By Realty Times Staff
With the 2000 presidential campaign in full swing and the remaining candidates carefully carving out their positions, tax reform remains a key political football being kicked around, but there is little conversation about any change to the mortgage interest deduction that has helped millions of Americans afford their homes.
Washington insiders say the deduction is safe at least for another election year - and, more likely, well into the future - because of the budget surplus. Pressure to retrieve the billions saved via the deduction is virtually gone, mainly because it is apparent the government no longer needs the money to help reduce the deficit.
Likewise, there are almost no voices being heard any more that the deduction amounted to a tax break for the rich (people who could afford homes) and penalized the poor (people who could only afford to rent).
Although key Washington bureaucrats say the threat of Congress ever actually voting to eliminate the popular deduction was more imagined than real, they said the more likely scenario was a steady reduction in the total amount of mortgage interest consumers could claim on their taxes. Now, they say, even pressure to reduce those ceilings is virtually gone as the government is awash in cash.
According to the Internal Revenue Service, about 125 million personal income tax returns are filed every year, out of which about 30.5 million people claim the mortgage interest deduction. About $236 billion in total interest payments are claimed.
The Congressional Budget Office, which gathers a lot of the same numbers as the IRS, says because of differing tax brackets and various other deductions, it's hard to pinpoint exactly how much tax savings Americans realize from the deduction.
Nevertheless, the CBO estimates that total at about $55 billion this year and expects it to rise to $65 billion by 2004
Almost half of all those taking advantage of the deduction have incomes between $60,000 and $200,000, claiming some $118.2 billion in payments; but even those making under $5,000 adjusted gross income are using the tax advantage, with some 122,917 taxpayers in that bracket writing off about $806 million each year.
On the other end of the scale, the IRS says 85,100 Americans with adjusted gross incomes in excess of $1 million per year write off some $2.7 billion per year.
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© Copyright 2000 by Realty Times. All Rights Reserved.