Taxes Taxable Income How Is Canceled Mortgage Debt Taxed? Learn if You Qualify Under the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act By Beverly Bird Beverly Bird Beverly Bird has been a writer and editor for 30+ years, covering tax breaks, tax preparation, and tax law. She also worked as a paralegal in the areas of tax law, bankruptcy, and family law from 1996 to 2010. Beverly has written and edited hundreds of articles for finance and legal sites like GOBankingRates, PocketSense, LegalZoom, and more. learn about our editorial policies Updated on November 27, 2022 Reviewed by Eric Estevez Reviewed by Eric Estevez Eric is a duly licensed Independent Insurance Broker licensed in Life, Health, Property, and Casualty insurance. He has worked more than 13 years in both public and private accounting jobs and more than four years licensed as an insurance producer. His background in tax accounting has served as a solid base supporting his current book of business. learn about our financial review board Fact checked by Lars Peterson Fact checked by Lars Peterson Website Lars Peterson is a veteran personal finance writer and editor with broad experience covering personal finance, particularly credit cards, banking products, and mortgages. He has been writing and editing for more than 20 years and has a knack for digging deep into a subject so he can make it easier for others to understand. As an editor for The Balance, he has assigned, edited, and fact-checked hundreds of articles. learn about our editorial policies Share Tweet Pin Email In This Article View All In This Article The Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act When Canceled Mortgage Debt Becomes Income Exceptions to the Rule Reporting Canceled Debt on Your Tax Return Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) Photo: damircudic/Getty Images Forgiven or canceled mortgage debt is generally considered income. However, people who lose their homes through foreclosure or who have restructured their mortgage loans might qualify for tax relief under the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act (MFDRA), which was extended through the end of 2025 thanks to the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021. The MFDRA was first passed by Congress in 2007 to provide tax relief for homeowners who had lost their properties. It allowed individuals to exclude certain canceled mortgage debt from their taxable income before it lapsed temporarily in 2018 and 2019. It’s now available again through 2025 and might be relevant for many homeowners impacted by unemployment and other financial hardships experienced over the last year. Key Takeaways When a lender cancels your mortgage debt for any reason, the amount is typically treated as taxable income in the given year.The Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act offers a tax benefit for certain types of debt cancellation by excluding them from counting toward taxable income.Under the MFDRA, acquisition debt may qualify to be excluded from taxable income, but equity debt can not be.Debt relief due to cases of bankruptcy, insolvency, and some non-recourse loans may be excluded from taxable income under the MFDRA. The Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act The MFDRA enabled taxpayers to exclude from their incomes certain mortgage debt that was canceled by lenders. A temporary measure at first (the law originally expired on December 31, 2017), Congress gave it new life when it signed the Further Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2020 into law on December 20, 2019. The act extended this mortgage forgiveness debt relief through December 31, 2020. Congress extended it once again via the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021, this time through 2025, though with some changes. Until the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021, certain canceled mortgage debt of up to $2 million—or $1 million if you were married and filing a separate return—could be excluded from income. With the extension through 2025, the exclusion offers a more generous range for relief and applies to certain canceled mortgage debt up to $750,000, or $375,000 if married filing separately, starting in tax year 2021. When Does Canceled Mortgage Debt Become Income? Forgiven or canceled debt is considered income. For example, maybe you're going through a tough time, and your friend gives you $100 to help you out. You promise to pay them back on your next payday, but they tell you not to worry about it. You now have $100 that you didn't have before, even if you didn't earn it through working. The IRS takes the position that this type of transaction represents income to you, and it's taxable. The same applies when a lender gives you money to purchase a home by extending you a mortgage. The remaining principal balance is considered to be income to you under the tax code if the bank forecloses and forgives what's left of your loan because you no longer have to pay it back. Note Any outstanding interest that remains unpaid is not considered income because it isn't taxable to you. You'll most likely receive a Form 1099-C from your lender, reporting the amount of debt that's been canceled. The IRS will get a copy of the form as well. You're obligated to report that as income on your next tax return unless you qualify for one of the exceptions. There are two types of mortgage debt in the tax code: acquisition debt and home equity debt. Only acquisition debt may qualify to be excluded from taxable income. An acquisition debt's proceeds are used to buy, build, or substantially improve a principal residence. Home equity debt is debt incurred where the proceeds were not used for these purposes. All your debt will be acquisition debt if your only loan was the original mortgage used to buy the principal property. Only the outstanding balance on the original acquisition debt mortgages will count for refinanced loans. Part of your debt will be home equity debt if you did a debt consolidation refinance or took cash out, or if you had a home equity line of credit (HELOC) used for purposes other than to acquire a house. This debt will not qualify. Let's say you have an original mortgage of $200,000. You work with your mortgage lender to restructure the loan so that it is reduced to $180,000. That means $20,000 of the original mortgage debt was forgiven. This discharged debt is now considered taxable income unless an exclusion applies. Exceptions to the Rule The MFDRA spells out specific circumstances under which an individual would not have to pay tax on canceled debts. These exceptions are called "exclusions." There are three reasons why canceled mortgage debt may be excluded from taxable income: The debtor was insolvent at the time of the foreclosure, short sale, or a loan modification that resulted in no longer owing the full balance due. Insolvency is when your debts exceed the value of all your assets. The debtor filed for bankruptcy. The canceled debt qualifies for the exclusion for certain types of debt, such as a non-recourse loan. The house must also have been used as the taxpayer's main home or "principal place of residence," so second homes, vacation homes, investment properties, or rental units don't qualify. Claiming an Exclusion The revived tax relief, known as the Qualified Principal Residence Indebtedness (QPRI) Exclusion, is something of a last-ditch escape hatch. The IRS indicates that you must claim at least one other exclusion first if you qualify for it, though you do have an either/or option with the other exclusion: The bankruptcy exclusion would apply if you filed for bankruptcy protection under any of the options available under Chapter 11 of the federal Bankruptcy Code. This includes Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 for consumers. The insolvency exclusion would apply if the total of all your debts exceeded the value of all your assets at the time of the cancellation of the debt. But home equity debt—that which wasn't used to buy, build, or substantially improve the main home—and other types of canceled debt, such as credit cards, might qualify for tax-free treatment under this exclusion. Note You might need the help of a tax professional to calculate this accurately. The IRS offers an insolvency worksheet in Publication 4681 to help you get started. Reporting Canceled Debt on Your Tax Return Report canceled debts on line 8 "other income" of Schedule 1, which goes with Form 1040, if they don't meet one of the exclusions and are still considered taxable income. Fill out Form 982 if you qualify to exclude some or all of the debt under the MFDRA, the insolvency exclusion, or the bankruptcy exclusion. Indicate which exclusion applies to you by checking the appropriate box under line 1. You may still receive a Form 1099-C listing this debt, even if it can be excluded, but you may not have to include it on your tax return. Prepare Form 982 for each exclusion if more than one applies. Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) What if I lost money due to a foreclosure? Do I claim canceled debt or a loss? The IRS treats a foreclosure just like a home sale. If you had canceled debt, this is typically taxed as income. You'll follow the standard procedure. If you had a non-recourse loan, it falls under an exception to the rule, and the discharged debt will not count towards taxable income. Do I qualify for the exclusion if debt from my vacation home mortgage was discharged? No, the MFDRA only provides tax relief for debt cancellation from primary residences. If you had debt canceled from a rental property, second home, vacation home, or any other type of real estate that does not serve as your primary residence, the amount of debt relief will count towards your taxable income. How do I report canceled debt to the IRS? If your mortgage lender cancels or discharges some or all of your debt, you'll need to include the amount in "other income" on your 1040. You can find this amount on Form 1099-C, which should be provided to you by your lender. If you qualify for an exclusion under the MFDRA, you'll need to fill out a separate Form 982, but consult a tax professional if you have any doubts. Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! Tell us why! Other Submit Sources The Balance uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy. Congressional Research Service. "The Tax Treatment of Canceled Mortgage Debt." Internal Revenue Service. "Home Foreclosure and Debt Cancellation." Internal Revenue Service. "Publication 4681 (2020), Canceled Debts, Foreclosures, Repossessions, and Abandonments." Internal Revenue Service. "Form 1099-C Cancellation of Debt."