Homeowners have long been a favorite child of the tax code. With the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act they are losing some of their perks.
The new law, signed in December by President Trump, should deliver most Americans -- and perhaps even most homeowners -- an overall tax cut. But that's largely because of provisions that benefit taxpayers across the board, like an increased standard deduction and lower marginal tax rates. Meanwhile Congress -- partly to offset the cost of these broad cuts -- also curtailed some provisions that specifically benefit homeowners, like deductions for mortgage interest and state and local taxes.
Taken together these changes could spell a dramatic change for U.S. homeownership. According to housing researcher Zillow, the share of homeowners who itemize their tax returns will drop from 44% to 14%. In other words, despite any overall benefits, for millions of Americans owning a home will not longer carry the financial advantages it did before.
To be sure, there are a lot of variables for individual homeowners. For many, owning a home will remain financially attractive. And not all homeowners will be able to count on an overall tax cut. Confused about the new math of owning a home works out? No matter what your situation, here is what it means for you:
You're shopping for a new house
If the home is moderately-priced:
Your taxes will probably be easier to file, and you could save some money.
The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act doubles the standard deduction to $12,000 from $6,350 in 2017 ($24,000 from $12,700 for couples), eliminating the need to itemize for homeowners with mortgage interest and property tax bills that fall below these thresholds (assuming no other big potential deductions).
Consider a couple with a $200,000 mortgage. Their total housing costs, including extras like state taxes, would likely amount to just over $14,325 a year, according to an estimate by Trulia. In 2017, the couple would have itemized since those housing costs exceed the old $12,700 standard deduction for couples by $1,625. That would have meant lots of extra paperwork, such as tracking down and filing loan statements, but also would have saved them several hundred dollars.
Under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, those housing expenses don't even come close to eclipsing the new $24,000 standard deduction, assuming they have no other deductible expenses. The result is a simpler filing process and big tax savings -- as much as $4,000 in 2018, according to Trulia.
If the house is on the expensive end:
You could end up owing more, especially if you live in a coastal state with high taxes and land values.
The new law crimps homeowner benefits on two fronts, capping the amount of deductible property and other state and local taxes at $10,000, while also scaling back the potential of the mortgage interest deduction. While homeowners could previously deduct interest on mortgage amounts up to $1 million, that limit has been lowered to $750,000. The result is that these homeowners' individual deductions may still be worth more than new, higher standard deduction, but also far less valuable than they were before.
There is some good news. While the cap on state and local tax deductions will impact all homeowners, the new limit on mortgage interest deductions will only apply those borrowed after Dec. 14, 2017. And of course, if you are a high earner -- to afford a $750,000 mortgage you likely earn at least $155,000, according to Bankrate.com -- you may benefit from other aspects of the bill, such as lower marginal rates on income.
You're deciding between renting and buying
You might give renting a second look.
Just as the new doubled standard deduction will obviate the tax benefits of home ownership for many American homeowners, it will also diminish financial incentives for renters to buy.
One recent study by the Urban Institute found that under the new tax law, so-called "breakeven" rents — the monthly amount above which renters are better off becoming homeowners — jumped significantly for upper-middle class and wealthy taxpayers. For instance, under the old rule, for a typical three-person family earning $75,000 owning became more financially advantageous once the family's monthly rent exceeded $893. Under the new law that number climbs 14% to $1,017.
For wealthy families the difference can be even more dramatic. For one family making $300,000, the breakeven rent jumps 32% from $2,757 a month to $3,631.
You have your eye on a second home
You find it hard to fit under the deduction limits.
While earlier incarnations of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act proposed axing the mortgage interest deduction for second homes, the version of the plan signed into law preserves the ability to do so, if with less impact due to the $750,000 cap. The limit applies across all mortgages, meaning if a buyer with a $500,000 mortgage borrows $300,000 for a second home, the interest on $50,000 worth of those mortgages is not deductible.
Even if your two mortgages combined total less than $750,000, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act could still change your purchase's tax implications. The $10,000 cap on state and local tax deductions holds no matter how many homes you own, so it's important to consider how high a second home would raise your total property taxes.
You want to put your home on the market
Your worst fears are probably averted.
If being a homeowner becomes more expensive, that could also effect home values too. Initial analysis suggested the hit could be significant— as much as 10% — according to one study by the National Association of Realtors, a trade group. The good news is those early forecasts were built around earlier versions of the bill, which included a much more dramatic roll back of the mortgage interest deduction. In fact, a more recent NAR report predicts that home prices will slow, but not drop, on average in 2018.