Thursday, June 10, 2010
The popular tax break for mortgage interest, once considered untouchable, is falling under the scrutiny of policymakers and economic experts seeking ways to close huge deficits.
Although Congress last year rejected the White House’s proposed cut to the amount wealthier taxpayers can deduct for home mortgage interest payments, the administration included it again in its 2010 budget — saying it could save $208 billion over the next decade.
And now that sentiment has turned against all the federal red ink — and cost-cutting is in vogue — Democrats on President Barack Obama’s financial commission are considering the wisdom of permanent tax breaks such as the mortgage deduction and corporate deferral. Calling them “tax entitlements,” senior Democratic lawmakers have argued they should be on the table for reform just like traditional entitlement programs Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid. ...
Although the backers of the mortgage interest tax break defend it as a key incentive for people to own rather than rent their homes, some say that’s not so. A Brookings-Urban Tax Policy Center study found that the mortgage interest tax break costs more than $100 billion annually but does little to encourage the middle class and less wealthy to buy homes. “I’m not sure that we need to subsidize homeownership at all through the tax system,” said Eric Toder, the study’s lead author.