When transfer tax becomes controversial

The legislative process encourages discourse for proposed legislation.  The result is a bill that is passed or defeated.  Regardless, proposed housing market and real estate legislation is not typically exciting; and in fact the minutia of the bill can be downright boring and/or confusing.  However, there are occasions when proposed legislation has the potential to affect home owners and buyers such that it can create a brouhaha.

First, let’s review a few bills passed by the Maryland General Assembly: The first has to do with agency.  Currently, “licensees” are required to provide the Maryland Real Estate Commission’s Understanding Whom Real Estate Agents Represent at the time of first face to face meeting and is a notice to the consumer.  The disclosure explains seller’s agents, agents who represent the buyer, and dual agents.  For many home buyers, the first face to face meeting of an agent is at an open house, and are supposed to be given the disclosure by the agent sitting at the open house regardless if the buyer has an agent or not.  The new law is to simplify the disclosure, eliminating redundant notices and allowing agents at open houses to post who they represent instead of the asking every visitor to sign the disclosure.

Another change is how agents recommend service providers.  The current requirement is for agents to check the licensing status of all recommended service providers, ensuring that the provider is currently licensed in Maryland.  The new law will only require agents to annually check home improvement licenses of recommended contractors.

The General Assembly also passed legislation that will require home sellers throughout the state to disclose deferred water and sewer charges. Additionally, legislation was passed that adds requirements to the state brokerage licensing exemption for attorneys.

Still with me?  Good.  Local residents should be aware of the Montgomery County Council’s attempt to fast track a bill to increase the county’s recordation tax on real estate transactions.  On April 14th, Expedited Bill 15-16, Recordation Tax – Rates – Allocations – Amendments was introduced by Council President Nancy Floreen.  Recordation tax is collected when a home is sold, and when a home owner refinances a mortgage.  If passed, it will become effective July 1st 2016 (which is about 2 months from now!).

The Greater Capital Area Association of Realtors® issued an April 18th press release opposing the bill, stating that it unfairly targets home buyers and home owners by increasing a tax that is already among the highest in the state.

In an April 12th memorandum to Councilmembers (page 7 of pdf) Councilmember Floreen stated: “While nobody likes the idea of increasing taxes of any kind, our needs are great, and this tax is less likely to affect those Montgomery County residents who are struggling most. On the up side, it will generate millions of dollars to support our desperate need for new schools and educational facility improvements. What’s more, a portion of the recordation tax is earmarked for affordable housing.”

Although aspirations for certain projects may be well intentioned, Councilmember Floreen should consider that further burdening home buyers in an already high cost area for real estate could impact homeownership and make “affordable housing” less affordable.  Furthermore, the average Montgomery County home owner refinancing their mortgage may not be struggling, but they are trying to get by the best they can in a high cost of living area.

By Dan Krell
Copyright © 2016

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Disclaimer. This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Readers should not rely solely on the information contained herein, as it does not purport to be comprehensive or render specific advice. Readers should consult with an attorney regarding local real estate laws and customs as they vary by state and jurisdiction. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws.

Medicare tax on real estate transactions

medicare taxAs pundits and commentators speculate about the Supreme Court’s opinion on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (PPACA), the National Association of Realtors® (NAR) reminds us that the 3.8% tax on unearned income imposed by PPACA is not a transfer tax. This is a tax collected on “unearned income” is to be applied to the Medicare Trust Fund (e.g. a medicare tax).

Although the new tax is not a transfer tax, it could apply to your home sale. Unlike transfer taxes, which are collected by state and local governments when real property is transferred between individuals; the “Medicare tax” is not calculated on the sale price nor is not applied to the proceeds from every real estate transaction. Rather, the tax provision kicks in when specific thresholds are met.

Incidentally, even though a real estate transaction may meet the threshold to be taxed under the new Medicare tax; it’s not the only “unearned income” that may be taxed under this provision. According to the NAR “Medicare tax faq”, “Unearned income is the income that an individual derives from investing his/her capital. It includes capital gains, rents, dividends and interest income. It also comes from some investments in active businesses if the investor is not an active participant in the business. The portion of unearned income that is subject both to income tax and the new Medicare tax is the amount of income derived from these sources, reduced by any expenses associated with earning that income. (Hence the term “net” investment income.)”

real estate - doctor officeTo clarify, Henry Paula explains the Medicare tax in his January 2011 article (Planning for affluent taxpayers under the 2010 healthcare reform. The CPA Journal, 81(1), 46-47); “Under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) …there is a new 3.8% tax imposed on the net investment income of certain individuals, estates, and trusts considered to be high earners.”…“For tax years beginning after Dec 31, 2012, a 3.8% tax, called the Unearned Income Medicare Contribution, will be imposed on the lesser of net investment income or an individual’s modified adjusted gross income in excess of: $250,000 if married filing jointly, $125,000 if married filing separately, or $200,000 if filing single.” Mr. Paula summarizes, “The 3.8% tax will affect taxpayers with business activity income from activities that are passive for the particular taxpayer and generate net investment income that, when combined with other income, is in excess of the thresholds…”

The NAR gives this example (from the Medicare tax faq), “If AGI for a single individual is $275,000, then the excess over $200,000 would be $75,000 ($275,000 minus $200,000). Assume that this individual’s net investment income is $60,000. The new 3.8% tax applies to the smaller amount. In this example, $60,000 of net investment income is less than the $75,000 excess over the threshold. Thus, in this example, the 3.8% tax is applied to the $60,000… If this single individual had AGI [of] $275,000 and net investment income of $90,000, then the new tax would be imposed on the smaller amount: the $75,000 of excess over $200,000.”

Aside from the anticipation of the Supreme Court opinion, the new Medicare tax will begin in 2013. If you’re planning a home sale, consult your CPA, financial planner, and any other tax specialist to determine if (and how) the new Medicare tax applies to your situation.

Original located at https://dankrell.com/blog/2012/04/05/medicare-tax-on-real-estate-transactions-and-other-unearned-income/

By Dan Krell

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This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws. Copyright © 2012 Dan Krell.

Transfer tax controversy brews in Maryland Counties

by Dan Krell © 2010

Most real estate issues usually do not grab people’s attention – unless they are the ones affected. Eminent domain is a prime example; those affected usually become embroiled in the controversy. One current issue that you may have heard (although you may not have become fully aware) of is the transfer tax controversy that’s brewing in Montgomery and Anne Arundel Counties. The anticipated opinion on the controversy from the Maryland Attorney General may have lasting and widespread consequences on how transfer tax is calculated in this state.

The controversy surrounds the decision from Montgomery and Anne Arundel Counties to collect transfer tax on the “forgiven” mortgage amounts in a short sale. At face value, the policy of collecting transfer tax on the unpaid portion of a short sale appears to be a way for the counties to compensate for their declining tax base; however the fundamental method of calculating state and county transfer tax may be more the issue. On January 12th, however, Montgomery County put “a hold” on the collection of transfer tax of the “forgiven” mortgage amount until the Maryland Attorney General issues his opinion.

The “forgiven” mortgage amount is the amount that the seller’s lender agrees to not collect at the settlement of a short sale. However, this amount is not literally forgiven as the lender typically either considers it income and issues a 1099 to the seller or pursues payment through a deficiency judgment against the seller. Since part of the requirement for a short sale is usually to provide evidence of a hardship, some critics have argued that the collection of transfer tax on “forgiven” mortgage amounts to be punitive.

The collection of transfer tax on forgiven mortgage amounts should not be confused with “nominal consideration” rules that are used in some jurisdictions around the country (including Washington, DC). “Nominal consideration” rules typically calculate additional transfer tax when the sales price is less than the assessed value. In Washington, DC, a transaction is considered to be of “nominal consideration” when the sales price is less than 30% of the assessed value.

Title 13 of the Tax-Property section of the Code of Maryland (COMAR) discusses the collection of transfer tax by the State and counties, as well as tax rates and possible exemptions. COMAR discusses various ways in which transfer taxes are calculated and collected; for example tax is calculated on the “consideration payable for the instrument of writing”; and the tax is “imposed on the instrument of writing.”

Some may have mistakenly thought that consideration is only the sales price and the instrument in writing is only the deed; however, others have argued that consideration also includes additional amounts involved in a transaction (such as assumed loans) and instruments in writing to also include deeds of trust. I am not an attorney and I am not attempting to practice or interpret law, but it appears that clarification from the Attorney General has become necessary in interpreting “consideration” and “instruments of writing” when calculating transfer tax in today’s market.

You might consider the collection of forgiven mortgage amounts another sign of a depreciated real estate market. However, the future of transfer tax calculation and collection (at least locally) is sure to be affected by the highly anticipated opinion of Attorney General Gansler.

This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Using this this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws. Copyright © 2010 Dan Krell

**Update—HB 590/SB 657 – Taxation of Forgiven Debt in Short Sales
STATUS: PASSED – Effective May 20, 2010.
This law clarifies that recordation and transfer taxes MAY NOT be imposed on the forgiven debt in short sale transactions.