Skip to main content

Does my fiance qualify for mortgage debt forgiveness tax relief?

Spring Grove, PA |

He purchased a house with a former girlfriend in 2004 and broke up and moved out of the house in 2006. They did not do anything to remove his name from the mortgage/deed, but the ex-girlfriend continued to live in the house and pay the mortgage until 2009 when she moved and stopped making payments. In 2010, the house went into foreclosure, but the bank accepted a short sale which closed in November 2010. The house was HER primary residence, but has not been his since the breakup. Does this mean that he will have to pay taxes on his half of the forgiven amount or does he qualify for tax relief through the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act? It was not a rental property (he in no way profited while she continued to live there), nor was it his "second home."

+ Read More

Attorney answers 2


A short sale under the amount of debt on the property triggers tax liability for cancellation of indebtedness under both federal and state tax laws. After a short sale, should the lender(s) forgive the debt in excess of the "sale price", your fiance and his former girlfriend will likely trigger income to the extent of debt forgiven and the lender will issue a Form 1099-C to that effect. You need to determine whether the debt is nonrecourse (not personally liable) or recourse (personally liable) because different analyses apply (i.e., Gain/Loss and Cancellation of Debt Income). Note: cancellation of debt income is taxed as ordinary income.

This situation is complicated by the fact that he can not claim the property as his principal residence after leaving. If the property is a principal residence subject to recourse debt, then I.R.C. section 108 federal exclusions for gain from the sale and discharge of acquisitional indebtedness would be applicable to transactions through 2012. However, it's important to note that cash taken out of the property value not used to improve the property is generally not qualified for exclusion and is taxable.

The amount of cancellation of debt income and available exclusions depend upon ownership percentages which may have been impacted by the ex girlfriends payments after your fiance's departure. She may well still qualify for the exclusions, but if the property can no longer be classified as his principal residence, other exclusions may be applicable including qualified real property business, insolvency or bankruptcy. You need to have your fiance meet with a professional tax advisor to review the specific facts involved.

Click "thumbs up" if you've found helpful and/or informative.


The information in this answer is for general information purposes only. Nothing on this communication should be taken as legal advice for any case or situation. Nothing herein is intended as legal advice. You should not rely upon any information as a source of legal advice, and your receipt or viewing of any such information does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and James E. Pratt.

IRS Circular 230 Disclosure: To comply with requirements imposed by the IRS, we inform you that any U. S. federal tax advice contained herein (including any attachments), unless specifically stated otherwise, is not intended or written to be used, and cannot be used, for the purposes of (i) avoiding penalties under the Internal Revenue Code or (ii) promoting, marketing or recommending to another party any transaction or matter herein.


The debt relief that you are talking about is for those that have debt relief on their primary residence. If this was not his primary residence he is not entitled to the relief. You should have a local attorney review his specific facts to determine is primary residence when the debt was forgiven to make sure he does not qualify. If this relief is not available there are three other possibilities: 1) The debt is non-recourse, 2) He went bankrupt, or 3) he is insolvent.

Any individual seeking legal advice for their own situation should retain their own legal counsel as this response provides information that is general in nature and not specific to any person's unique situation. Circular 230 Disclaimer - Advice given in this response cannot be used to eliminate penalties with the IRS or any other governmental agency.

Bankruptcy and debt topics

Recommended articles about Bankruptcy and debt

What others are asking

Can't find what you're looking for?

Post a free question on our public forum.

Ask a Question

- or -

Search for lawyers by reviews and ratings.

Find a Lawyer