The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) building stands in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2012. President Barack Obama expressed confidence that he and Congress would reach an agreement that will avoid the automatic spending cuts and tax increases that are scheduled to occur at the end of the year. The fiscal cliff is the $607 billion combination of automatic spending cuts and tax increases scheduled to take effect in January. Lawmakers are trying to avert the cliff to prevent a short-term shock to the economy and reach an agreement on long-term deficit reduction. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg ** DP OUT, OS OUT, HOY OUT, TCN OUT **
Andrew Harrer The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) building stands in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2012. President Barack Obama expressed confidence that he and Congress would reach an agreement that will avoid the automatic spending cuts and tax increases that are scheduled to occur at the end of the year. The fiscal cliff is the $607 billion combination of automatic spending cuts and tax increases scheduled to take effect in January. Lawmakers are trying to avert the cliff to prevent a short-term shock to the economy and reach an agreement on long-term deficit reduction. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg ** DP OUT, OS OUT, HOY OUT, TCN OUT **

Real estate columnist Kenneth R. Harney writes that Congress is back from its summer vacation, so the burning financial question on thousands of homeowners' minds right now is this: Are you guys finally going to help out consumers who are underwater on their mortgages, many of whom face crushing federal tax bills if they accept - or have already accepted - principal reductions by their lenders?

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