Congress Expands Homeowner Tax Breaks

If you were rushing to close on a house before the end of the year, slow down. Congress voted to extend the $8,000 first-time homebuyer tax credit, Thursday.

The push came as the original legislation neared its November expiration date. First-time homebuyers — and those planning to purchase a home for the first time in three or more years — now have until April 30 to take advantage of the offer.

The Senate voted 98-0 to extend and expand the credit to include many buyers who already owned homes, Wednesday, and the House passed the bill the following day.

President Barack Obama signed the $24 billion stimulus bill into law in a ceremony at the White House, today.

The expansion will allow buyers who’ve owned their current homes for at least five years eligible for tax credits of up to $6,500. First-time homebuyers — or anyone who hasn’t owned a home in the last three years — would still get up to $8,000. To qualify, buyers have to sign a purchase agreement by April 30, 2010, and close by June 30.

The credit is available for the purchase of primary homes costing $800,000 or less. The credit will be phased out for individuals with annual incomes above $125,000 and for joint filers with incomes above $225,000, up from the current first-time buyer thresholds of $75,000 per individual and $150,000 per couple.

Members of the military serving outside the United States for at least 90 days will have until June 30, 2011, to take advantage of the credit.

Other benefits included in the legislation:

–Congress extended unemployment benefits an additional 14 weeks. States where unemployment tops 8.5% will get an additional six weeks.

–Businesses that have incurred losses in 2008 and 2009 can seek refunds for taxes paid on profits over the past five years.

For information on purchasing a home, be sure to check out the Homebuyer’s Toolkit.

Renita Burns is the editorial assistant at