Repaying the 2008 Home-Buyer Credit

People who accepted the tax credit to buy a first home in 2008 will have to start paying it back next year.

My daughter bought a condominium in 2008. Does she still need to pay back the 2008 first-time home-buyer credit? I heard that she does, but that doesn’t seem fair.

Sometimes life isn’t fair -- she does need to pay back the credit. The 2008 first-time home-buyer credit wasn’t nearly as generous as the current credit.

People who bought first homes from April 9, 2008, through December 31, 2008, could receive a tax credit of up to $7,500 if they hadn’t owned a home in the three years leading up to the purchase of their new home. But that credit must be repaid over 15 years, starting two years after they claim the credit.

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Your daughter doesn’t need to do anything this year, but she must start repaying the credit when she files her 2010 tax return next spring. If she got the maximum $7,500 credit, she must add $500 to her income tax bill each year for the next 15 years. And, if she stops using the condo as her primary residence, any remaining balance of the credit must be repaid when she files her tax return for the year she sold the home or moved. The payback amount, however, can’t exceed the amount of profit made on the sale.

The newer version of the first-time home-buyer tax credit is different. People who close on a new home from January 1, 2009, to June 30, 2010 (and sign a binding contract by April 30, 2010), can qualify for a first-time home-buyer credit of up to $8,000. This credit doesn’t need to be repaid, as long as they live in the home for at least three years. For more information about the rules for the 2009 and 2010 credit, see FAQs on the New Home Buyer Tax Credits. For details about the 2008, 2009 and 2010 credits, see the IRS’s First-Time Home Buyer Credit: Answers.

Kimberly Lankford
Contributing Editor, Kiplinger's Personal Finance

As the "Ask Kim" columnist for Kiplinger's Personal Finance, Lankford receives hundreds of personal finance questions from readers every month. She is the author of Rescue Your Financial Life (McGraw-Hill, 2003), The Insurance Maze: How You Can Save Money on Insurance -- and Still Get the Coverage You Need (Kaplan, 2006), Kiplinger's Ask Kim for Money Smart Solutions (Kaplan, 2007) and The Kiplinger/BBB Personal Finance Guide for Military Families. She is frequently featured as a financial expert on television and radio, including NBC's Today Show, CNN, CNBC and National Public Radio.