The law requires that property acquired from a related person does not qualify. The Morelands and Mollie Holland, another otherwise unrelated taxpayer (unrelated in the sense of the statutory disqualification), wanted to qualify otherwise unqualified properties. In order to give the appearance that the properties qualified, they created a paperwork façade to make it appear that the Morelands temporarily owned property disqualified as to Ms. Holland so that she could "purchase" the property from the Morelands and vice-versa.
The key part of the decision is (bold-facing by JAT):
In the present case, the paperwork related to all of the real estate conveyances at issue appears to indicate, on its face, that Kevin Moreland purchased the Killen property from Noble and Donna Holland, who are not related to him in any way. If the technical form of that transaction were the only relevant consideration, Kevin and Melissa Moreland might be entitled to the receive the FTHBC. However, when viewed as a whole and in the light of all of the credible evidence, it is clear that the substance of the transaction was very different from its form. In substance, Noble and Donna Holland engaged in a property swap with Janie Moreland for the purpose of making it appear that their respective children qualified for the First Time Home Buyer Credit. There was no actual transfer of the subject properties. Noble and Donna Holland never took possession of the Killen property, and Kevin and Melissa Moreland never vacated it. Kevin and Melissa Moreland paid Noble and Donna Holland only a very small percentage of the money they purportedly owe for the property, and the Hollands never tried to collect from the Morelands. Similarly, Janie Moreland never took possession of the Leighton property, and Mollie Holland did not even move into that property after it had purportedly been transferred to her. Mollie Holland never paid Janie Moreland anything for the Leighton property, and Janie Moreland has never tried to collect anything from Mollie Holland.
Stated in terms that are most favorable to the parties involved, the only substantive transactions that took place were the transfer of the Killen property from mother (Janie Moreland) to son (Kevin Moreland), and the transfer of the Leighton property from parents (Noble and Donna Holland) to daughter (Mollie Holland). Stated less charitably, each family, in exchange for the sum of $8,000, concocted a scheme to defraud the United States government via the Internal Revenue Service. Under either construction, plaintiffs are not entitled to the First Time Home Buyer Credit.The case involved only one set of the taxpayers involved, the Morelands. The other set also claimed the credit. The Court described their situation as follows:
Mollie Holland claimed a First-Time Home Buyer Credit ("FTHBC") on her Form 1040EZ Income Tax Return for 2010.29 The IRS granted her the credit, but she decided in early 2014 to return all the money she received because, after further consultation with the IRS, she determined she was not entitled to the credit and that "it wasn't right" for her to retain the money.There is no indication that a civil penalty was asserted against the Morelands. Independent of this case, I think there was a legal issue of whether the credit could be subject to a civil accuracy related penalty; perhaps a reader can add something on that or, if I get the information, I can update this posting.
Regardless, these taxpayers better be glad that they were not criminally prosecuted. Note the bold-face language from the opinion which states the elements of tax obstruction, Section 7212(a), here, and the defraud / Klein conspiracy under 18 USC 371, here.
I guess I would ask the question of whether the Morelands' conduct is really different in kind from GE's planning in the TIFD III case. I have had several posts on that case. Those posts can be picked up with a search on TIFD here. Indeed in this sense, the Morelands' transactions may be considered their own homegrown, homebaked bullshit tax shelter.