Uh-Oh, Mortgage Interest Deduction Part of ‘Fiscal Cliff’ Maneuvering

The tax advantage American home owners have enjoyed for more than a century – the mortgage interest deduction – well, get ready to kiss it good-bye.

With 26 days and counting before we all fall off the “fiscal cliff,” that tax write-off American homeowners have enjoyed for more than a century – the mortgage interest deduction – well, get ready to kiss it good-bye.

Numerous reports concerning maneuvering on the fiscal cliff package have stated that a change to the long-standing policy that allows homeowners to deduct mortgage interest payments from their income taxes could be part of the remedy.  As homeowners (or potential homeowners), you should be outraged and opposed to any changes to the mortgage interest deduction (MID).

The administration’s proposal calls for limiting the value of the MID to 28 cents on the dollar for affected taxpayers, rather than 33 cents or 35 cents. “Affected taxpayers” are those where the value of itemized deductions are used for taxpayers earning more than $200,000 in annual income; or $250,000 for joint filings of married couples.

Now before you get all worked up into an Über Liberal rant, we need to immediately correct the misconception that only the wealthy benefit from the MID. In reality, it primarily benefits middle- and lower-income families. Almost two-thirds of those who claim the MID are middle-income earners; 65 percent of families who take the MID earn less than $100,000 a year, and 91 percent earn less than $200,000 a year.

Oh, and there’s this chestnut: There is also consideration of lowering the MID deduction ceiling to a home price of $500,000 and deleting its application to second homes and home upgrades. If that were in effect now, more than 35 percent of residences sold in San Mateo County last year would not have qualified for this benefit of home ownership.

So what needs to be done? Pretty basic stuff. Tell Congresswomen Jackie Speier and Anna Eshoo as well as Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer that, as your elected officials, it is imperative they remain vigilant in opposing any plan that modifies or excludes the deductibility of mortgage interest.

And in case you’re shy about this, you’ve got another 69,999,999 home owners who stand with you and are asking Congress to "do no harm" to the mortgage interest deduction and leave it as-is. It will be interesting to see who stands with us in support of the American Dream. Send your messages to:

Senator Boxer: https://boxer.senate.gov/en/contact/policycomments.cfm
Senator Feinstein: https://www.feinstein.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/e-mail-me
Representative Eshoo:  https://forms.house.gov/eshoo/webforms/issue_subscribe.htm
Representative Speier: https://forms.house.gov/speier/webforms/email_jackie.shtml

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Andrew Peceimer December 12, 2012 at 09:13 PM
Cliff when the rental market goes down, how do you pass on the all the new parcel taxes to your tenants?
Cliff Keith December 12, 2012 at 09:56 PM
Obviously you can't. I don't see a downward movement in rents. Several reasons: rents have not adjusted to the market/economy since the 80's and the current rise will not come back down as in past rental markets, home buyers in the 25-34 year range are still shy/fearful about buying a home and want to remain renters, with the decrease of available home buyers, investors are swooping up most of the affordable housing making the current rental market unable to purchase, the hardest group hit by loss of buying power/income in this recession were the entry level home buyers or the group between 25-34 years of age.
Cliff Keith December 12, 2012 at 10:00 PM
I apologize as I was being a bit flippant about rising rents as a pass through of additional costs to a landlord/property owner, however, I was doing so to make a point. You can tax, penalize, take away benefits from landlords, but history has proven that these costs are only passed on to those who can afford it least and who are meant to benefit from such legislation...the tenant.
Mark Burns December 14, 2012 at 02:58 AM
The market dictates rents. A rental property, for tax purposes, is a business. The mortgage interest, taxes, insurance, maintenance, etc. are expenses and rent is revenue. Rents may exceed expenses or may not. Depreciation helps but is recaptured upon sale of the property. You might make money now or you might make it down the road. The mortgage will eventually pay itself off (in most cases). The property may appreciate or it may decline in value. Rents are not dependent, contingent, nor related to any of these other factors. I agree with Cliff, rents seem to be on an upward cycle and look to continue that way for the foreseeable future.
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