Is getting a debt writedown a gift? Would you have to pay tax on it?

The US model of ‘short sales’ has a hidden sting in it that often gets lost in the noise, namely that the reduction of your debt is often considered a gain and it needs to be reported on your IRS Form 1099 (as opposed to a W2 or 1040) which covers income outside of wages/salaries/gratuities.

Which means that if you sold your property (we’re assuming it is in negative equity) for a €50,000 loss and the bank write that off, that in effect you have a non deductible loss which you didn’t pay and therefore you pay the tax on it (their equivalent of capital gains).

Like the US, Irish investors can offset capital losses against capital gains, in the case of your own home this doesn’t apply. In the American example a write-down creates a tax liability, although not in every state (my home-state of California being an example). This was becoming such a problem that the IRS brought out two special tax codes called ‘The mortgage forgiveness debt relief act …

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Zombie Banks acting like Zombies

I wrote a piece in today’s Irish Sun about our banks and that the state owned operations are showing a decided lack of inventiveness when it comes to helping existing borrowers.

This may be down to disincentives, issues with management or the Department of Finance, but suffice to say, it doesn’t make sense that non-state owned banks and foreign banks are innovating in potentially beneficial ways for their customers and the banks we paid to save are not.

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Investor defaults and ‘receivers of rent’

Today Bank of Ireland chief Richie Boucher spoke about strategic defaulters, the wording used was different, he spoke about tendencies to engage in “a diversion of rental income that should be coming to the bank”.

Who will the receivers be? I suspect it will be some of the well known estate agents who I know are in talks with other banks on the same basis. The ‘receiver of rent’ clause in many mortgage contracts is often unenforced. The ability to obtain it is not generally contested but it still requires a court order and then the operational difficulty of getting to the property to explain this to the tenant and then taking over the collection of the rent.

Why has the level of arrears spiked in the investment pool of business? Theories abound, my own (which makes me vastly unpopular) is that it is down to making a business decision in favour of oneself. However, getting a rent receiver is not a ‘fix’ and I think Bank of Ireland will …

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Allsops Auctions are back – This March

We spoke to Brian O’Donovan from TV3 News about the upcoming Allsop/Space auction in March. One property is listed at €7,500. Even if you priced the land at zero or used construction costs this property is undervalued because the actual materials that go into building it would cost more to purchase.

Obviously the idea of ‘value’ isn’t just about materials, it’s also about utility and for that reason the materials assembled (construction) in a certain location may make them somewhat worthless, but it is an interesting development to note.

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Standard Financial Statement or SFS – for people in mortgage arrears

If you go into arrears on your mortgage or you talk to your lender because you believe you are a ‘pre-arrears’ candidate then you will be asked to fill in a ‘Standard Financial Statement‘ or SFS which is part of the Mortgage Arrears Resolution Process (MARP) which started last year.

Engaging with the lender is a key tenet of this and filling in the SFS and liaising with the lender on aspects of it. The information in this is what will be used to negotiate the repayment that you will pay in cases where lifestyle adjustment does not allow you to make the full payment.

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RTE News: Personal Insolvency Bill, January 2012

Paul Colgan from RTE covered this story about the proposed Personal Insolvency Bill which will update Ireland’s dated debt legislation. This is a more humane approach to dealing with debt issues and we are pleased to see it coming to fruition. Any legislation will have teething issues and will not be perfect, but this is definitely a step in the right direction.

Our foremost concern (as echoed in the clip) is about the regulation and oversight of any plan.

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TV3 The Morning Show: Health Insurance, Car Insurance, Credit Unions

We were talking about health insurance, car insurance and credit unions this month on TV3’s personal finance slot. On health insurance in particular we highlighted that you don’t have to go from ‘having cover’ to having zero cover, instead you could opt for the likes of the Hospital Saturday Fund which is a cash plan (pays out on health related spending but isn’t like regular insurance).

Car insurance was also a topic – the new EU ruling will make it illegal to rate men and women differently based on their sex alone from 21st December this year.

Credit Unions were (and are) in the news because of problems they are having. We’ll be back with TV3 next month for more!

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