Selling Guide

Published August 29, 2017

B3-3.2-01: Underwriting Factors and Documentation for a Self-Employed Borrower (10/24/2016)

This topic contains general information on underwriting factors and documentation for a self-employed borrower, including:

Overview

When determining the appropriate qualifying income for a self-employed borrower, it is important to note that business income (specifically from a partnership or S corporation) reported on an individual IRS Form 1040 may not necessarily represent income that has actually been distributed to the borrower. The fundamental exercise, when conducting a self-employment income cash flow analysis, is to determine the amount of income that can be relied on by the borrower in qualifying for their personal mortgage obligation. When underwriting these borrowers, it is important to review business income distributions that have been made or could be made to these borrowers while maintaining the viability of the underlying business. This analysis includes assessing the stability of business income and the ability of the business to continue to generate sufficient income to enable these borrowers to meet their financial obligations.

Factors to Consider for a Self-Employed Borrower

Any individual who has a 25% or greater ownership interest in a business is considered to be self-employed.

The following factors must be analyzed before approving a mortgage for a self-employed borrower:

  • the stability of the borrower’s income,

  • the location and nature of the borrower’s business,

  • the demand for the product or service offered by the business,

  • the financial strength of the business, and

  • the ability of the business to continue generating and distributing sufficient income to enable the borrower to make the payments on the requested mortgage.

Length of Self-Employment

Fannie Mae generally requires lenders to obtain a two-year history of the borrower’s prior earnings as a means of demonstrating the likelihood that the income will continue to be received.

However, a person who has a shorter history of self-employment — 12 to 24 months — may be considered, as long as the borrower’s most recent signed federal income tax returns reflect the receipt of such income as the same (or greater) level in a field that provides the same products or services as the current business or in an occupation in which he or she had similar responsibilities to those undertaken in connection with the current business. In such cases, the lender must give careful consideration to the nature of the borrower’s level of experience, and the amount of debt the business has acquired.

Verification of Income

The lender may verify a self-employed borrower’s employment and income by obtaining from the borrower copies of his or her signed federal income tax returns (both individual returns and in some cases, business returns) that were filed with the IRS for the past two years (with all applicable schedules attached).

Alternatively, the lender may use IRS-issued transcripts of the borrower’s individual and business federal income tax returns that were filed with the IRS for the most recent two years—as long as the information provided is complete and legible and the transcripts include the information from all of the applicable schedules. (See B3-3.1-06, Requirements and Uses of IRS Request for Transcript of Tax Return Form 4506-T.)

When two years of signed individual federal tax returns are provided, the lender may waive the requirement for business tax returns if:

  • the borrower is using his or her own personal funds to pay the down payment and closing costs and satisfy applicable reserve requirements,

  • the borrower has been self-employed in the same business for at least five years, and

  • the borrower’s individual tax returns show an increase in self-employment income over the past two years.

For certain loan casefiles DU will issue a message permitting only one year of personal and business tax returns, provided lenders document the income by:

  • obtaining signed individual and business federal income tax returns for the most recent year,

  • confirming the tax returns reflect at least 12 months of self-employment income, and

  • completing Fannie Mae’s Cash Flow Analysis (Form 1084) or any other type of cash flow analysis form that applies the same principles.

Analysis of Borrower’s Personal Income

The lender must prepare a written evaluation of its analysis of a self-employed borrower’s personal income, including the business income or loss, reported on the borrower’s individual income tax returns. The purpose of this written analysis is to determine the amount of stable and continuous income that will be available to the borrower. This is not required when a borrower is qualified using only income that is not derived from self-employment and self-employment is a secondary and separate source of income (or loss). Examples of income not derived from self-employment include salary and retirement income.

The lender may use Form 1084 or any other type of cash flow analysis that applies the same principles as Fannie Mae’s form.

A copy of the written analysis must be included as part of any loan application package that the lender submits to Fannie Mae for a mortgage that is selected for a post-purchase quality control review.

Analysis of Borrower’s Business Income

When a borrower is relying upon self-employed income to qualify for a mortgage and the requirements that permit the lender to waive business tax returns are not met, the lender must prepare a written evaluation of its analysis of the borrower’s business income. The lender must evaluate the borrower’s business through its knowledge of other businesses in the same industry to confirm the stability of the borrower’s business income and estimate the potential for long-term earnings.

The purpose of this analysis is to:

  • consider the recurring nature of the business income, including identification of pass-through income that may require additional evaluation;

  • measure year-to-year trends for gross income, expenses, and taxable income for the business;

  • determine (on a yearly or interim basis) the percentage of gross income attributed to expenses and taxable income; and

  • determine a trend for the business based on the change in these percentages over time.

The lender may use Fannie Mae’s Comparative Income Analysis (Form 1088) or any other method of trend analysis that enables it to determine a business’s viability, as long as the method used fairly presents the viability of the business and results in a degree of accuracy and a conclusion that is comparable to that which would be reached by use of Form 1088.

A copy of the written analysis and conclusions must be retained in the individual mortgage file.

Use of Business Assets

When a borrower intends to use business assets as funds for the down payment, closing costs, and/or financial reserves, the lender must perform a business cash flow analysis to confirm that the withdrawal of funds for this transaction will not have a negative impact on the business. In order to assess the impact, the lender may require a level of documentation greater than what is required to evaluate the borrower’s business income (for example, several months of recent business asset statements in order to see cash flow needs and trends over time, or a current balance sheet). This may be due to the amount of time that has elapsed since the most recent tax return filing, or the lender’s need for information to perform its analysis. See B3-4.2-02, Depository Accounts, for additional information on business assets.

Income Verification for Self-Employed Co-Borrowers

When co-borrower income that is derived from self-employment is not being used for qualifying purposes, the lender is not required to document or evaluate the co-borrower’s self-employment income (or loss). Any business debt on which the borrower is personally obligated must be included in the total monthly obligations when calculating the debt-to-income ratio.

Verbal Verification of Employment

For requirements regarding verbal VOEs, see B3-3.1-07, Verbal Verification of Employment.

Related Announcements

The table below provides references to the Announcements that have been issued that are related to this topic.

Announcements Issue Date
Announcement SEL-2016–08 October 24, 2016
Announcement SEL-2016–05 June 28, 2016
Announcement SEL-2015–09 August 25, 2015
Announcement SEL-2014–16 December 16, 2014
Announcement SEL-2013–03 April 9, 2013
Announcement SEL-2010–13 September 20, 2010
Announcement SEL-2010–02 March 2, 2010
Announcement 09–19 June 8, 2009