Sunday, October 28, 2012

Facts on mortgage tax deductions

Tax reform has been one of the major issues in the presidential election.  One candidate says he can lower rates by chopping deductions, while another says that this cannot be done without hurting the middle class.  Last week NYT published a short piece laying out some under-reported data on who actually benefits from one of the biggest tax deductions of them all: home mortgages.  Some key facts that everyone, regardless of their political persuasion should know:
  1. 70 percent of taxpayers do not itemize.
  2. More than two-thirds of the benefits go to upper-income households ($100k plus) because they pay more interest on mortgages and have higher tax rates
The pols from both parties are unwilling to admit that there would be winners and losers if the deduction were to be capped or scrapped.  Those who do not itemize or who have small mortgage balances would come out ahead, whereas those who have just taken out jumbos will be less than pleased.  

Final thought: the subsidy provided by the home mortgage deduction encourages Americans to overinvest in owner-occupied housing.  That's why a recent NPR piece listed the deduction as one of six policies about which virtually all economists support and would drive most pols nuts (the others included ending the tax deduction for health care expenses, scrapping the corporate income tax, and taxing carbon). 

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