A proposal to provide a $15,000 tax credit to homebuyers was stripped from a $789 billion economic stimulus package that appears headed for a vote Friday, but a restoration of higher loan limits for Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and FHA loan guarantee programs appears to have made the cut. The $15,000 homebuyer tax credit -- included in an $838 billion economic stimulus bill passed by the Senate Tuesday (see story) -- was scaled back to $8,000 and limited to first-time homebuyers as part of a compromise between Democrats and Republicans. The Congressional Budget Office estimated the larger tax credit would have cost $35.5 billion, a price tag that proved too tough to swallow in conference committee negotiations where differences between House and Senate versions of H.R. 1, The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 were ironed out. Instead, the compromise bill falls back on language approved by the House Jan. 28 (see story), which would have eliminated the repayment requirement on an existing $7,500 tax credit that is currently available only to first-time homebuyers through July 1. According to a summary of the compromise bill released by lawmakers Thursday, the tax credit will still be available only to first-time homebuyers -- those who haven't owned a principal residence in the last three years. But they won't have to pay it back, as is currently the case, and the credit will be increased to $8,000 and be available through the end of November. The smaller tax break will cost taxpayers closer to $6.6 billion over 10 years, a savings of nearly $30 billion.
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