Lose Your House, Get Screwed By The I.R.S.by Doug Mataconis
It’s bad enough to end up in an economic conundrum where you lose your house to foreclosure, but, wait, there’s something worse waiting for you from your
friends fiends at the Internal Revenue Service:
Two years ago, William Stout lost his home in Allentown, Pa., to foreclosure when he could no longer make the payments on his $106,000 mortgage. Wells Fargo offered the two-bedroom house for sale on the courthouse steps. No bidders came forward. So Wells Fargo bought it for $1, county records show.
Despite the setback, Mr. Stout was relieved that his debt was wiped clean and he could make a new start. He married and moved in with his wife, Denise.
But on July 9, they received a bill from the Internal Revenue Service for $34,603 in back taxes. The letter explained that the debt canceled by Wells Fargo upon foreclosure was subject to income taxes, as well as penalties and late fees. The couple had a month to challenge the charges.
For those who struggle to pay their bills, who watch their housing payments rise out of reach with their adjustable-rate mortgages, who lose a job or who fall victim to illness, losing one’s home can feel like hitting bottom. But one more financial indignity may await as the fallout from the great housing boom ripples across the United States.
“Getting that tax bill,” Mrs. Stout recalled, “my first thought was that I needed to see my family doctor to help me with my stress, because we had a big mortgage and other debt and then here came the I.R.S. saying we owe this.”
In other words, we’re here from Uncle Sam to tell you that even though you’ve lost your house, and you’re probably unemployed, we’re still gonna suck you dry based upon a definition of “income” that even the drafters of the 16th Amendment would’ve thought ridiculous.