Finally! California State Forgives Phantom "Income"

My colleague, Regina Brown, from San Luis Obispo, has given us a clear, concise report of the recent change in California law -- forgiven home debt is now treated by the state in a similar fashion to IRS law.


California won't tax forgiven home debt

Governor Schwarzenegger on Monday signed SB 401 (Wolk) into law providing distressed homeowners with state tax exemption on debt forgiven in a short sale, foreclosure, or loan modification.


  • SB 401 generally aligns California's treatment of taxes on forgiven mortgage debt with that of federal law.  For debt forgiven on a loan secured by a "qualified principal residence," borrowers now will be exempt from both federal and state income tax consequences.  Previously, California homeowners generally were exempt from owing federal taxes on the forgiven mortgage debt, but still were required to pay California taxes on the so-called "phantom income."
  • Qualified principal residence indebtedness is defined as debt incurred in acquiring, constructing, or substantially improving a principal residence, including both first and second mortgages.  It also includes refinance loans to the extent the funds were used to payoff a previous loan that would have qualified under these guidelines.
  • The tax relief applies to debts discharged from 2009 through 2012.  Californians who already have filed their 2009 tax returns may claim the exemption by filing a Form 540X amendment.
  • Taxpayers who do not qualify for the above exemptions (e.g., second home or rental property) still may be exempt from paying taxes on forgiven mortgage debt under other provisions.  Most notably, bankrupt taxpayers are exempt from debt relief income tax.  Also, taxpayers who are insolvent are exempt from debt relief income tax to the extent their current liabilities exceed current assets.

To read the full story, please click here.

Regina P. Brown


Regina P. Brown
Broker, Realtor®, e-Pro
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Lottie Kendall, Realtor®


CA DRE#10215160; 650-465-4547






Comment balloon 4 commentsLottie Kendall • April 20 2010 09:29AM


Hi Lottie, thanks for the re-blog.  This is great news for Californians!!!

Posted by Regina P. Brown, M.B.A., Broker, Instructor (MBA Broker Consultants) almost 11 years ago

Lottie: thanks for the re-blog - I am going to send the word out to all my partners and clients. Have a great day!

Posted by Cari Anderson almost 11 years ago

It's wonderful to hav clarification on laws and changes.  A great service by re-blogging and a hat-tip to Cani for writing it.

Posted by 1~Judi Barrett, BS Ed, Integrity Real Estate Services -IDABEL OK (Integrity Real Estate Services 118 SE AVE N, Idabel, OK 74745) almost 11 years ago

Hi all -- Yes, Regina wrote a clear and concise recap of the new law. I like to re-blog this type of article since it's important to spread the word.

Posted by Lottie Kendall, Helping make your real estate dreams a reality (Compass) almost 11 years ago