Tax Reform Hits Home…

[photopress:soccer.jpg,thumb,alignright]CNN reports on some of the tax-reform proposals that have recently come out of a presidential panel. (note that none of these changes are law… yet… but rather they are just proposals and still have to go through congress.)

The panel recommended lowering the mortgage interest cap, which is the amount of a loan on which home owners would receive a tax break for interest paid, from $1 million to the average regional housing price in the range of $227,000 to $412,000.

The deduction would be converted to a credit equal to 15 percent of interest paid on mortgages up to the interest cap. A credit is a dollar-for-dollar reduction of the taxes you owe, while a deduction only reduces your taxable income by a percentage equal to your top tax rate. Deductions benefit high-income taxpayers the most and are limited to those taxpayers who itemize on the federal tax returns.

Generally speaking, the higher your mortgage loan and the higher your tax bracket, the more likely it is that you’ll see less of a tax break than you would under the current system. That’s because under the current system those in the highest tax brackets benefit most from the deduction.

CNN has more on how these changes could affect your tax bill here…

I really enjoyed Daniel Gross take on the issue in his article in his Moneybox column: Tax ’em Till They Turn Red.

In particular, he has a great description of the myopia experienced by both sides (i.e. blue-states vs. red-states):

Many of the people writing and talking about these issues suffer from one of two kinds of myopia. There’s blue-state myopia. Classic sufferers: Moneybox, Moneybox’s editors, many of Moneybox’s readers. These are people who think you have to pay seven figures to get a nice house with a nice yard in a nice suburb, or who think its normal to borrow $800,000 to buy a two-bedroom condo in a dicey neighborhood.

Then there’s red-state myopia. Connie Mack, the Republican ex-senator who is co-chairman of the tax advisory panel, is a classic sufferer. When asked by the New York Times Magazine whether limiting the deduction could “hurt the middle class and discourage people from buying, say, a $500,000 house?” he responded: “It depends on how you define middle class. I don’t think that there would be a large percentage of middle-income families that would have a $500,000 house.” Mack has obviously never spent much time in Staten Island, N.Y., where Vito Fossella, one of the few remaining Republican members of Congress in the Northeast, has already come out against the panel’s ideas. In the high-population, high-income states—the states that, by the way, produce a disproportionate share of federal income taxes—plenty of middle-class people live in $500,000 homes.

His analysis is definitely applicable to the Seattle market, where many people who would consider themselves squarely in the “middle-class” are living in $500k homes.

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