October 29, 2009 in Nation/World

Senate likely to extend homebuyer credit

Tax refunds for money-losing businesses still under discussion
Stephen Ohlemacher Associated Press
 

WASHINGTON – Senators agreed Wednesday to extend a popular tax credit for first-time homebuyers and to offer a reduced credit to some repeat buyers.

The tax credit provides up to $8,000 to first-time homebuyers but is set to expire at the end of November. The Commerce Department said Wednesday that new home sales fell 3.6 percent in September, and some industry representatives blamed uncertainty about the tax credit.

Senators agreed to extend the existing tax credit for first-time homebuyers while offering a reduced credit of up to $6,500 to repeat buyers who have owned their current homes for at least five years, said Regan Lachapelle, a spokeswoman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.

The tax credits would be available to homebuyers who sign sales agreements by the end of April. They would have until the end of June to close on their new homes, according to a summary of the legislation being circulated among lawmakers.

Senators were still negotiating the expansion of a separate tax credit that lets money-losing businesses get refunds for taxes paid in previous years, providing them with an immediate source of cash.

Senators in both political parties were hoping to add both tax provisions to a bill that would give people running out of unemployment insurance benefits up to 20 more weeks of federal aid. The Senate could vote on the overall bill as early as today, but lawmakers were still haggling over several unrelated amendments Wednesday evening.

Popular bills like the one to extend unemployment benefits often attract amendments that would have a difficult time passing on their own.

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