness Tax Relief

By: Thursday November 29, 2012 4:00 pm

It’s not often that the homeowner advocates at the Center for Responsible Lending and the bank lobbyists at the Financial Services Roundtable agree on anything. But they’re teaming up on urging Congress to extend the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act, which would continue the foreclosure crisis-era policy of forgiving payment of taxes on debt forgiveness like a principal reduction or a short sale.

In letters to the Senate Finance Committee and the House Ways and Means Committee, which have jurisdiction over tax law, CRL and the FSR describe the debt relief law as “critical to helping homeowners and communities struggling with the ongoing foreclosure crisis.” They also note that failing to extend the law would threaten a housing recovery.

Short Sales Continue to Dominate Consumer Relief in Foreclosure Fraud Settlement

By: Monday November 19, 2012 7:52 am

The second report from the Office of Mortgage Settlement Oversight has arrived, and it shows a continuation of one trend, tempered by the first batch of consumer relief in the form of actual principal reductions.

Another Foreclosure Fraud Settlement Scam: Banks Trying to Get Credit for Already Discharged Debt

By: Sunday September 30, 2012 12:55 pm

Though I’m not sure anyone pays attention to them anymore, the President delivered his weekly address this weekend, and it was all about how Congress has to help “responsible” homeowners (because the irresponsible ones deserve nothing, after all they fleeced those responsible banks to get the loan). In the address, President Obama contrasted his approach with a Congress that won’t expand refinancing for underwater borrowers, by saying that his Administration “teamed up with state attorneys general to investigate the terrible way many homeowners were treated, and secured a settlement from the nation’s biggest banks – banks that were bailed out with taxpayer dollars – to help families stay in their homes.”

So what about that? We know from early reports that the bulk of the consumer relief in the first three months of the foreclosure fraud settlement went to short sales, which involve families forced into SELLING their homes, not staying in them. The bulk of these short sales, which amount to a bank waiving the right to seek money from a homeowner who sells a home for less than they owe on their mortgage, occurred in states whose laws bar banks from going after those homeowners anyway.

Republican Dan Lungren Working to Gain Support to Avoid Principal Reduction Tax Time Bomb

By: Tuesday September 18, 2012 12:29 pm

Here’s some good news in an otherwise dispiriting Congressional session. A Republican House member is trying to accumulate support for a bill that would extend the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act by three years. As I’ve been reporting, a failure to extend this law would mean that all debt forgiveness, in the form of principal reductions or short sales, would be viewed for tax purposes as earned income for the borrower, leading to a giant tax bill on the phantom income.

Principal Reduction Tax Time Bomb Generates More Discussion

By: Tuesday September 11, 2012 2:55 pm

About a month ago, I wrote in Salon about a potential time-bomb embedded in the efforts to increase debt relief for mortgages, the expiration of the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act. Finally, some mainstream sources have gotten around to reporting on this, in basically the same way and with even many of the same principals quoted. Jim Puzzanghera writes at the LA Times:

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