Homeownership Tax Deductions, Credits and Exemptions

08/01/2013

For decades, home ownership in the United States has been partially subsidized by the tax savings associated with owning a home. Many homeowners qualify for certain tax deductions and tax credits that make home ownership more affordable.  In order to utilize certain deductions, a homeowner must itemize their tax deductions. But almost everyone is eligible to benefit from one or more of the tax benefits of home ownership. Here are a few to consider as of the date of this article:

tax benefits of owning a house
  1. Property Taxes Deduction: In many areas, property taxes can be one of the most significant costs of homeownership. Therefore, the ability to deduct residential property taxes from taxable income is an incredible savings. A property tax deduction is essentially a tax-deductible tax, so that the homeowner does not pay income tax on money that was used to pay property taxes. This particular deduction may only be used for the period of time the homeowner actually owns the home. Back taxes paid as part of the purchase arrangement may not be deducted. But anything going to the Seller on the settlement statement for property taxes the seller paid in advance can be deducted. Homeowners can only deduct the amount of property tax actually paid to their local municipality for the tax year. However, if the property taxes are held in escrow for paying taxes at a later time, the deduction cannot be taken until such time as the money is paid out of the escrow account to the taxing authority. Many local assessments for improvements or other city/county fees that one may find on their property tax bill are not deductible. Also, if any (typically partial) refund of the property tax occurs, the amount of the deduction is generally reduced by the amount of the refund.

  2. Mortgage Interest Deduction: For many homeowners, the mortgage interest tax deduction is the most valuable tax deduction, and can be used to deduct interest paid on a mortgage of up to one million ($1,000,000.00). When a homeowner receives their first Form 1098 from their lender, they should know that its potential value is vast and to consult with a tax professional as to how best to take advantage of this benefit. This deduction is especially useful for most new homeowners, as the initial mortgage payments for new homeowners are primarily comprised of interest for the first several years, making for a larger deduction (until more of the payment is comprised of principal when there is less interest paid and less interest to deduct). Prepaid mortgage interest paid at closing may also add to the amount of this deduction.

  3. Mortgage Insurance Premiums Deduction: Many home buyers whose initial down payment is less than 20% of the purchase price are required to pay private mortgage insurance or "PMI." This insurance can be a significant expense. Homeowners may generally deduct the premiums paid for such mortgage insurance for the current tax year on a primary residence and a non-rental second or vacation home. However, eligibility for this deduction is phased out based on income levels (check with your tax professional).

  4. Points Deduction: If an owner paid discount points or "points" (or sometimes "loan discounts") to reduce the interest rate on borrowed funds as part of the purchase or refinance of a home, the cost of these points can be deductible in the year they were paid or over the life of the mortgage, depending on the type of loan and the unique qualities of the taxpayer.

  5. Energy Credits: Some homeowners can receive a tax credit (either federal, state or local) for a portion of the cost of materials used for energy efficient upgrades to their residence (including doors, windows, furnaces and air conditioners, roofing materials, insulation, solar panels, water heaters, geo thermal heat pumps, fuel cells, wind turbines, and other energy efficient upgrades).

  6. Home Office Deduction: Many home owners, who use a portion of their home for office purposes, may be able to claim a tax deduction for the pro-rata portion of costs related to the office space (e.g. repairs, mortgage, insurance, utilities, and depreciation). To utilize this deduction, the home office must be used exclusively and regularly as a place of business, a place to meet clients/patients for business purposes, a place of storage (e.g. for inventory or records used in the business), or a place where a majority of business work is done.

  7. Gain on Sale Exclusion: Individuals can exclude up to $250,000 of gain from a primary residence from taxable income, and married couples can exclude up to $500,000 of gain. To qualify, the seller(s) must have lived in the home as a primary residence for two of the prior five years before the sale.

  8. Selling Costs Deduction: If the seller’s gain from the sale of a home does not qualify for the exclusion in #7 above, or the gain exceeds the maximum amount of the exclusion in #7, the costs associated with selling the home may also be available to reduce the tax burden of the seller. For example, the following costs may be deductible: title insurance, advertising and marketing expenses, broker fees, or repairs (if made within 90 days of the sale and with the intent to facilitate a sale).

  9. Home Improvement Loan Interest Deduction: Interest on loans for home improvements may be deductible, provided the loan was used for a "capital improvement," such as building a deck, installing a new water heater system, or building a garage or otherwise expanding the size of the home. Many s1maller items, such as wallpaper, paint, carpet, etc. are not considered "capital improvements."

  10. Construction Loan Interest Deduction: Interest on a loan used to construct a new principal residence or vacation home for personal use may be deductible for the first 24 months of the loan.

  11. Loan Forgiveness Exclusion: As of the date of this article, the Mortgage Debt Forgiveness Relief Act of 2007 was extended to allow debt that is forgiven by lenders in short sale situations to be excluded from taxable income, rather than being taxed as debt forgiveness income.

  12.  IRA Penalty Exemption: The ten (10) percent penalty for the early withdrawal of IRA funds can be avoided if the withdrawal of such funds is used toward the purchase of a home within 120 days of the withdrawal. This benefit is limited to a withdrawal of up to $10,000 in IRA funds for each spouse, and only if each spouse did not own a home within the two years prior to the new home purchase.

These tax benefits represent some of the biggest tax benefits of homeownership. Other tax benefits also exist. And the above analysis is an informational summary only and is not to be used, and is not intended to be used, as tax advice. When it comes to tax matters, a tax professional, Certified Public Accountant, or tax attorney should be consulted for the particular circumstances of each taxpayer, to ensure that no tax benefit opportunities are missed and to ensure compliance with law. 

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