The Internal Revenue Service has released updated information on the First-Time Homebuyer Credit and the tax refund problems encountered by some married taxpayers.

Last week, the IRS sent an alert to electronic filers recommending new procedures when e-filing for a repayment of the tax credit (see IRS Recommends E-file Changes for Homebuyer Tax Credit). In a new page on its Web site, the IRS provided an update Wednesday on the problem, which primarily involves 2008 home purchases.

While most tax returns are processing normally, the IRS said it “recognizes the hardship caused by delayed refunds, and it has assigned additional staff and resources to address the issues promptly.”

Taxpayer returns claiming a home purchase in 2010 are not affected, the IRS noted, and those returns are being processed as are the vast majority of other homebuyer returns.
However, the IRS added that it has identified a processing issue that primarily affects refunds for married couples filing joint returns this year who received the First Time Homebuyer credit on their 2008 tax return. The credit, according to the IRS, is considered to be “an interest-free loan, and must be paid back beginning this year under the provisions of the law.”

The problem, which relates to Form 5405, First-Time Homebuyer Credit and Repayment of the Credit, primarily affects Married Filing Jointly taxpayers who filed their tax returns this year before Feb. 22. The IRS said it is working “aggressively” to manually process the tax returns for this group of taxpayers. The agency expects most, if not all, of these refunds to be available by April 5, and others the following week.(The date assumes that there are no other issues with their return, and that their refunds are not subject to any offsets for unpaid federal taxes or other debts.)

There are also problems being encountered for taxpayers who received the First-Time Homebuyer Credit and are now reporting the sale or disposition of their home, and taxpayers who received the credit and are attempting to pay back more than the amount required (typically $500). The issues in these two cases require changes to IRS’s core tax processing systems. The IRS said it is actively working on the development and testing of the required changes that will allow it to process these impacted tax returns and issue refunds. However, the IRS does not currently have a definitive date for when these changes will be complete, although it will be in April.  The IRS said it would update the Web page describing the problems as soon as it has a more specific date range.

The IRS said it appreciates that taxpayers affected by this issue “are anxious to get the status of their refund.”  For those who have already filed, no action is necessary, according to the IRS. They can check “Where’s My Refund” at for updates. Because the IRS is already aware of this issue and is taking corrective action, there is no need to call.

For those who have not yet filed and are making a repayment of a First Time Homebuyer Credit this year, there is a simple step taxpayers can take to help speed processing, according to the IRS. Couples filing a joint return for tax year 2010 who received the credit on their jointly filed 2008 tax return should file two 5405 forms, one for each taxpayer. For couples filing a joint return for 2010 but who had a different filing status in 2008 and only one spouse received the credit, the IRS recommends filing one Form 5405 for the taxpayer who received the credit. For full details, see the March 18 Quick Alert.

Other factors may also have an impact on refunds besides the First Time Homebuyer Credit, the IRS added. The time frames above assume there are no other issues impacting the taxpayer refund, including federally mandated offsets to refunds.

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