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Tax Treatment of Owner Occupied Housing and Wealth Inequality

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  • Sang-Wook Stanley Cho

    (University of New South Wales, School of Economics)

  • Johanna Francis

    (Fordham University, Department of Economics)

Abstract

In the U.S., mortgage interest deductibility provides a financial incentive for home ownership over renting as well as an incentive to "over-consume" housing since houses are not fungible. Home-ownership is also often promoted as a safe means of wealth creation. We construct and calibrate a quantitative general equilibrium lifecycle model with homeownership and mortgage decisions to investigate the degree to which the wealth inequality in the United States is driven by the home mortgage interest deduction and the untaxed nature of imputed rents from owner-occupied housing. As the tax treatment of housing will disproportionately create tax savings for the top deciles of the income distribution, we quantify how the tax deductibility contributes to the heavily skewed distribution of wealth in the United States using data from the Survey of Consumer Finances. Although the tax treatment of owner occupied housing alone is unlikely to produce the extreme wealth concentration at the far right tail of the distribution, we argue that it is re-enforced by a bequest motive. We find that removing mortgage interest deductibility and taxing imputed rents reduces the Gini coefficient by 0.04 points, caused by a re-allocation of wealth from the top 10 percentiles to the bottom 50 percentiles of the wealth distribution.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Fordham University, Department of Economics in its series Fordham Economics Discussion Paper Series with number dp2008-17.

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Date of creation: 2008
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Handle: RePEc:frd:wpaper:dp2008-17

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Web page: http://www.fordham.edu/economics/
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Keywords: Mortgage interest deductibility; housing; wealth; inequality;

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  1. James Banks & Richard Blundell & James P. Smith, 2000. "Wealth inequality in the United States and Great Britain," IFS Working Papers W00/20, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
  2. Orazio P. Attanasio & James Banks & Costas Meghir & Guglielmo Weber, 1995. "Humps and Bumps in Lifetime Consumption," NBER Working Papers 5350, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Carlos Garriga & William T. Gavin & Don Schlagenhauf, 2006. "Recent trends in homeownership," Review, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, issue Sep, pages 397-412.
  4. Martin Gervais & Manish Pandey, 2005. "Who Cares about Mortgage Interest Deductibility?," University of Western Ontario, Economic Policy Research Institute Working Papers 20059, University of Western Ontario, Economic Policy Research Institute.
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  7. Cho, Sang-Wook (Stanley), 2010. "Household wealth accumulation and portfolio choices in Korea," Journal of Housing Economics, Elsevier, vol. 19(1), pages 13-25, March.
  8. Poterba, James M, 1992. "Taxation and Housing: Old Questions, New Answers," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 82(2), pages 237-42, May.
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  10. Fran�ois Ortalo-Magné & Sven Rady, 2006. "Housing Market Dynamics: On the Contribution of Income Shocks and Credit Constraints ," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 73(2), pages 459-485.
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  12. Yoshiro Miwa & Matthew Chambers & Carlos Garriga & Don E. Schlagenhauf, 2004. "Accounting for Changes in the Homeownership Rate," CIRJE F-Series CIRJE-F-312, CIRJE, Faculty of Economics, University of Tokyo.
  13. Chambers, Matthew & Garriga, Carlos & Schlagenhauf, Don E., 2009. "Housing policy and the progressivity of income taxation," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 56(8), pages 1116-1134, November.
  14. Huggett, Mark, 1996. "Wealth distribution in life-cycle economies," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 38(3), pages 469-494, December.
  15. Pedro Silos, 2005. "Housing tenure and wealth distribution in life-cycle economies," Working Paper 2005-25, Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta.
  16. Karsten Jeske, 2005. "Macroeconomic models with heterogeneous agents and housing," Economic Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, issue Q4, pages 39-56.
  17. Jappelli, Tullio & Pagano, Marco, 1992. "Saving, Growth and Liquidity Constraints," CEPR Discussion Papers 662, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  18. James M. Poterba & Todd M. Sinai, 2008. "Income Tax Provisions Affecting Owner-Occupied Housing: Revenue Costs and Incentive Effects," NBER Working Papers 14253, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  19. Tauchen, George & Hussey, Robert, 1991. "Quadrature-Based Methods for Obtaining Approximate Solutions to Nonlinear Asset Pricing Models," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 59(2), pages 371-96, March.
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Cited by:
  1. Zodrow, George R., 2014. "Intrajurisdictional capitalization and the incidence of the property tax," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 45(C), pages 57-66.

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