And who said the taxman just came to take your money away?

The IRS wants to remind first-time homebuyers that there is still time to take advantage of the federal tax credit that provides up to $8,000 to those purchasing a home before Dec. 1.

More than 160,000 California taxpayers so far have taken advantage of the credit.

Here are 10 things the IRS wants people to know about this credit:

1. To be considered a first-time homebuyer, you — and your spouse if you are married — must not have jointly or separately owned another principal residence during the three years prior to the date of purchase.

2. You cannot claim the credit before there is a completed sale and purchase of the residence. The sale and purchase are generally completed at the time of closing on the purchase.

3. To qualify for the credit, the completed purchase must occur before Dec. 1, 2009.

4. The home must be located in the United States.

5. The credit is either 10 percent of the purchase price of the home or $8,000, whichever is less.

6. The amount of the credit begins to phase out for taxpayers whose modified adjusted gross income is more than $75,000 or $150,000 for joint filers.

7. The credit is fully refundable. A homebuyer with no taxable income, who qualifies for the credit, may file for the sole purpose of claiming the credit and receive a refund. The credit will be paid out to eligible taxpayers, even if they owe no tax or the credit is more than the tax owed.

8. The credit is claimed on IRS form 5405, First-Time Homebuyers Credit.

9. Taxpayers can claim the credit for a qualified 2009 purchase on either their 2008 or 2009 tax return. For those who have filed a 2008 return, a form 1040X, Amended U.S. Individual Income Tax Return can be filed in order to get a refund in 2009.

10. The credit for qualified 2009 purchases does not have to be repaid, as long as the home remains the main home for 36 months after the purchase date.

In other tax-related news, the IRS is extending a deadline for those with hidden offshore accounts to come clean without facing severe penalties.

The deadline to declare is now Oct. 15, 2009. There will be no further extensions, IRS officials said.

Under special provisions issued in March, taxpayers with these hidden accounts originally had until Sept. 23, 2009 to come forward. Those taxpayers who do not voluntarily disclose their hidden accounts by the new deadline face much harsher civil penalties, where applicable, and possible criminal prosecution.

IRS officials decided to extend this deadline after receiving repeated requests from tax practitioners and attorneys around the country following an influx of taxpayer requests.

In Southern California, taxpayers wanting to participate may also call the following phone number for the local voluntary disclosure coordinator: (714) 347-9226.

For more information on this and other key tax provisions of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 visit the official IRS Web site at

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