- Helen H. Richardson/Contributor/Getty
- The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, enacted in 2017 by President Donald Trump, made some changes to the tax code that homeowners are likely to notice this year.
- For one thing, a higher standard deduction means fewer homeowners will benefit from itemizing their 2018 taxes. Some will be unable to itemize and deduct their mortgage interest on their tax return as they might be used to doing.
- Homeowners in areas with a high cost of living may feel the effect of these changes the most because of the increased standard deduction and new limits on the state and local tax deduction.
The new tax law enacted in 2017 by President Donald Trump brought a whole host of changes that may alter the way people file their taxes this year – especially homeowners.
Homeowners will probably be some of the first filers to notice the change to the standard deduction, the set amount that all taxpayers of the same filing status can deduct. While the standard deduction in 2017 was $6,350 for single filers or $12,700 for couples filing jointly, it’s now $12,000 or $24,000.
Taxpayers can either take the standard deduction or add up itemized deductions (like mortgage interest, student-loan interest, property taxes, and charitable contributions) and use that number instead.
“Many homeowners have been accustomed to taking solace in the fact that their mortgage interest and property-tax bills were deductible,” said Logan Allec, a certified public accountant who founded Money Done Right.
But with changes to the tax code, that might no longer be the case.
How tax reform reduced the tax benefits of a mortgage
When deciding whether to take the standard deduction or itemize, taxpayers choose the higher of the two amounts for obvious reasons.
But the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center has said that with a much higher standard deduction, it’s likely that a significantly smaller portion of Americans will have deductions sufficient to reach the threshold to itemize.
Largely, the change here may be psychological rather than mathematical: Many people used to deducting their mortgage interest – perhaps even those who used tax benefits as a reason to choose to buy a home over renting – won’t be able to proceed as usual.
In addition to changing the standard deduction, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act reduced the principal-balance limitation for the mortgage-interest deduction to $750,000 ($375,000 for couples filing separately) from $1 million ($500,000 for separate filers), Allec said. That means that a taxpayer with a $1 million mortgage, for instance, can now deduct only the interest paid on the first $750,000 of their mortgage instead of on the full balance.
This change applies only to mortgages taken out on or after December 14, 2017 – those taken out before that date are subject to the $1 million limitation rather than the new $750,000 limitation.
Allec said another change the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act implemented was the elimination of the separate home equity line of credit, or HELOC, deduction.
Whereas taxpayers were once able to deduct the interest on a home equity line of credit with a principal balance of up to $100,000, regardless of how they used the proceeds, a HELOC principal balance now counts toward the $750,000 limitation, just like the original mortgage. A homeowner can deduct interest from their HELOC or home equity loan only if they use the proceeds to make substantial improvements to their property.
For the most part, these changes mean almost nothing to people who didn’t itemize anyway or have small mortgage balances that don’t exceed the new limits. People with large loans, however, might notice the change.
The change in the SALT deduction could affect whole housing markets
Riley Adams, a Louisiana CPA with Young and the Invested, said he thinks several tax-reform measures could slow down booming housing markets in places like San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, and Seattle.
Adams said he’d seen evidence that home-price increases have already slowed considerably and even forced more supply onto the markets there.
“As people reconcile the heightened cost of home ownership from a tax perspective, I suspect home-price increases will continue to abate,” he said.
In addition to the doubling of the standard deduction, Riley pointed to a change in the treatment of state and local taxes. Under the previous tax law, there was no limit on the amount of these taxes you could deduct against your federal income. In areas with a high cost of living, this helped people shoulder the cost burden of high taxes on property, income, and sales.
But the new tax law caps the amount of eligible state and local taxes you can claim against your federal taxable income at $10,000 a year, Adams said.
“I think at a very basic level, homeowners in high-tax, high-property-value states will likely feel like they were dealt a bad hand by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, because many of them will have lost a large itemized deduction,” Allec said.
But homeownership costs are just one piece of the puzzle.
“It all depends on their individual tax situation,” Allec said.