My bank sent me the wrong tax form — and now it’s ignoring me

Photo of author

By Christopher Elliott

Dante Lee needs an important tax form from his bank. Without it, he could face a significantly higher bill from the IRS. But his financial institution won’t help him. What should he do?


Last year I settled my mortgage debt with Fifth Third Bank here in Ohio. After a short sale of the house, I had a deficiency balance of more than $50,000, but through a collection agency, I settled for a $10,000 lump sum payment.

Here’s my problem: Because the debt was settled last year, I should have been issued a 1099 for the mortgage debt forgiven in 2011 to file with that year’s taxes. But the bank is telling me that they will issue it to me for 2012, and that I will have to file it with my 2012 taxes.

This is a major concern to me because the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act expires at the end of 2011. This act protects me from having to pay taxes on forgiven mortgage debt. But if I file the 1099 next with my 2012 taxes, I may have to pay taxes on this debt.

What should I do? I’ve been speaking with a manager at Fifth Third bank, and she’s been virtually ignoring me. She admits that its a mistake on their part, but that it’s nothing she can do about it. Can you help? — Dante Lee, Columbus, Ohio


Your bank should have sent you the right forms the first time, and when you pointed out the error, it should have fixed it immediately — not shrugged it off by saying, “There’s nothing we can do about it.”

I mean, seriously. Fifth Third is behaving as if it’s … well, a bank.

Let’s go over a few of your particulars. A short sale of a home is a popular alternative to a foreclosure. In a short sale, your lender — in this case, Fifth Third — is accepting less than the total amount due on your mortgage, because of declining real estate prices. The buyer is getting a good price on a home. And both you and the bank get to avoid a painful foreclosure.

There’s one catch, which you mentioned. You could still owe the unpaid difference on your mortgage, plus interest and penalties, to the lender. That’s called a deficiency. Your bank sent a collection agency after you for the remaining $50,000, and you settled with it for $10,000.

Trawick International offers a variety of international travel insurance, trip cancellation/interruption, adventure travel and student insurance plans. We offer 24/7 travel assistance to travelers domestically and internationally. We continue to research ground-breaking products and ideas which meet the needs of travelers everywhere. No matter what type of Travel Insurance product you need, we have the perfect travel insurance policy for you! Visit Trawick International to learn more.

The Mortgage Debt Relief Act of 2007 and your taxes

Actually, the law you cited, the Mortgage Debt Relief Act of 2007, which allows taxpayers to exclude from their income the amount of debt that is forgiven or canceled by their lenders, doesn’t expire until Dec. 31 of this year.

But if you sold your home in 2011, you’ll want your paperwork to reflect the correct date. (I’m not a tax attorney or a CPA, but I’ve been audited by the IRS, and when it comes to my taxes, I prefer to have everything just so.)

The point is, while Fifth Third may have done you a favor by allowing to to short-sell your home, it wasn’t giving you good customer service when it sent you the wrong form and refused to correct it. The collection agency thing, that’s debatable. (Related: You need to know these legal concepts now.)

When your calls to your Fifth Third contacts went unanswered, you could have tried reaching the bank through its website. Failing that, you could have appealed to one of its executives. (Email addresses at Fifth Third are always [email protected]) An executive e-mail carpetbomb would have been your final option. (Here’s how to contact the CEO directly.)

Turns out none of that was necessary. I contacted the bank on your behalf and it faxed over your 2011 tax form.

Photo of author

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers consumers to solve their problems and helps those who can't. He's the author of numerous books on consumer advocacy and writes three nationally syndicated columns. He also publishes the Elliott Report, a news site for consumers, and Elliott Confidential, a critically acclaimed newsletter about customer service. If you have a consumer problem you can't solve, contact him directly through his advocacy website. You can also follow him on X, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter. He is based in Panamá City.

Related Posts