Lenders, be careful when calculating income for D.C. Tax Abatement

The D.C. Tax Abatement Program is a great program for those homebuyers who qualify. Qualifying homebuyers are exempt from paying transfer and recordation taxes at closing and will also be exempt from paying real property taxes for 5 years beginning the next full tax year after filing. It is understandable that lenders want their clients to qualify for the program wherever possible.

One of the key qualifications is income. The household must have an income under a certain limit.

Often, lenders will use the income they have calculated for their client for underwriting purposes as a basis for determining whether their client will qualify for the Tax Abatement Program. Lenders will usually take a conservative approach when calculating income for underwriting purposes, because this approach reduces their risk.

Lenders need to be aware that the D.C. government will do its own, independent calculation of income (looking at tax returns and W-2’s for the past two years as well as the applicant’s last two pay stubs) when determining an applicant’s qualification for the Tax Abatement Program. D.C.’s approach may not be as conservative as the lender’s.

We have seen some cases recently where the lender’s determination of income for underwriting purposes was low enough for a homebuyer to qualify for the Tax Abatement Program, but when the D.C. government did its own calculation, the homebuyer did not qualify.

If lenders have any questions about Tax Abatement income qualifications, they should ask the title company.

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