Senate Adds $15,000 Home-Buying Tax Credit to Stimulus Bill

The amendment is intended to jumpstart the housing market.

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The Senate on Wednesday approved an amendment to the economic stimulus package that would provide a tax credit of as much as $15,000 to anyone buying a primary residence during a one-year period. The measure, introduced by Sen. Johnny Isakson, a Republican from Georgia, would reportedly add $19 billion to the already-massive stimulus package.

Here's the release from Isakson's office:

The U.S. Senate today unanimously approved an amendment by U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., to stimulate the nation’s declining housing market by offering a $15,000 tax credit to individuals who purchase a home in the next year.

“It is time to fix America’s problem, not throw money at the symptoms. It is time to fix housing first. It is rare that we have a road map to success in times of difficulty, but this country has once before realized a housing crisis every bit as bad as the one we have today and economic troubles every bit as dangerous,” Isakson said. “We have a pervasive housing problem, and we have a historical precedent that works. I am proud this Senate has joined together, learned from history and repeated a method that worked by adopting this amendment.”

Specifically, Isakson’s amendment to the pending economic stimulus bill would provide a direct tax credit to any homebuyer who purchases any home. The amount of the tax credit would be $15,000 or 10 percent of the purchase price, whichever is less. Purchases must be made within one year of the legislation’s enactment, and the tax credit would not have to be repaid.

The amendment would allow taxpayers to claim the credit on their 2008 income tax return. It also seeks to prevent misuse by only allowing purchases of a principal residence and by recapturing the credit if the home is sold within two years of purchase. The amendment would sunset the current $7,500 housing tax credit on the date of enactment.

Isakson has pushed hard for a non-repayable tax credit for homebuyers because he knows that it will work. In the mid-1970s, America faced a similar housing crisis when a period of easy credit and loose underwriting flooded the market with new construction. Interest rates rose, the economy slowed and America was left with a three-year supply of vacant homes. Congress responded by passing a $2,000 tax credit for anyone purchasing a new home for their principal residence. Isakson believes the results were clear and swift as home values stabilized, housing inventory dropped and the market recovered.

Last year, Isakson introduced legislation to specifically target those homes that were causing the unprecedented increase in housing inventory by offering tax credits to individuals purchasing a foreclosed home or a home where foreclosure is pending. In April 2008, the Senate passed legislation to stimulate the nation’s declining housing market that included Isakson’s proposal. However, the final version of the legislation that was signed into law included only a $7,500 tax credit for first-time homebuyers that must be repaid over a 15-year period. Isakson’s amendment that passed today would sunset that $7,500 tax credit.

Isakson spent more than three decades in the real estate business, beginning his business career in 1967 when he opened the first Cobb County, Ga., office of a small, family-owned real estate business, Northside Realty. Isakson later served as president of Northside for 20 years, presiding over the company’s growth into the largest independent residential real estate brokerage company in the Southeast and one of the largest in America.

Isakson has not made a decision regarding his vote on the overall economic stimulus legislation.

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