Mortgage Interest Deduction last chapter?

mortgage interest deduction
Mortgage interest deduction (infographic from

The mortgage interest deduction seems to be the everyone’s lovable fiscal scapegoat.  The mortgage interest deduction was almost abolished in 2010 as a means of increasing revenue after the recession.  And then again in 2012 it’s elimination was considered to increase revenue lost through sequestration.  This time the mortgage interest deduction is in Congress’ sights as a means of tax reform.

The mortgage interest deduction is a remnant of consumer interest deductions that were allowed when income tax was first collected.  It wasn’t until the 1980’s when most consumer interest deductions, such as credit card and auto loan interest, were eliminated (to reduce budget deficits after a deep recession).  The mortgage interest deduction survived in a limited form, which implemented a cap on the amount of an individual’s deductions.

The mortgage interest deduction is again embattled.  Reporting by AP’s Marcy Gordon reveals the divide in eradicating the MID (GOP eyes popular tax breaks to finance overhaul;, September 18, 2017).  The MID is viewed by some as a middle-class mainstay that is a political hot potato.  While others see the MIS as an antiquated subsidy that can be removed as part of a major tax plan.  However, the likelihood of totally abolishing the MID is slim because of the political fallout.  More likely to occur is something akin to what happened in the 1980’s, which was a narrowed version that limited deductions.  Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan hinted that the current $1million cap could be further reduced, by saying “We could change that limit — I suppose.”

Over the decades, the mortgage interest deduction has been criticized by some as poor economic policy. Those who argue against the mortgage interest deduction claim that it doesn’t increase homeownership.  They also claim that the MID is a subsidy that artificially inflates home prices, and is used mostly by the wealthy.  Additionally, the enticement of receiving a MID at the end of the year is used to encourage home buyers to buy homes that they really can’t afford.  A recent study by Jonathon Gruber (known to many as the architect of Obamacare), et al, produced results that mimics the assertions of the mortgage interest deduction critics’ (Do People Respond to the Mortgage Interest Deduction? Quasi-Experimental Evidence from Denmark; National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc; Working Paper 23600, July 2017).

Proponents of the mortgage interest deduction, such as the National Association of Realtors, and the National Association of Home Builders, claim that the MID encourages homeownership and makes it affordable for many.

As a witness in the September 13th Senate Finance Committee Hearing on Individual Tax Reform, Iona Harris (chair of NAR’s Federal Taxation Committee) testified that limiting or abolishing the mortgage interest deduction could actually have the unintended consequence of increasing taxes on millions of “middle class homeowners,” while “putting the value of their homes at risk.”

Ms. Harris stated:

“…it is estimated that American homeowners already pay well over 80 percent of all federal income taxes53 percent of individuals claiming the itemized deduction for real estate taxes in 2014 earned less than $100,000.

And recapped the outcome of the 1980’s mortgage interest deduction reduction:

“…When Congress last undertook major tax reform in 1986, it eliminated or significantly changed a large swath of tax provisions, including major real estate provisions, in order to lower rates, only to increase those rates just five years later in 1991…Most of the eliminated tax provisions never returned and in the case of real estate, a major recession followed.

Copyright© Dan Krell

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Disclaimer. This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Readers should not rely solely on the information contained herein, as it does not purport to be comprehensive or render specific advice. Readers should consult with an attorney regarding local real estate laws and customs as they vary by state and jurisdiction. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws.

Housing approaches the fiscal cliff

by Dan Krell
© 2012

Fiscal cliffMoving forward after the election, there are a number of events and possible legislation that could impact the real estate industry. The most imminent is the “fiscal cliff.”

The “fiscal cliff” is the term that describes the expected economic outcome of the automatic budget cuts (sequestration). Sequestration was part of a budget deal that was passed as the bipartisan Budget Control Act of 2011. Even though it is described as an economy falling off a cliff, some say it is more apt to an economy hitting a brick wall; because the sequestration will make it very difficult for the economy to expand. Others are not as pessimistic about the fiscal cliff; some describe the “cliff” as a gentle slope that may present some impediments to the economy that are not insurmountable.

Regardless of the description, there is a consensus that there will be some economic obstacles. There is an economic truth that the housing market benefits from a thriving economy, as well as suffering when the economy slows.

The Congressional Budget Office has provided warnings that a “fiscal cliff” could cause a recession in 2013 and possibly increase unemployment significantly. As we already know, a recession combined with increases in unemployment will not be good for the housing market. In a Florida Realtors® 2010 study conducted to determine causes of foreclosure in Florida, determined that there is a correlation between unemployment and foreclosure – citing a combination of increased cost of living, unemployment or decreased pay, and other factors.

To address budget deficits and avoid a fiscal cliff, various committees have convened and provided recommendations proposal for improve the budgetary process that included a number of recommendations to lower the budget deficit. One common thread in addressing budget deficits is to either eliminate or further restrict the mortgage interest deduction.

The origination of the mortgage interest deduction is not as extraordinary as you’d expect; however the fact that it has remained through tax reforms during the Reagan administration has been described as rather “remarkable.”

Fiscal cliffThe mortgage interest deduction is often described as a subsidy for the housing industry to encourage participation in market (similar to the first time homebuyer tax credits offered several years ago). Much like social security, it is a political hot potato that elected officials are hesitant to address. Some have argued for many years that the mortgage interest deduction should be eliminated since because they assert the subsidy artificially inflates home prices.

However, a National Association of Realtors® (NAR) December 1, 2010 press release, stated “The tax deductibility of interest paid on mortgages is a powerful incentive for home ownership and has been one of the simplest provisions in the federal tax code for more than 80 years…” The release cited a survey that indicated that the deduction was extremely important or very important to three-fourths of the 3,000 homeowners and renters surveyed (

Several years ago, the Congressional Budget Office recommended the elimination of the mortgage interest deduction. Additionally, the bipartisan National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform (more commonly known as the Simpson Bowles Commission) provided recommendations to reducing the mortgage interest deduction benefit from the current $1,000,000 limit to a cap of $500,000.

A resolution to the fiscal cliff may be reached before year’s end; the housing recovery depends on it.

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This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. This article was originally published in the Montgomery County Sentinel the week of November 12, 2012. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws. Copyright © 2012 Dan Krell.