When a house is foreclosed, or there is a deed in lieu of foreclosure, some mortgage companies make a deal with the owner or tenant. Usually the deal works like this: the owner agrees to leave the property on a certain date and broom swept condition without taking any of the appliances, copper pipes, etc. If the home was left in the promise condition, the homeowner or tenant will receive a certain stipend from the mortgage company. Sounds good, right?
Nevertheless, the mortgage company than typically issues a 1099 for the cancellation of indebtedness income for the amount of the foreclosure and an additional 1099-MISC for the alleged miscellaneous income and cash for keys. The IRS has taken the position that the cash for keys income as ordinary income and should be taxed. In the case of Bobo vs. Commissioner, the US Tax Court determined that the foreclosure and the additional cash for keys payment were really one transaction. Since in that case, the taxpayer had an actual loss on the sale of their home, even with cash for keys payment there was no additional income.
Any time taxpayer receives a 1099s for a home foreclosure, settlement with a credit card company, or other loan, the matter should always be reviewed with a good tax lawyer to see if they amount of the 1099s is actually taxable or not.