AP answers your questions on the news, from the homebuyers’ tax credit to texting and driving

Friday, January 8, 2010

Ask AP: Homebuyer tax break, texting while driving

The federal homebuyers’ tax credit is a great opportunity to save thousands of dollars when you buy a house. But don’t expect to get the credit if the seller is a member of the family.

Why not?

Curiosity about this restriction in the tax credit program inspired one of the questions in this edition of “Ask AP,” a weekly Q&A column where AP journalists respond to readers’ questions about the news.

If you have your own news-related question that you’d like to see answered by an AP reporter or editor, send it to newsquestions@ap.org, with “Ask AP” in the subject line. And please include your full name and hometown so they can be published with your question.

You can also find Ask AP on AP Mobile, a multimedia news portal available on Internet-enabled mobile devices. Go to www.apnews.com/ to learn more.

In the last year, I have read many articles on the dangers of texting while driving. Have states begun to prohibit this dangerous activity?

Daniel Lippman


Nineteen states and Washington, D.C., have laws banning texting while driving, according to Melissa Savage, a transportation expert with the National Conference of State Legislatures. Seven states and the district have also banned driving while talking on a handheld cell phone.

In recent years, all states have at least considered laws dealing with distracted driving. Many safety groups have urged a nationwide ban on using any handheld mobile devices while behind the wheel.

Ken Thomas

Associated Press Writer


We own a house that my daughter and her husband have rented from us for several years. They are a young married couple with two young children, and they saved for seven years to buy the house from us. However, they learned that they were not eligible for the federal tax credit, even though this was their first home purchase, because they were buying it from relatives.

It is heartbreaking to see them lose out on the credit because they are buying the house from her parents. I wish we could afford to make up the $8,000 for them, but we just can’t.

What’s the reasoning behind this rule?

Gerald Williams

Cleveland, Tenn.

Your daughter and her husband may be honest people. But others aren’t so trustworthy.

Nearly 600 taxpayers under 18 claimed the tax credit this year, including some under four, a Treasury Department official said this fall. That led lawmakers to conclude that some homeowners were merely pretending to sell their homes to family members as a way to collect the tax credit.

When lawmakers passed a bill to extend the credit until next year, they added anti-fraud language, including the ban on selling to relatives.

Alan Zibel

AP Real Estate Writer


Now that historic health care bills have passed both the House and Senate — albeit with major differences — everyone is talking about the so-called reconciliation process.

How does this work, and have there been any major pieces of legislation that have passed both the House and Senate, only to die during the reconciliation process?

Chad Steenerson

Terre Haute, Ind.

“Reconciliation” is a process used to pass budget bills. In the case of health care, Democrats chose not to use that approach, which would have stopped Republicans from mounting a filibuster but also would have limited what the bill could contain and exposed it to other challenges.

Usually, when the House and Senate pass different versions of a bill, a bipartisan conference committee, with members from both chambers, tries to find a compromise. Democrats are also bypassing this approach, which would have given Senate Republicans three shots at filibustering.

Instead, the White House and the top Democrats in the House and Senate will try to negotiate a compromise, which would need to win a majority of votes in the House and would only have to get a filibuster-proof 60 votes in the Senate one time.

There have been times when the House and Senate have passed separate bills and a compromise from the conference committee has failed. In 2003, for example, Senate Democrats filibustered a compromise on a Republican-written energy bill because of language that immunized makers of a recently banned gasoline additive from lawsuits. A similar bill became law two years later.

Matt Yancey

AP Congressional News Editor


Have questions of your own? Send them to newsquestions@ap.org.

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