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10 Things You Should Know about Title Insurance: Fixed v. Variable Rates

August 28, 2009 Leave a comment

Some closing costs are fixed while others are variable. The cost of your title insurance policy and government recordation fees are dependent on the purchase price of your home, and the bulk of settlement costs are typically paid by the home buyer. However, the seller doesn’t get off scot-free. Seller fees include a fee for mortgage release procurement and deed preparations. The settlement fee is often split between buyer and seller. Home buyer fees include a title examination/abstractor fee, location survey fee and a fee to process paperwork. A title company may charge additional fees unique to each transaction, but the extent of the fees should be disclosed up front.

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10 Things You Should Know about Title Insurance: Location Weighs In

August 27, 2009 Leave a comment

Who pays for title insurance depends on where you live. Sometimes it’s the buyer who pays, sometimes it’s the seller. And sometimes the cost is split between the two. In the Washington Metro Area, for example, title insurance premiums are generally paid by the home buyer. It’s important to note that title insurance is regulated largely on the state level. If you’re conducting a little Internet research, be sure to use regional qualifiers in your search (e.g. state, county, etc.).

FIRPTA – How to protect your buyer

December 12, 2008 Leave a comment

By: Joseph Gentile

What is FIRPTA?
The Foreign Investment in Real Property Tax Act (FIRPTA), 26 U.S.C. § 1445, provides that a buyer must withhold 10 percent of the amount realized by the foreign seller in the sale of an interest in U.S. real property. If the seller is a foreign person and the buyer fails to withhold, the buyer may be held liable for the tax.

My seller is a resident alien, does that mean FIRPTA applies?
A resident alien, for purposes of FIRPTA, is not a foreign person. FIRPTA defines a foreign seller as a non-resident alien individual, a foreign corporation not treated as a domestic corporation, or a foreign partnership, trust or estate. There are two ways to determine if a person qualifies as a resident alien under FIRPTA: 1) if a person has been issued an alien registration card (“green card”) or 2) the substantial presence test that requires a person be physically present in the United States for a certain number of days a year. 183 days (pursuant to IRS Code).

My seller does not have a green card. What qualifies under the substantial presence test?
The short answer is that if your seller was physically present in the United States for at least 183 days in the previous calendar year, he or she qualifies as a resident alien and is not subject to FIRPTA withholding. Even if the seller does not meet this requirement, he or she might still be exempt from FIRPTA, by using the complicated formula found in IRS Code § 7701 that states that a seller qualifies as a resident alien if:

* the seller was present in the United States on at least 31 days during the calendar year, and
* (the number of days present in current year) + (the number of days present in preceding year x 1/3) + (the number of days present in 2nd preceding year x 1/6) equals or is greater than 183.

How do you determine the amount realized for FIRPTA?
The amount realized typically is the sales or contract price. Please note that the outstanding amount of any liability assumed by the buyer does not reduce the amount realized. If the property is owned jointly by foreign and non-foreign persons, the amount realized is to be allocated among the owner based on capital contributions, with spouses treated as having contributed 50% each. Generally, the amount to withhold is 10% of the amount realized, unless the seller is a corporation, partnership, trust, or estate in which case the amount may be 35%.

I am buying a house from a foreign person as defined by FIRPTA, what do I need to do now?
The buyer must use IRS Forms 8288 (www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/f8288.pdf) and 8288-A (www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/f8288a.pdf) to report and pay to the IRS any tax withheld on the purchase of U.S. real property interests. Generally, these forms need to filed with the IRS within 20 days of the date of transfer, defined as the date consideration is first paid, excluding earnest money or deposits. Failure of the buyer to withhold the proper amount may cause the buyer to be liable for the payment of the tax plus penalties and interest as well as possibly making the buyer subject to criminal penalties.

Even though the seller is a foreign national, are there any exceptions to the withholding?
Several exceptions do apply and exempt the buyer from withholding. Here is a partial list of the most common exceptions in a real property transfer:

* The property is purchased for $300,000.00 or less and is to be used by the buyer as his or her residence. The test for a residence is if the buyer is to reside in the property for at least 50% of the days in the next two 12 month periods.
* The seller provides to the buyer a Non-Foreign Status Certification containing the transferor’s U.S. taxpayer identification number and stating that the transferor is not a foreign person. The buyer need not investigate the validity of the certification, but will be held liable if he or she has actual knowledge that it is false.
* The seller provides to the buyer a withholding certificate from the IRS that excuses or lowers the withholding amount.
* No consideration is paid (for example the property was transferred as a gift).
* An option to acquire real property is signed (however, withholding is required on the sale when the option is exercised).
* The purchaser is the United States, a U.S. state or possession or political subdivision, or the District of Columbia.
* The seller provides a notice signed under penalties of perjury stating that the seller is not required to recognize gain or loss on the transfer because of a nonrecognition provision of the Internal Revenue Code or a provision in a U.S. tax treaty.

Where can I get more information on FIRPTA?
We would be glad to answer any questions that you might have on FIRPTA, but additional information, applicable forms, the withholding certificate application process, and more, can be found at http://www.irs.gov.

Settlement proceeds may be subject to income tax withholding

November 5, 2008 Leave a comment

Maryland Nonresident Sellers Beware:
Your Settlement Proceeds are Subject to
Income Tax Withholding

By: Jennifer Concino

A nonresident individual seller of Maryland real property may be surprised to learn that the check he walks away with from the closing table will be much less than anticipated; about six (6%) percent less than expected to be exact.

Surprisingly, many agents do not realize that their nonresident sellers may acquire a Certificate of Full or Partial Exemption from the tax, as discussed below. Indeed, we strongly advise agents to assist their nonresident sellers in applying for the Certificate of Exemption as soon as the contract of sale is executed; application for an exemption must be made to the Comptroller of Maryland no later than twenty-one (21) days before closing and with such a Certificate, the nonresident seller can walk away from settlement with all of his proceeds of sale.

In 2003, the Maryland Legislature passed an Act mandating the withholding of income tax on the sale of all real property by nonresident individuals and nonresident entities. Settlement officers are directed to ensure sufficient funds are withheld from the closing and are also required to pay the withheld tax to the recording office at the time the deed is submitted for recordation. The amount of tax currently required to be withheld is six (6%) percent of the “total payment” to a nonresident individual and 7% to a nonresident entity. Indeed, the Clerk of the Land Records office will not accept an instrument for recording unless the withheld tax is paid or the instrument refers to one of the exemptions from the withholding requirement.

Those exemptions are:

1. a certification under penalties of perjury or an acknowledgment in the deed that the seller is a resident of the State of Maryland;
2. a certification under penalties of perjury or an acknowledgment in the deed that the property sold is the seller’s primary residence as determined under the Internal Revenue Code;
3. the property is transferred pursuant to foreclosure or a deed in lieu of foreclosure;
4. the property is transferred to the government;
5. a statement in the deed indicating that the consideration paid for the property is zero; and
6. a certificate issued by the Comptroller of Maryland stating that no tax or a reduced amount of tax is due on that particular sale or that the seller has provided adequate security to cover the tax liability.

With regard to exemption to number 6. (six), above, the Comptroller has noted several circumstances under which he will issue such a certificate. A sample of those circumstances are:

* The tax due has already been paid;
* The transfer is made on an installment sales basis under Section 453 of the Internal Revenue Code;
* The seller is a tax exempt entity under Section 501(a) of the Internal Revenue Code;
* The transfer is to a partnership in exchange for a partnership interest so that no gain or loss is recognized under Section 721 of the Internal Revenue Code;
* The transfer is a like-kind exchange under Section 1031 of the Internal Revenue Code; or
* The transfer is between spouses or incident to a divorce in accordance with Section 1041 of the Internal Revenue Code.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Is the amount of tax withheld calculated on the sales price or the net proceeds?
The “total payment” on which the Maryland income tax is withheld is equal to the total sales price for the property less (1) debts of the seller securing the property that are being satisfied at closing; and (2) expenses of the seller arising out of the sale of the property that are disclosed on the settlement statement. However, debts being satisfied at settlement that are secured within ninety (90) days of closing cannot be deducted from the “total payment” calculation.

How are taxes withheld where there are both resident and nonresident joint sellers?
The “total payment” will be divided into as many shares as there are sellers. Each seller’s residency will then be separately determined and any share of a nonresident will be subject to withholding.

If income tax is withheld on the sale, does the nonresident seller still have to file a Maryland nonresident income tax return?
Yes.

If a nonresident seller believes too much money was withheld, can he request a refund before filing the nonresident income tax return for that year?
The seller may file an Application for Tentative Refund of Withholding on Sales of Real Property by Nonresidents with the Comptroller sixty (60) days or more after the tax was paid.

Is tangible personal property sold with the property by a nonresident seller also subject to withholding?
Yes.