Congress considers extension to mortgage-debt relief deadline

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For anyone hoping that a fractious, election-bound Congress can manage to extend a law that is crucial to the housing recovery -- the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act -- here's a little good news: Before heading home for the Easter holiday recess, key members of the House and Senate tax-writing committees introduced bills that would keep the law alive through 2014. Without action by Congress, the law -- which allows homeowners whose mortgage debts have been written off by lenders in short sales, foreclosures, principal reductions and deeds-in-lieu of foreclosure to escape heavy federal taxation on the amounts forgiven -- would expire Dec. 31, 2012. Real estate and mortgage trade groups believe that any expiration would be disastrous for large numbers of underwater owners trying to rid themselves of smothering debt loads. It could also sharply reduce the appeal of short sales and other resolutions needed to clear out distressed inventories. If homeowners thought they'...