If you or someone you know dumped some "bad" real estate, then there might be a ticking tax bomb coming your way. It’s a Form 1099-C and it means you have a "cancellation of debt", and cancellation of debt is taxable.
So if the lender forecloses and takes your property from you, or you do a short sale, chances are the current value is less than your loan. That means the lender has to forgive part of the debt or may pursue you for the difference.
If they forgive the debt, you have a cancellation of debt. And if you have a cancellation of debt, you have a taxable event. The amount of debt that is cancelled is taxable income to you. You report it on your Form 1040 just like any other type of ordinary income. In other words, you never got a check, but you have to pay tax on it.
So, let’s go with the foreclosure or short sale scenario and assume that your lender has forgiven the debt. Just as a note though, don’t assume that the lender is forgiving all the debt. In most states, they can pursue you if you’ve refinanced the first loan or for a second mortgage. And depending on your particular state laws, they could wait years to come after you for the amount. Yikes!