Thursday, December 20, 2012

Why Your Mortgage Interest Deduction May Go Off the Cliff

Congress Contemplates Making Changes To Major Homeowner Benefit

Happy Centennial to mortgage interest deduction!

Nearly 100 years ago, in 1913, Congress amended the Constitution to allow for the country’s first income tax — and agreed to make all interest payments deductible from this new obligation. A few decades later as the country began to emerge from the Great Depression and the Second World War, more and more Americans were buying homes and the tax deductibility of mortgage interest payments became a significant element of promoting home ownership.

Mortgage interest deduction costs $100 billion a year

As the “fiscal cliff” and huge budget deficit hang heavy on the minds and desks of policymakers in Washington, the mortgage interest deduction is thought to be close to the top of the list of possible solutions to reducing the deficit. The mortgage deduction is both “one of the most cherished in the U.S. tax code… and on eof the most expensive, estimated to cost the federal government $100 billion this fiscal year.” (Los Angeles Times)

Likely to be “adjusted” but not “eliminated”

Experts agree that it is unlikely that a wholesale elimination of the mortgage interest deduction will be approved. It is more likely that the code will be refined to reduce the benefit for high-income households and borrowers. The president of the National Association of Realtors (NAR), Gary Thomas, commented that it has always been the N.A.R.’s position that the mortgage interest deduction is vital to the stability of the American housing market and economy, and we will remain vigilant in opposing any future plan that modifies or excludes the deductibility of mortgage interest.” (The New York Times)

Changing the deduction has bi-partisan support

In a time when there seems to be little upon which Democrats and Republicans can agree, changing the mortgage interest tax deduction seems to be striking the right bi-partisan note. Both President Obama and the former Republican presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, have come out in support of capping the deduction.

Via The American Prospect, The Los Angeles Times, The New York Times.

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