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House approves homebuyer tax credit extension

By Tami Luhby, senior writer

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- The House of Representatives voted Tuesday to give first-time homebuyers three more months to close on their purchases and land an $8,000 federal income tax credit.

But the Senate had better act fast - the deadline is currently Wednesday.

The bill doesn't help anyone currently shopping for a home. Buyers must have signed a contract by April 30 to qualify for the tax break. At issue is when the deal must be finalized.

The House voted 409 to 5 to delay the closing deadline to Sept. 30 in a stand-alone measure. The move comes nearly a week after the Senate failed to advance a much larger jobs bill that contained the tax credit provision.

The smaller House bill would lower the deficit by $9 million over a decade since it is offset by certain other provisions.

An estimated 200,000 people may miss out on the tax credit because they won't be able to close by close of business Wednesday. Many are trying to take advantage of short sales, which are complicated deals to complete.

The measure also seeks to reduce fraud associated with the credit. Some 1,300 prison inmates are thought to have claimed and received more than $9 million in tax credits, according to a Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration report released earlier this month. The bill would allow the Internal Revenue Service to disclose tax return information to prison administrators.

Senate Democrats introduced a similar bill Tuesday, with Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., saying the measure "should be passed swiftly."

In a related move, the House failed to pass a measure extending the deadline to file for unemployment benefits until Nov. 30. More than 1 million people are estimated to have exhausted this lifeline since the deadline expired earlier this month. The provision, which would raise the deficit by $34 billion, was also included in the Senate bill that failed to advance last Thursday.

The House is expected to take up the legislation again on Wednesday. The Senate bill introduced Tuesday evening would also extend benefits through November. To top of page

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