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You can't file for your $8,000 homebuyer tax credit

By Les Christie staff writer

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Did you purchase a home after Nov. 6? Don't expect your $8,000 homebuyer tax credit any time soon.

UPDATED: IRS releases new form, begins accepting claims again

Since Congress passed the tax credit last February as part of the stimulus program, more than 1.4 million buyers have scrambled to take advantage of it, according to the IRS.

All they had to do was file an amendment to their 2008 tax returns (the ones they filed last spring) and claim the promised refund of 10% of the purchase price -- up to $8,000.

"I closed on a Friday and I filed an amendment to my taxes on Monday," said Valatisha Jacinto, who purchased her Waco, Texas, home last March.

But that all changed on Nov. 6.

One CNNMoney.com reader wrote: "I bought a new home to get the $8,000 tax credit like many others. However the IRS has NOT ALLOWED ANYONE TO FILE since November 6th!! It has been over 2 MONTHS!!"

He's right. Nov. 6 marked the date that the rules changed because an extended -- and expanded -- version of the homebuyer tax credit went into effect. And that put filing for the credit on hold.

Originally, the credit was just good for first-time buyers and was slated to end on Nov. 30. But Congress extended the credit to include contracts signed by April 30 and closed by June 30. It also made a refund of up to $6,500 available to existing homeowners looking to buy something new.

And that marked the start of a new IRS paperwork wrangle.

Those homeowners who closed their sale before Nov. 6 use Form 5405 to claim the credit right away. But those closing after that date are in limbo because no form yet exists for them to file.

The IRS had been expected to come out with a revised form by early January, but it has yet to release anything.

Robert Dietz, an economist with the National Association of Home Builders who has been monitoring the situation, said the delay may be caused because numerous parties, including the Treasury Department, have to agree on how to process all the new documentation that the expanded tax credit requires. Whereas before, all you did was file a form saying you'd bought a house -- no proof required.

Now, for example, existing homeowners buying new places must provide proof that they owned and resided in their previous homes for at least five of the past eight years.

"They may just be making sure all their i's are dotted and their t's are crossed before they release it," Dietz said.

No e-filing for homebuyers

Even after the new form is ready, new filers will still face delays. Anyone who wants to claim their first-time homebuyer tax on their 2009 taxes (the ones being filed now through April 15) can't do it it electronically. That's right: Back to paper filing.

Part of that change is because the IRS has become more concerned about fraud as it discovers more people claimed the tax credit without actually purchasing property.

In October, a tax preparer, James Otto Price III, was the first person convicted of this crime. He falsely claimed the credit for 15 clients.

"Because of the scams, the IRS started sending back the amended returns and asking for proof," said Mary Mellem of David & Mary Mellem, EAs & Ashwaubenon Tax Professionals.

The IRS, she said, now requires a signed copy of the settlement statement ( HUD-1), plus a signed mortgage statement with the new address and a copy of either the taxpayer's drivers license, bank statement or pay stub, showing the new address. That paperwork slows the process.

"The system has no way of sending along the documents they're requiring," said Mellem. "Taxpayers must file a paper return instead."

The IRS points out that taxpayers can still use the electronic forms available on its Web site; they just have to print them out, attach the proof and mail everything in. And that can take quite a while.

"Taxpayers are looking at another three months before they get their returns," said Mellem. To top of page

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