LAS VEGAS - Fearing a setback for financially strapped homeowners and disruption to a slowly improving housing market, Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto has joined again with 41 attorneys general from around the country in urging Congress to extend soon-to-be expired tax relief for distressed homeowners into next year.

"The tax relief exemption for distressed homeowners is crucial for Nevada's economy," said Masto. "Nevadans were hit hardest by the subprime mortgage failures and we are beginning to rebound from the economic crisis. If it is not extended for 2014, many families will be facing yet again the torment of trying to save their homes, families, and their American Dream."

The expiration comes at a time when the housing market, while still fragile, has shown signs of gradual improvement over the last year. Data shows that home prices have increased this year, and the S&P/Case-Shiller home price index reported gains of 12 percent or more. CoreLogic has also estimated that 2.5 million more families have had their homes returned to positive equity in the second quarter of 2013.

Under the federal Mortgage Debt Relief Act, in effect since 2007, mortgage debt that is forgiven after a foreclosure or short sale or through a loan modification provided to a homeowner in financial hardship may be excluded from a taxpayer's calculation of taxable income. This exclusion only applies to mortgage debt forgiven on primary residences, not second homes.

An extension for 2014 is included in the Mortgage Forgiveness Tax Relief Act (S. 1187 and H.R. 2788), both of which are in committee; it is uncertain when these critical bills may be considered. The current Ryan-Murray budget proposal does not include the exemption provision.

Last year, AG Masto joined 41 other attorneys general in successfully persuading Congress to extend these benefits into 2013.

Make Home Ownership a Reality with Home Again Nevada:

Nevada homeowners can also seek assistance through the Attorney General sponsored Home Again, Nevada Homeowner Relief Program that makes it easier to determine what state or federal assistance may be available to them. For more information contact 1-855-HLP4NEV (1-855-457-4638) or visit the website: http://www.homeagainnevada.gov. Home Again is open to all Nevadans, but is designed specifically to help those working toward homeownership, individuals seeking to restore their credit, and homeowners interested in identifying what state and federal assistance may be available.