Paul L. Caron

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Ax May Fall on Mortgage Interest Deduction

The Hill, Ax May Fall on Tax Break for Mortgages:

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.

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Any thing the government does to take money out of your pocket means the less money you have to spend period. If they take the mortgage interest deduction away, it means how many more months will we need to work just to pay taxes? And the net effect will be that folks that live in high tax areas, like New Jersey, will move to states that dont have a state income tax and the real estate taxes are much lower. This is going to affect the tax revenues of states like New Jersey, this will happen in other states too. The Federal Government needs to stop growing and taking an ever bigger tax bite and for what? They already are not doing stuff that laws have been created for and government beauracies have been created. If the government was doing its job, would the BP disaster in the Gulf had occurred? If the government was doing its job, would the big financial firms still have been in business rather than having gotten bailed out and gotten pretty close to 0% interest loans and made money on them? If the government was enforceing immigration laws then why are there so many illegal aliens in this country? Why is Osama Bin Laden not caught already when you have a country that is the most sophisticated intelligence country in the world, yet this one man cant be caught? Our dollars that the government did nothing to help us make, get taken and then squandered time and time again. We the average Americans didnt create this deficit, it was created on Capital Hill with the blessing of the White House, so why should we have to give more money to the government to take care of problems we didnt create?

Posted by: Skeetz | Jul 8, 2010 1:51:08 PM

After reading some of the above statements, I think we need to look at a bigger picture. When a new home is sold the following people are provided with taxable income (and in many cases with a resale home also);

Realtor/builder/new home salesperson, title/escrow co. and their employees, in most cases a mortgage loan officer, loan processor, underwriter and other support employees of the mortgage co, appraiser, title abstracter (person who searches for liens at the courthouse), carpenters, plumbers, carpet installers, lumber sales person, electricians, concrete laborers, the building inspector who is a local GOVERNMENT employee (won't need him/her anymore!), planning and zoning employee (also an unnecessary GOVERNMENT employee), siding salesman, siding laborer, brick mason, drywall installer and finisher, painter. How about the lumberjack and millworker that cut down and milled the trees that built the home and the person that works in a metal fabrication shop that made the nails and screws. I think you get the point.

In addition, go drive through a new homes community after people start moving in and see how many new cars are in the driveways. See how many decks are being built on the backs of those new houses and how many landscapers are given work to "create" a backyard of someone's dreams. Financially, NOTHING HAPPENS UNTIL SOMEONE SELLS SOMETHING. Think about it. This is a very true statement.

All of these pay taxes when they are given work by the people who are willing, able and have been responsible enough to save for a home purchase and are willing to make a 30 year committment to home ownership and the payment of a mortgage. Taking away the tax incentive will immediately devalue EVERY american home, whether it is a rental or a primary residence. This will put owners in a position of not being able to sell what they own (many people across the country are there already). You think foreclosures are bad now? You won't want to see what it will be like if they pass a change to the tax code as GALACTICALLY STUPID as this!

I sincerely hope that the people that are in agreement with a proposed change of this type are not in a position that any of their income could come from any facet of this industry. The car industry collapsing would have been a tremendous blow to our economy. A blow of this magnitude to the housing industry would make a car industry collapse seem like an inconsequential event in comparison.

Unfortunately the current administration does not understand free enterprise. They only understand tax and spend. But it's ok. They are going to "take care of us all". If the $8k in tax benefits helps the person near the beginning of the chain pay his/her house payment and expenses, what will happen when that is gone? When they lose their house and they're you're neighbor, and the local crack dealer moves in because it's a rental, what are you going to think then?

The democrats passed legislation mandating higher home ownership in the 1990's. That is what got us in the position we find ourselves in. If you choose not to believe me, let me know. I can forward you the video's from Congressional hearings with the very same people who currently claim to be the ones that are "righting the wrongs" of others berating others for requiring people to actually qualify for a mortgage instead of being allowed to buy with no money down and be able get a loan without documenting their income. Shocking! Amazing how short some memories can be - especially when you have to rattle the skeletons in your own closet!

The bottom line is this. The housing industry is responsible for significantly more jobs than most people realize. There are 9.69 million unemployed people in this country (this is not the number they give you because it includes people that are receiving "Emergency Unemployment Compensation"). They only give you the "regular" unemployment numbers because they don't sound as bad. Take that number and send it skyward if they pass this mindless change. We need people back in office that CAN see past the end of their nose and down the road. People that actually understand the consequenses of their actions.

I'm sure many of the people that responded in favor of this type of change are NOT homeowners. But, remember - if the economy collapses because of a bonehead move of this sort, you never will.

Posted by: Ty T | Jun 15, 2010 11:24:55 AM

Most of the posters here are right on point. To remove the deduction now would leave homeowners that factored in the deduction as part of their purchase, at an extreme disadvantage. Foreclosures will go up and the market will crash even further. Even Obama and his sycophants aren't that stupid. This will be imposed in the form of a disallowance for taxpayers above a certain AGI and will open the door for further decreases in that level and/or letting inflation bring the average taxpayer to that level, as with the AMT. If it initially only impacts the "rich" then the average American won't care, and the Dems can get behind it because it feeds the cultural divide, which Obama and the Dems live on. For the moment, Obama seems to have defined "rich" as married making $250k or more, single at $150k. Many of the so called rich, particularly the singles with income at $150K will lose their homes, but it won't be enough to impact the market too greatly, and no one cares about these people anyway, whether its fair or not. And Obama and his illusionists can continue to pretend they are doing something while furthering their socialist agenda. There are legitimate arguments re the impact of tax deductions on behavior, but the home mortgage interest deduction is only a small part of that story.

Posted by: disgusted | Jun 12, 2010 9:57:08 AM

Phase it out over 12 years, it will work out fine.

Posted by: Meremortal | Jun 11, 2010 9:26:41 AM

How about a reasonable compromise approach, instead of the extreme views I'm seeing here? There is already a limit on mortgage interest deductions -- the $1 million acquisition indebtedness, along with the various home equity items. That hasn't put a damper on anyone, nor did it kill the high-end real estate market, I don't think.

Why can't Congress crank down the ceiling in steps -- in TYB 2011, cap is $900k, 2012, $800k, etc. Wouldn't that allow people who expected to deduct their interest continue to do so, and provide a gradual easing into the new way of thinking?

Posted by: eli bortman | Jun 11, 2010 8:20:57 AM

Removing the deduction for mortgage interest is a monumentally and dangerously stupid idea and should be rejected as such.

The purpose for the deduction is to encourage home ownership. While it may "warp the market" a bit by encouraging people who might otherwise not buy a home to buy one, that is a good thing. Home ownership generally promotes stable, safer and healthier communities inasmuch as people who own homes generally care more about their homes and their neighborhoods than those who rent homes or apartments, which leads to better maintenance of those homes, better vigilance for crime or other negative trends and more interest in civics and the political process, all to protect the home. It also, perhaps paradoxically, helps foster a sense of independence: you have much more privacy in a home than you do an apartment.

The reason the deduction is merely for mortgage interest as opposed to ther equity is simply because the homeowner gets nothing from the interest, while the homeowner gets a benefit from the equity. Philosophically speaking, the interest is essentially not income.

If you take that away it would represent a fundamental shift in government politics and policy to, yes, a more European model, with many, many more people in apartments and fewer in homes. Since the American dream from the birth of the Republic has generally been a home, this would be a very bad thing.

Home ownership needs to be encouraged, not at all costs and not stupidly as with the CRA, but with responsible policies such as the mortgage interest deduction. There is no logic or justification in removing it.

Posted by: Pro Cynic | Jun 11, 2010 6:51:39 AM

So, on top of bailing out the banks who charge usury on us to be able to afford a home, now the government wants us to pay tax on the usury. Sounds about par for the course. The District of Criminals and their Wall Street cronies keep getting fatter, the rest of us thinner and thinner.

Posted by: Chris | Jun 10, 2010 6:41:42 PM

"Exactly why this deduction should be canned--if the tax break is the only reason you're owning instead of renting, then you should definitely be renting. Plus, the deduction does NOT incentivize you to build equity at all, since it's based on how much interest you pay"

That's great and all, but when the tens of millions who have organized their financial lives around the expectation of having that mortgage deduction are losing their houses -- and their shirts, given the current market -- they're not going to feel better that tax policy has become a bit more theoretically efficient.

Only a tenured professor making three times the local median income could come up with this idea, and only undergraduates who have never had financial responsibilities could support it without seeing the obvious flaw.

Posted by: Stacy | Jun 10, 2010 6:23:04 PM

This is actually a proposal many conservatives should embrace. It is true that the mortgage deduction is very, very bad policy, and it amounts to an artificial incentive to maintain a huge mortgage on your house. That is how we got into this situation, combined with very easy lending.

That does not mean that a conservative proposal to eliminate the mortgage tax deduction would look like Obama's proposal, which will likely number in the thousands of pages. The goal should be a simple flat tax or VAT tax, but mortgage interest should not be specially targeted for benefits.

And as for the observation that home prices will decline, this is right, and this is what should happen, it's a normal market pressure caused by the removal of the artificial incentive to purchase homes.

Posted by: JR | Jun 10, 2010 5:55:18 PM

Peter, above, has it just right. If the goal here (and it's always the goal) is to soak the rich, the fools proposing this will fail on an epic scale. While raising taxes on cap gains and interest (the fruits of investment), they will dramatically increase borrowing costs (the source of much investment) for the wealthy. The "rich" will then delever, paying off their mortgages and taking investment dollars out of the capital markets. Markets will tank, entrepreneurs will have to wait, employment will sink, and tax collections will go...UP? I don't think so.

Better off having the IRS go house to house with guns. At least then, you may collect some real money.

Posted by: BillB | Jun 10, 2010 5:26:39 PM

The government should not be in the habit of favoring home owners (or owers as it is more so now) over renters with the deduction. It should be scrapped. Home prices are under pressure regardless, a double dip is already in play. All the help for homeowners in the never ending quest to keep them in the house (to pay the banks, but leave that aside); where is the 1 year free rent for those who do not own? Where where their handouts? I am a home owner so this is not a rental thing.

Of course if they do this whatever money they save on it will be gobbled up by a Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac/FHA bailout (oh, did you forget the "unlimited assistance guarantee? Thought so!) but what can you do, have adults run the show?

Posted by: GYSC | Jun 10, 2010 5:23:00 PM

THIS IS REALLY GOOD NEWS. Taxes on property (even an indirect one like this) make property values go DOWN.

Property values go down because SPECULATORS and INVESTORS stay out of the housing market. The housing market is left only to PEOPLE WHO WANT TO LIVE IN HOUSES.

Low property values are GOOD. They mean LOWER rents, MORE AFFORDABLE cost of living.


Posted by: Benjamin | Jun 10, 2010 4:38:38 PM

I'd sure like to know what that Brookings-Urban Tax Policy Center study actually studied and how they came to that conclusion. The deduction sure makes a difference to ME!

This trial balloon needs to be shot down, shredded, and ground into the dirt.

Posted by: Ed Nutter | Jun 10, 2010 4:27:11 PM

When thoughtful folks buy a home, the financial planning includes the mortgage interest tax break. Change the rules in the middle of the ball game and you get some VERY upset taxpayers. How upset? The loss of an additional 75 House seats. IF this insanity passes, along with the end of the Bush tax cuts on Jan 1, 2011, the D'rats will have around 135 House seats after Novemeber 2012, and the Senate will have less than 33 D'rats----Obamacare's repeal will become a reality, regardless who becomes President. Of course the second half of the double dip will make the first dip seem like a mild spring rain as compared to catagory 5 hurricane. These D'rats are somewhere between insane and suicidal.

Posted by: TacoBill | Jun 10, 2010 4:22:44 PM

Just remember: These people are basically dishonest.

This will also hurt mostly young people, since older people have smaller mortgages.

I'll just pay the rest of my mortgage off. 5% seems steep compared to the 0.1% I get from my savings account.

Posted by: joel | Jun 10, 2010 3:52:20 PM

It's about time this was done. The mortgage interest deduction is yet another "social engineering via the tax system" boondoggle. It does not make housing more affordable, it simply raises the price that a seller will demand. Imagine what would happen to the price of diamonds if the IRS allowed a $2000 credit on diamond purchases - diamonds would suddenly go up in price. Given that people have made decisions based on the deduction, it should be phased out over five years.

Posted by: TheOldMan | Jun 10, 2010 3:40:50 PM

This tax break for the rich is costing the government billions per year and needs to be eliminated. It is wholly unfair to women and minorities that cannot afford to buy their homes and don't get a tax break for their rent. One of the reasons we have economic problems is that Bush instilled the idea that ripping off the government by not paying your fair share of taxes was an entitlement. This is just another one of Bush's tax cuts for the rich that needs to be done away with once and for all.

Posted by: Brian G. | Jun 10, 2010 3:18:34 PM

Wow. The reason they shouldn't just eliminate deductions like this (whether they make any sense or not from a logical perspective) is because real people make real long-term decisions based on the expectation that these things will remain somewhat constant.

I don't want to go all Clark Grizwald about losing my Christmas bonus but I definitely factored in mortgage interest savings in my decision to re-finance my old home and buy a new one this year. It's almost like the whole homebuyer's credit was a bait and switch.

Not only will I be paying more because of higher taxes but homes but without the tax break my homes will be worth less for resale to other people.

I suspect the liberals running congress will go for broke on taxes after they lose the election just like they did to pass health care; leaving the newly elected conservatives with the arduous task of trying to fix this by cobbling together a majority big enough to offset Obama's veto.

Posted by: JimmyNashville | Jun 10, 2010 3:11:20 PM


Posted by: IB Bill | Jun 10, 2010 3:06:08 PM

Why, because home values are just too damn high?

The value of the deduction is calulcated into the purchases price / mortgage decisions, for those who take the deduction. Without the deduction, the actual monthly 'cost' of people's morgages will increase. This will make homes less affordable and put downward pressure on home values.

Posted by: Lily | Jun 10, 2010 3:06:08 PM

Hey John-

I didn't post that. Maybe you shouldn't even post about topics that you know about, if you can't read. Just a thought.

Posted by: Barry D | Jun 10, 2010 3:05:48 PM

This article pegged the reason for making the proposals public, along with other observations.

Dems May End Tax Break For Mortgages

In other words, this is an official trial balloon.

Posted by: Woody | Jun 10, 2010 3:00:43 PM

Good riddance to one of the many tax breaks that should never have existed. Single rate consumption tax with absolutely not one penny anywhere of deduction, reduction, refund, credit and so forth is the only real way to collect taxes fairly.

Posted by: astonerii | Jun 10, 2010 2:58:00 PM

Good God! If, according to this article, Democrats don't think we should use the tax code to encourage home ownership may I ask WHAT THE FUCK THEY'VE BEEN DOING through the Community Reinvestment Act for the last 20+ years? I mean, other than forcing banks to make dangerous loans to people who had no business taking loans and causing a gigantic housing market collapse... And now all those folks who've managed to hang on to their homes through the collapse (and who are not underwater and who are making their payments)...we're going sit here and wait to get kicked in the nuts again by these same know-nothing jackasses who caused the problem in the first place? FUCK THAT.

Posted by: Luke | Jun 10, 2010 2:25:28 PM

I as a home owner I would be ok with this as long as the government
CUT spending, down size departments and/or do away with several department(less service for less government). The federal government needs to get back to basic and let the local and state government take care of the rest.
If they can not do this, forget! I m not going to send more money for
them to spend foolishly.

Posted by: charla | Jun 10, 2010 2:22:57 PM

I take the deduction because why not.
But it's unfair and it should go away.

Look at any house price map. Upstate New York, for instance, has very high taxes and very cheap houses. Prices will adjust to taxes and demand. It'll level out.

This post will of course attract name-callers. That's okay. I am proud to be disliked by stupid people.

Posted by: Alan | Jun 10, 2010 2:18:29 PM


Most taxes apply to some and not to others.

The alternative minimum tax is a tax that applies to some and not to others.

In some jurisdictions liquor is taxed more than beer, and in some cigarettes are taxed more than cigars. Does that mean there is a beer or cigar subsidy?

Some people pay 35% of their income in Federal taxes; some people pay 0%; and some pay in between. Does this mean that laziness is being subsidized by the Federal gov't?

The purpose of the mortgage interest tax exemption is to encourage people to invest in home ownership, because home ownership has a stabilizing effect on society. People who own their own homes are invested into them, financially AND emotionally, and this often means they are invested into their communities in a way that renters often aren't.

I note that when tax receipts were higher, nobody was talking about phasing out the interest deduction. In fact, the same "policymakers" talking about phasing out the interest deduction now (that things are bad) are the ones who were pushing unsustainable home ownership ten years ago.

I agree with Jim above. I'll be more amenable to discussions about raising taxes *if and when* the ones making the suggestions on how to do so get serious about cutting spending.

In practice, I don't see this particular change happening. Any group or party pushing this idiocy would lose the home-owning vote. Not exactly a politically expendable bloc!

Posted by: tax cheater | Jun 10, 2010 2:05:51 PM

Yup, those are the geniuses who are in charge. They think it's better for the government to collect 40% of almost nothing instead of 20% of a whole lot of something. That must be why Walmart is teetering on the verge of bankruptcy.

Posted by: Eric Stratton, Rush Chairman | Jun 10, 2010 2:04:40 PM

If the home interest rate deduction was abolished in a revenue neutral fashion, in exchange for a cut in overall income tax rates, as was done under Reagan in the late 80's, I would favor it. But the Obama proposal looks like another thinly disguised tax hike.

Posted by: richard40 | Jun 10, 2010 2:02:14 PM

Several posters have stumbled on the the real problem with this: if I can deduct interest on a rental but not on a home I own and occupy I'll just figure out a way to rent my house from me. Any tax rule the government comes up with to stop that obvious behavior will have to be complicated to enable other interest deductions for businesses. If they go after people who rent from their neighbor in a reciprocal relationship or from relatives, then we could form a block coop to own the houses on the block and take the business interest deductions. Either way the government won't get the revenue they expect.

Posted by: Dave | Jun 10, 2010 1:59:12 PM

This is not a surprising move. A large, if not majority, contingent of the electorate whom voted for this clown ; do not pay taxes, have stopped paying their mortgages, if they ever did, and contribute little to the government coffers. They are tax eaters and will not be penalized in the least. Socialism at it's worst, for the responsible and productive populace that is. Witness the California congress woman whom is in default on 4, yes 4, mortgages. And so it goes.

Posted by: Edward Lunny | Jun 10, 2010 1:56:56 PM

Good riddance to a distortionary, bubble-plumping sop to home-owners. That said, they should cut taxes in other areas. I totally agree that the state is out of control and needs to be reined in.

Posted by: Tim | Jun 10, 2010 1:51:20 PM

Another ploy to avoid the real issue, which is excessive spending, by talking up taxing "the rich" more.

In a perfect world there would be no subsidies, but in the world in which we live, taking away the mortgage interest deduction is just a tax increase, nothing more. If you feel that the deduction is a subsidy that unduly distorts the market, then how do you feel about property taxes? Here in Texas we often pay about $2.50 per $100, an enormous burden if you don't have some other offsets. As matters stand now, the deduction is often the difference for a young couple in buying their first home.

Posted by: So'westernSongdog | Jun 10, 2010 1:49:36 PM

Notice that Obama does not mention the deduction for state/local income and property tax deductions. Those deductions allow people in high tax (usually Dem controlled) states to pay effectively lower federal income taxes than people who live in the more frugal states.

Why should people in one state, who make the exact same income as people in another state, pay lower FEDERAL income tax?

Posted by: Johnboy | Jun 10, 2010 1:47:48 PM

RE: "the administration included it [removing the mortgage tax deduction] again in its 2010 budget — saying it could save $208 billion over the next decade."

According to the administration, raising taxes is a "savings".

Washington is stuck on stupid, and we're stuck with stupid.

Posted by: kevino | Jun 10, 2010 1:35:28 PM

I would agree with it if it were revenue neutral, as they say. Let those pigs cut the Federal tax rate and simultaneously remove the deduction, so that on balance things stayed the same -- meaning there would no longer be a net transfer of wealth from renters to owners -- and I'd be happy to see it happen. Government should not be distorting incentives.

But that's not their point, and we all know it. They're just looters looking for more goodies. They should be tarred and feathered and put to work shoveling shit.

Posted by: Carl Pham | Jun 10, 2010 1:34:54 PM

Obama the Marxist ideologue and his IDIOT Economic advisors are fools and incompetents. Everything they touch turns to CRAP!

Posted by: CrypticGuise | Jun 10, 2010 1:30:31 PM

This is actually a good idea in theory but the timing is horrible.

Anytime you give a tax break to encourage one activity you automatically increase taxes for the people who don't engage in that activity. In this case, in order to encourage home ownership we tax people who rent. If you and I pay the same in housing cost but you rent and I own, then my tax right off comes straight out of your pocket.

Of course, right now anything we do to suppress home sales will only exacerbate the immediate financial problem. Also, there are many people who were lured into purchasing homes on the basis that they could right off the interest on their taxes. That tax break is factored into people's financial plans going decades forward. I have trouble bribing people to stretch themselves (supposedly for the collective's benefit) and then yanking the rug out from under them.

This tax break, and all the market distorting incentives that created the housing bubble need to go, but we can't do it overnight. We need to stop it for new mortgages but phase it out over a decade or more for existing mortgages.

Frankly, I strongly doubt the Obama administration is even honestly considering it. More likely its the Federal version of "cut vital services first so that people will support tax increases" that is much beloved by local politicians. Putting the mortgage deduction on the table is a sure way to get everyone with a mortgage on board for increasing income or corporate taxes.

Some things never change.

Posted by: Shannon Love | Jun 10, 2010 1:26:44 PM

So, the $8k in added cost for around $500k in debt will add about 20% to payments for that house. On the flip side that will reduce that value by about 20% for the fraction of buyers not paying cash - ouch. That's not gonna be good for the housing market. Time to short the builders again.

Looks like Toll Brothers average home price is $655k those will surly be in the range impacted. . . of course they could become investment properties instead unless they want to get rid on the business interest deduction too. :)

Posted by: Steve Adams | Jun 10, 2010 1:23:08 PM

"When it applies to only some people but not others, it is. When it applies to people who engage in particular government-approved behaviors, it's social engineering through the tax code, and it's a type of subsidy."

Based on your logic, anything other than a single tax rate applied to every dollar regardless of source is a "subsidy." So by all means, let's apply the exact same marginal rate to everyone regardless of income of circumstance, and eliminate all deductions, credits, and exemptions.

Or better yet, 'fairer' yet, is let's charge every single American the exact same DOLLAR amount in taxes, regardless of circumstance... since the purpose of a percentage-based tax is to extract more money from those who earn more... therefore it's a subsidy of everyone except the one lone slob who pays the largest dollar amount.

The whole purpose of 99.999% of the tax code is in INequal application of tax policy based on individual circumstance.

Posted by: Sarge | Jun 10, 2010 1:22:43 PM

Boy, that'll sure stimulate the housing market!

I am continually amazed at the total economic illiteracy of the allegedly smart Ivy League-educated people running our national government.

Posted by: MPM (UC Law '89) | Jun 10, 2010 1:12:54 PM

That's fine, I'll buy my neighbor's house, he'll pay the lease payments and I'll get a depreciation deduction on my returns

Posted by: JD | Jun 10, 2010 1:12:24 PM

Barry D said: then an interest-only loan is the thing for you. And as we've seen, those were great for the country, right?

Hey dope, don't talk about subjects you know nothing about. I was a licensed mortgage broker for many years and now I'm a licensed financial advisor. So I know a little bit about money and finance.

And guess what? I have a ten-year interest-only loan at 4.625%. Why? Because instead of paying down a loan at a low interest rate, I can instead purchase bonds (or any investment) that earns more than that rate and come out ahead.

Moreover, for the ten years I am earning income on the capital I invest rather than pay back, inflation is eating away at the capital portion of my loan. So when I start paying it back, I will be paying back 2005 dollars with greatly inflated 2015 dollars.

So please, spare us your financial wisdom. Tax deductions DO promote home ownership and home ownership is good for neighborhoods and stable families.

Posted by: John | Jun 10, 2010 1:11:51 PM

By reducing home prices, it would also hit already-stretched local govts who depend on the property tax. Not to mention the taxpayers being on the hook for even more bailouts for Freddy, Fanny, and the too big to fail banks which own trillions of mortgage backed securities.

But all that aside, to call this a savings or a budget cut is ludicrous. The whole idea is to extract more from individuals so that the federal government can avoid cutting its budget.

Posted by: frank | Jun 10, 2010 1:09:54 PM

This is classic.

"Here, let me give you this home-buying credit of $6-8,000!"

Buy house.

"Now that you're tied in to a mortgage, I'm going to increase taxes on homeowners that will be at least 10 times that amount over the course of your new mortgage. Heheheh!"

Suckers. Hustla-in-chief keeps the hustle alive.

Posted by: Sean | Jun 10, 2010 12:56:41 PM

Gee, what happened to "I won't raise your taxes one dime"?

Posted by: Jimbo | Jun 10, 2010 12:55:32 PM

How about this compromise, all existing qualifying loans continue to receive the deduction until paid off or sold, all new loans, including refis and 2nds do not. Changing the rules in the middle of the game is not right, regardless of whether it's a subsidy or not.

Posted by: david | Jun 10, 2010 12:53:56 PM

Might as well keep screwing the pooch. The feds are going to wind up with everyone's house eventually. Let's speed the process. The housing market has been crushed and can't return. Might as well confiscate the rest of our wealth now. Who's to stop them. (BTW, there's not enough money in circulation to pay off the national debt. One of the byproducts of fractional reserve banking)

Posted by: robertsgt40 | Jun 10, 2010 12:53:26 PM

This would lead to the second and maybe larger housing crisis. People build into their ability to buy a home, the deduction in taxes. Now the dems, who can't cut a bloated, over indulgent government, want to take more money. Can you say massive forclosure wave. Obama and the democrats couldn't do a better job at destroying America if they were trying on purpose--maybe they are. G-d help us.

Posted by: John Jamison | Jun 10, 2010 12:51:15 PM

The deductibility of mortgage interest is a tax break for the middle class, not for the wealthy. For the wealthy, i.e. those whose taxable financial wealth exceeds their mortgage, it is a wash. Think of them as carrying part of their financial assets with the mortgage loan, not the house which is a distraction in this. The earnings on the assets are income but the interest payments on the mortgage are deductible from this, leaving a net tax bill of zero on this portfolio combination. Alternatively, the wealthy could buy the house with cash and have no mortgage. This reduces income from financial assets and mortgage interest by the same amount. This leaves a net tax bill of zero. Except for liquidity considerations, the wealthy household is indifferent between having and not having a mortgage. Now eliminate the deductibility of the mortgage interest. Then the wealthy household is made better off by paying off the mortgage and the government still gets no net revenue increase.

Posted by: Peter | Jun 10, 2010 12:50:43 PM

"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"

What the hell does raiising taxes have to do with cost cutting?

Is this "financial commission" staffed with Republican campaign operatives or something? I'm not normally a believer in conspiracy theories, but between this and the focus on Sarah Palin's boob jo..., I mean the conspiracy to stop people from taking any criticism of Sarah Palin seriously, I really have to wonder.

On a more practical note, the problem with government is spending, not taxes. What we need are laws, or more likely a constitutional amendment that:

1. Strips the feds (and preferably every other level of government) of any and all authority to shift spending requirements to subordinate levels of government and

2. Caps federal spending at a fixed percentage of the preceding year's GDP, by defining service in any federal elective office for any portion of a year in which federal spending exceeds that percentage as a crime, with mandatory prison time and forfeiture of all personal assets.

Posted by: J | Jun 10, 2010 12:50:40 PM

Gee, Obama must really be serious about not caring if he's a one-termer or not. With these kinds of bone-headed plays, and assuming his party even bothers to renominate him, in 2012 his GOP opponent will crush him in every demographic except the black vote--and the Republican will probably snag 1/3 of that as well.

Posted by: MarkJ | Jun 10, 2010 12:50:03 PM

I have no problem with removing the mortgage deduction; I don't see why the government should provide tax deductions for owning a home. That being said, I don't see why it's never considered that they should make this revenue neutral. Instead of using it to fund government spending, use it so that taxes can be reduced elsewhere in the economy.

Posted by: PackerBronco | Jun 10, 2010 12:47:46 PM

And, what would be the effect of eliminating this tax deduction when the Bush tax cuts expire next year and everyone has a rate increase and/or loses some tax credits? Isn't there a proposal to change the deduction for medical expenses to 10% of AGI, so that also increases taxable income...

Will we be in for a double dip recession, or worse?

Posted by: liz | Jun 10, 2010 12:46:40 PM

The average Joseph Blow (that would be me) will see only the bottom line here - I will be sending in more, Much More, money to the government than I do now. If that is not a tax increase of epic proportion I don't know what is. They can parse this anyway they want but that is all I will see.

Posted by: Darryl Boyd | Jun 10, 2010 12:46:36 PM

This would be a killer for those who stretched their budgets too far in buying a home and relied on this deduction. It would be a killer for the real estate market as well.

Posted by: Bill | Jun 10, 2010 12:44:00 PM

Agree with BD above
But the key point is "cut spending". I'll fight any tax revenue increase, no matter how just, or how logical, until I see movement on the spending side of the ledger.

Posted by: Jim,MtnViewCA,USA | Jun 10, 2010 12:40:58 PM

"That $8k also happens to be the difference between renting a house in the crummy expensive market I live in, and paying the mortgage on the same house while building equity."

Yes, and that's (mostly) because of the tax deduction.

In other words, if the tax deduction had never existed, you would have paid less for your house.

But you raise an more subtle point, perhaps w/o realizing it -- now that we have an entire country of homeowners that depended on the deduction to get into their current house (at a price inflated by the tax deduction), is it really fair to remove the (admittedly bad) tax deduction?

Even if we grandfather in people with existing mortgages, losing the deduction would cause an immediate drop in the value of every home in the US.

I doubt we'll see any change to the code for that very reason.

Posted by: anon | Jun 10, 2010 12:40:55 PM

'Likewise, avoiding having the government take more of your earnings is not a "subsidy" or a "tax entitlement".'

When it applies to only some people but not others, it is. When it applies to people who engage in particular government-approved behaviors, it's social engineering through the tax code, and it's a type of subsidy.

Would you think that exempting, say, all federal employees from taxes would not be a subsidy to federal employees?

If you don't want to call it a tax, how about we stop calling it a mortgage interest deduction and instead call it the special renter's tax?

Posted by: John Thacker | Jun 10, 2010 12:40:46 PM

If you buy your neighbor's home and lease it to him, and he does the same for you, then the homes become business investments subject to pretty much the same tax treatment they receive now. Or am I missing something?

Posted by: Bruce | Jun 10, 2010 12:38:58 PM

Does that Toder guy own his own home?

Posted by: Eric Blair | Jun 10, 2010 12:33:06 PM

There's a key reliance element here, too. Lots of people purchased homes with at least one eye to the interest deduction when they determined affordability. Take that deduction away after they made their purchase, and there will be more than a few owners who can no longer afford their mortgages.

If the interest deduction does not make sense, then it should be phased out (i.e. current owners keep their deduction, while the deduction is gradually phased out over a period of some years for new buyers). But the bottom line, for political and economic purposes, is simple: owners should be grandfathered in to the deductions in existence at the time of their purchase. To do otherwise would risk political suicide and a new wave of foreclosures.

Posted by: Jim | Jun 10, 2010 12:32:31 PM

"That $8k also happens to be the difference between renting a house in the crummy expensive market I live in, and paying the mortgage on the same house while building equity."

Exactly why this deduction should be canned--if the tax break is the only reason you're owning instead of renting, then you should definitely be renting. Plus, the deduction does NOT incentivize you to build equity at all, since it's based on how much interest you pay. The "equity" portion of your mortgage payment doesn't count, so if your goal is to maximize tax savings from your home, then an interest-only loan is the thing for you. And as we've seen, those were great for the country, right? An uncapped HMI deduction, especially when IRA's are limited to $1,200, is simply unconscionable.

Posted by: Dustin | Jun 10, 2010 12:28:57 PM

Well, I actually agree: the mortgage interest tax deduction doesn't make sense. It distorts the market for real estate, it encourages reckless borrowing, and it punishes those too poor (or sometimes too prudent) to buy a home.

However, I would also like to see, for example, savings account interest be non-taxable. Interest is either taxable, or not, but it should be so across the board. If interest earned is a capital gain, then interest paid is a capital loss -- or both should simply be a non-issue, taxably-speaking.:)

Posted by: Barry D | Jun 10, 2010 12:12:37 PM

Oh good grief.

If you thwart an armed robber and thereby succeed in avoiding the theft of your money, that does not meant that that money is a "subsidy" provided by the robber!

Likewise, avoiding having the government take more of your earnings is not a "subsidy" or a "tax entitlement".

The whole notion of a tax deduction being a "tax entitlement" or of it constituting a "cost" to the government is an obscene evasion of the fact that the money in question belongs to the tax payer that earned it -- not the government.

Infuriating. These looters will stop at nothing.

Posted by: Michael Smith | Jun 10, 2010 12:12:19 PM

>>>but does little to encourage the middle class and less wealthy to buy homes

That's what they concluded, eh? Just so happens that the deduction is worth around $8k a year to me, because it comes off the top chunk of my earnings so it counts against marginal tax rate. That $8k also happens to be the difference between renting a house in the crummy expensive market I live in, and paying the mortgage on the same house while building equity.

What universe do these people live in? I'm glad they don't feel the need to subsidize me and all, but if they're going to stop subsidizing me, maybe I should stop subsidizing them too. Y'know. To be fair. And socially just.

Posted by: Joe Blow | Jun 10, 2010 12:08:55 PM

That's the beauty of relying on professors...they are clueless. (Sorry, but it's true.) The dumbest cluck on the Hill knows that this would be so unpopular, it would insure that the Democrats never were a majority party again. And boy--what a keen way to NOT dispose of all those empty houses for which we need to find buyers.

Posted by: Clarice | Jun 10, 2010 12:05:42 PM

But it doesn't save anything. It takes more from people. To say it save the government money is to assume the money was the government's in the first place.

Posted by: Daniel | Jun 10, 2010 12:05:20 PM

"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."

Do the words "save" and "confiscate" now have the same meaning?

Posted by: Wintoon | Jun 10, 2010 12:02:58 PM