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Goodbye to mortgage deduction in 2013?

Posted by Scott Van Voorhis December 31, 2012 08:55 AM

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Leave my tax breaks alone!

Really, given the amount of waste, fraud and just outright foolish spending that goes on at the federal and state level, it's amazing that Washington can't come up with anything better than to whack middle-class homeowners.

It's not clear how President Obama and Congress intend to wriggle out of the financial straitjacket known as the fiscal cliff.

But given the mess we are dealing with, 2013 may be an unfortunately memorable one for homeowners, who stand to lose part or maybe all of the cherished mortgage interest deduction.

Potentially the most devastating to individual homeowners - and to the housing market as well - would be a decision to simply cancel this popular tax break for a multi-year period in order to bring in more cash. (Here's Zillow's breakdown of this and other potential cuts to this popular tax break.)

That could free up more than $100 billion a year the federal government current forgoes through this middle-class tax break.

Yet it is also likely to send the now recovering housing market into reverse, leading to a drop in home prices after significant gains made in 2012, according to a Zillow survey of economists.

And if falling home prices cuts into economic growth, this could mean less money coming in through taxes of all sorts.

Massachusetts homeowners claim, on average, $11,366 in mortgage interest deductions, some of the highest in the country, behind only states like New York and California.

Seemingly more palatable, but potentially dangerous for a state like Massachusetts with crazy home prices, is the sock-it-to-the-high-end approach that is seen as another option.

That would roll back the mortgage interest deduction from the current limit, of home loans up to $1 million, down to $500,000, while getting rid of it altogether for second homes.

Of course, $500,000 is not such a princely sum when it comes to home prices in many Boston area suburbs, with the median price in more than a few upscale towns and urban neighborhoods across the area well above that number.

Axing the deduction for second homes, in turn, could deliver a roundhouse punch to the real estate market on the Cape and Islands.

Sorry, but socking it to middle class homeowners is not politically courageous or enlightened - rather it lets politicians get off the hook and avoid messier fights deal with government streamlining and reform.

No. 1 offender is health care costs - here's a story about one local man outraged over his insurance company shelling out $83 for a simple army sling- basically two pieces of cloth sewn together.

This is just one small but emblematic example of a health care system out of control, distorted by badly-designed government incentives and subsidies.

Give me a more efficient, rational government and then maybe it would make sense parting with some or part of the mortgage interest deduction.

But right now, it would amount to money pouring more money down a rat hole.

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About boston real estate now
Scott Van Voorhis is a freelance writer who specializes in real estate and business issues.

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