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1000’s of Californians Whose Homes Were Foreclosed on or Sold at a Loss Would Get Tax Relief Under Measure Approved Thursday [4/8/2010] by the State Legislature

By Patrick McGreevy / Reporting from Sacramento

The bill would waive state taxes on mortgage debt that has been forgiven in a foreclosure or short sale. It is expected to affect about 34,000 taxpayers.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said he would sign the measure, which would also provide about $60 million in tax credits to green-energy companies, when it reached his desk. Californians can already claim the tax breaks on federal returns.

Lawmakers passed the measure in time for people to take advantage of it by the April 15 deadline for filing tax returns.

The short-sale provision would mean about $34 million less in tax revenue for the state over three years, according to the Franchise Tax Board.

The “green” credits are a response to the federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which provides grants to firms for power plants that produce renewable energy. The federal government does not tax the grant money. Under the bill approved Thursday, California would provide similar relief.

Other parts of the measure, SB 401 by Sen. Lois Wolk (D-Davis), were called tax increases by Republicans. Even though they supported the tax-relief element, several GOP members of the Senate and Assembly voted against the bill, which was opposed by the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Assn.

The changes would also make it harder to qualify a home as a principal residence for purposes of escaping capital gains taxes when the property is sold, and some penalties and interest charges to corporations would be increased, according to Therese M. Twomey, a principal consultant for the Senate Republican Policy Office.

These changes would bring in more than $10 million in new revenue over five years, Twomey said.

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