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The Silicon Valley Association of REALTORS® joins other local and state REALTORS® associations and the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) in praising Congress for passing and the President for signing into law sweeping legislation of more than 2,000 pages to fund the Federal Government for Fiscal Year 2016. The new legislation will put an end to the series of stop-gap funding measures known as “Continuing Resolutions” that have funded the government since the start of FY2016 on October 1, 2015. This new bill will expire in September 2016.

A significant piece of the tax legislation includes the extension of a number of expired tax provisions important to supporting homeowners and real estate investment, such as Mortgage Debt Forgiveness, Mortgage Insurance Premium Deductibility, Immediate Expensing of Business Equipment and Certain Real Estate, Charitable Deduction for contributions of real property for conservation purposes, Foreign Investment in Real Property Tax Act (FIRPTA), Energy Tax Credit for New Homes, National Flood Insurance Program.

NAR sent a letter to House and Senate tax-writing committees as the final package was being developed to ask for support on maintaining these key provisions. “These tax extenders offer critical support for consumers, homeowners, commercial property investors and small businesses alike,” said Tom Salomone, 2016 NAR president. “We’re grateful for the leadership shown on this important piece of legislation and look forward to continuing our work in support of homeownership.”

Extending tax relief for mortgage debt forgiveness as a win for REALTORS®, according to Salomone, because this provision protects underwater homeowners from incurring a large tax bill on phantom income in connection with a workout or a short-sale. Since 2007, this tax relief has strengthened individual communities and the broader economy as more distressed homeowners were offered the flexibility to responsibly address an underwater mortgage. The tax extenders deal offers an additional two years of protection covering tax years 2015 and 2016.

The bill also includes a permanent extension of a 15-year cost recovery period for the depreciation of qualified leasehold improvements. This provision ensures that a commonsense cost-recovery period remains permanently in place for improvements made to nonresidential commercial property.

The real estate-related provisions likewise include the renewal of certain incentives to promote energy efficient commercial and multifamily buildings. Similarly, an expired tax credit of between $1,000 and $2,000 for energy-efficient new homes is extended for an additional two years under the bill.

The legislation permanently extends rules allowing small–and mid–sized businesses to immediately expense business equipment, rather than depreciate the equipment over several years. This is important to Realtors who are independent contractors and purchase new computers, copiers, cameras and even vehicles in the course of doing business.

Finally, the tax bill includes changes to the Foreign Investment in Real Property Tax Act (FIRPTA) that will ease restrictions on investment in commercial real estate.

“Doing Business in the Philippines,” hosted by the global business council of the Silicon Valley Association of REALTORS® in November, attracted more than 40 association members and guests. The Philippines is Asia’s second fastest growing economy today and the business of real estate there is booming, according to Philippine-based real estate agents.

The program, moderated by National Association of REALTORS® President’s Liaison to the Philippines Jennifer Tasto, had as panelists International REALTOR® Members from the Philippines from the Chamber of Real Estate and Builders’ Associations Inc. (CREBA). CREBA is the Silicon Valley Association of REALTORS®’ cooperating real estate association. It is the largest real estate umbrella organization in that country. The delegation included Bernard Umali, Evangeline Yia, Arlene Posadas and Connie Castellano. Their presentations focused on buying and selling property, estate settlement, project selling, ownership of land and registering property in the Philippines.

The Filipino REALTORS® said Philippine real estate is one of the best businesses today. They said the country has an estimated population of 101 million people. Top buyers of Philippine property are early nesters due to the country’s young population, business process outsourcing workers, overseas Filipino workers and investors.

Why buy real estate in the Philippines? They said the Philippine economy rebounded with a growth of 5.6 percent in the second quarter of 2015, defying a regional slowdown which has affected countries like China and Japan.

“Filipinos are among the most globally connected in the world,” said Tasto.

Tasto said over 10 percent of Filipinos (an estimated 10 million people) live outside the Philippines and work in over 150 countries. Overseas Filipino worker remittances are at a record high, posting $26.93 billion in 2014. Of this money, 60 percent is devoted to real estate investment.

The cost of real estate in the Philippines is much more affordable than in other Asian countries, along with the rate of return on investments, added Tasto. The panelists also indicated growth in business process outsourcing and tourism has spurred real estate sales.

The Filipino REALTORS® noted bank real estate loans hit $24.47 billion in 2014, fueled by sustained demand for new homes and office space. The migration rate in Manila also has made the country’s capital a favored location for residential condominiums.

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