At a time when bipartisanship seems quaint, Senators Dean Heller (R-Nev.) and Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) appear to have set aside their ideological differences long enough to collaborate on legislation that would extend the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act.
Soon after the housing market collapsed, lenders reluctantly began modifying mortgages by abating interest and forgiving loan principal, and agreeing to short sales, too. In each of these scenarios, the IRS views the financial benefit the mortgagor-homeowner stands to gain at his lenders’ expense as income to be taxed. Left unremedied, those borrowers can look forward to an unhappy surprise from Uncle Sam later on.
There are some who would say, “This is yet another bailout for those who shouldn’t have gotten in over their heads in the first place!” Fair enough. But what about the folks who, for reasons outside of their control yet directly associated with the economic downturn we just endured, deserve to have their loans modified? Given the way the law reads, taxing the value of what amounts to a debt-relief windfall is appropriate. But is it right?
What frustrates me more, frankly, is that here we are talking about extending additional tax exemptions to homeowners when these same benefits have yet to be made available to so many more consumer-borrowers who are equally deserving of them.
According to the latest data from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, newly serious delinquent mortgages (payments that are more than 90 days past due) totaled 1.78 times as much than for student loans: $52.61 billion versus $29.48 billion, respectively.
No small numbers here, unless you make them comparative.
Outstanding mortgages totaled $8.17 trillion at the close of 2015 versus $1.16 trillion for student loans. Therefore, as a percentage of the total, newly serious delinquencies represented 2.5% of all student loans versus only 0.6% of all mortgages.