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Capitol Alert
The latest on California politics and government
December 5, 2013

The California Association of Realtors’ political action committee gave $500,000 to the state Democratic Party the day before the Democrat-dominated Franchise Tax Board effectively resolved a months-long legislative fight over the state’s tax treatment of short sales.

Tuesday’s donation, reported Wednesday evening, matches the $500,000 the Realtors gave state Democrats in May. The group also gave the party $168,000 earlier in the year and more than $1 million in 2012. The 2013 contributions, by far the largest to the party in the current election cycle, will help Democratic attempts to keep their two-thirds legislative supermajorities in 2014.

Realtors spokeswoman Lotus Lou denied any connection between the two events. Wednesday’s legal opinion from the Franchise Tax Board stemmed from a September clarification on the issue by the IRS, she said.

“The two did not have any relation to each other,” Lou said.

In her legal opinion, Franchise Tax Board chief counsel Jozel Brunett cited the clarification by the IRS that forgiven debt after a home is sold for less than the amount owed on it should not be treated as taxable income.

“This is welcome news for Californians who have had to short sell their homes this year,” Board of Equalization member George Runner said in a statement. “We learned last month they wouldn’t face a federal tax penalty. We now know they won’t face a state tax hit either.”

In the same statement, California of Realtors President Kevin Brown praised the “recent clarifications” as protecting “distressed homeowners from debt relief income tax associated with a short sale in California.”

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