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Posted by Jim McClaflin, EA, NTPI Fellow, CTRC

What is a First-Time Homebuyer Credit & How Does it Work?

What is a First-Time Homebuyer Credit & How Does it Work?

The first-time home buyer's tax credit was introduced during the 2008 financial crisis to help Americans buy more affordable homes. Although there are many other mortgage and loan programs, the tax provision was strictly for first-time home buyers. Simply put, it gave homebuyers a significant tax credit for the year they bought their home. Unfortunately, this credit no longer exists. However, in April 2021, legislation was introduced to create a new refundable credit of up to $15,000 for first-time home buyers. Below, we'll look at what the tax credit program has done and explore other mortgage programs that can still help you save money for your first home. A financial expert can help you plan your home purchase and other financial goals.

First-Time Homebuyer Act of 2021

The legislation was introduced in April 2021 to support first-time homeowners with a refundable credit of up to $15,000.

Known as the First-Time Homebuyer Act of 2021, this legislation aims to encourage "housing stability and generational wealth-building opportunities for low- and middle-income Americans, especially among historically marginalized communities."

The text of the bill provides that first-time buyers of a principal residence in the United States can claim a tax credit equal to 10% of the purchase price of the taxable property during this tax year. However, this tax credit cannot exceed $15,000. Depending on your tax filing status, the bill limits the credit to $7,500 for married people filing separately.

2008 First-Time Homebuyer Tax Credit

The president Obama administration first enacted the federal homebuyer tax credit in 2008. It was created in response to the financial crisis of 2008. The HERA (Housing and Economic Recovery Act) allowed new home buyers to obtain a tax credit of up to $7,500 in the first year. In 2009, Congress increased first-time homebuyers' earnings to $8,000. After the first two years, HERA underwent some minor changes. Under this initiative, first-time home buyers could get a tax credit or a mortgage they would have to repay later. Although the changes were minimal, the mission was the same: to help first-time home buyers.

Unfortunately, it no longer exists if you are still looking for first-time buyer credit. The program ended in 2010. However, people who bought their homes before 2010 are still eligible for the tax credit initiative. You might be eligible if your closing took place on or before September 30, 2010. However, people who bought their homes after 2010 will not be eligible for the tax credit.

Other types of help for first-time homebuyers

Although the 2008 tax credit no longer exists, you can get mortgage assistance through other programs. These incentives for first-time home buyers vary by state and local level. But you can start your search process with a little research online. One of the best places to look for these incentives is on state and local government websites.

The HUD (The US Department of Housing and Urban Development) also offers homebuyers loan and grant options. You will also need to research lenders in your area. In most cases, they will be able to provide comprehensive professional advice on existing programs and the application process. 

An MCC (Mortgage Credit Certificate) is a tax credit given by the Internal Revenue Service to low- and middle-income homebuyers. The program is generally only available to first-time home buyers. Terms vary by state. A Mortgage Credit Certificate can be a great way to use your home to save on taxes, but there are hidden drawbacks and costs, so be careful when deciding to use the program.

Finally, many first-time home buyer loan programs often allow people with low to moderate incomes or sub-stellar credit scores to live part of the American dream: to buy a house. 

Finally, the IRS allows first-time home buyers to withdraw up to $10,000 from their traditional individual retirement accounts (IRAs and Roth IRAs) to help buy or build a home. You can use the money without paying the 10% early withdrawal fee, but you'll still have to pay normal income tax on the withdrawal.

What deductions do you qualify for after buying a home?

Although the first-time homebuyers tax credit may no longer be an option, there are other tax deductions you can still claim if you are a homeowner. The biggest of these deductions is the mortgage interest deduction, which allows you to deduct interest on mortgages up to $750,000.

Mortgage interest is the interest rate that accompanies a home loan. Fees accompany most mortgages where lenders use the home as collateral for the mortgage. Mortgage interest usually has a fixed rate, a variable rate, or a combination of both. Fixed-rate interest will charge the borrower a fixed percentage of interest over the life of the loan. However, variable rate mortgage interest fluctuates with market behavior. This indicates that the amount of interest you pay each month varies. Finally, the hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage has a fixed initial interest rate. However, interest rates fluctuate after the initial period ends.

Also, property taxes are a great avenue when it comes to deductions. You can write off your annual property taxes in the year you pay them. For mortgage insurance, you may receive an insurance premium if you have paid less than 20% of the home's original value. Under IRS rule, your mortgage insurance premium counts as mortgage interest which you can deduct on Schedule A of your Form 1040.


Although you can no longer take advantage of the first-time home buyers' tax credit, legislation was introduced in April 2021 to create a new refundable first-time home buyers' tax credit of up to $15,000. Also, you can save a lot of money on taxes through other tax benefits. Mortgage options often vary by city and state, but don't worry. Major deductions any homeowner can take include property taxes, mortgage interest, and mortgage and insurance points.



Jim McClaflin, EA, NTPI Fellow, CTRC
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