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Income Tax Provisions Affecting Owner-Occupied Housing: Revenue Costs and Incentive Effects

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  • James M. Poterba
  • Todd M. Sinai

Abstract

The mortgage interest deduction, the property tax deduction, the unique treatment of capital gains on owner-occupied homes, and the absence of taxation on imputed rent from owner-occupied homes all influence the effective cost of housing services. They also affect federal income tax revenues and the distribution of income tax liabilities. We draw on household-level data from the 2004 Survey of Consumer Finances to analyze how several potential reforms would affect incentives for housing consumption as well as the distribution of income tax burdens. Our analysis recognizes that changing the mortgage interest deduction would induce changes in household financial behavior. We estimate that repealing the mortgage interest deduction in 2003 would have raised income tax revenues by $72.4 billion in the absence of any portfolio adjustments, but by only $61.9 billion if homeowners responded by drawing down a limited set of financial assets to partially replace their mortgage debt. The revenue effects of changing the property tax deduction similarly depend on how state and local governments alter their mix of revenue instruments in response to federal tax reform. Our results underscore the importance of recognizing behavioral responses when calculating the revenue costs of income tax provisions relating to owner-occupied housing.

Suggested Citation

  • 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.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:14253
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Charles Himmelberg & Christopher Mayer & Todd Sinai, 2005. "Assessing High House Prices: Bubbles, Fundamentals and Misperceptions," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 19(4), pages 67-92, Fall.
    2. Martin Gervais & Manish Pandey, 2008. "Who Cares About Mortgage Interest Deductibility?," Canadian Public Policy, University of Toronto Press, vol. 34(1), pages 1-24, March.
    3. Gervais, Martin, 2002. "Housing taxation and capital accumulation," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 49(7), pages 1461-1489, October.
    4. Feldstein, Martin S & Metcalf, Gilbert E, 1987. "The Effect of Federal Tax Deductibility on State and Local Taxes and Spending," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 95(4), pages 710-736, August.
    5. Anderson, John E. & Clemens, Jeffrey & Hanson, Andrew, 2007. "Capping the Mortgage Interest Deduction," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association;National Tax Journal, vol. 60(4), pages 769-785, December.
    6. Jones, Lawrence D., 1995. "Net wealth, marginal tax rates and the demand for home mortgage debt," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 25(3), pages 297-322, June.
    7. Follain, James R. & Ling, David C., 1991. "The Federal Tax Subsidy to Housing and the Reduced Value of the Mortgage Interest Deduction," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 44(2), pages 147-68, June.
    8. James Poterba & Todd Sinai, 2008. "Tax Expenditures for Owner-Occupied Housing: Deductions for Property Taxes and Mortgage Interest and the Exclusion of Imputed Rental Income," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 98(2), pages 84-89, May.
    9. Follain, James R. & Ling, David C., 1991. "The Federal Tax Subsidy to Housing and the Reduced Value of the Mortgage Interest Deduction," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association;National Tax Journal, vol. 44(2), pages 147-168, June.
    10. Ling, David C. & McGill, Gary A., 1998. "Evidence on the Demand for Mortgage Debt by Owner-Occupants," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 44(3), pages 391-414, November.
    11. Poterba, James M, 1992. "Taxation and Housing: Old Questions, New Answers," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 82(2), pages 237-242, May.
    12. Todd Sinai & Joseph Gyourko, 2004. "The (Un)changing Geographical Distribution of Housing Tax Benefits: 1980 to 2000," NBER Working Papers 10322, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    13. Robert M. Dunsky & James R. Follain, 2000. "Tax-Induced Portfolio Reshuffling: The Case of the Mortgage Interest Deduction," Real Estate Economics, American Real Estate and Urban Economics Association, vol. 28(4), pages 683-718.
    14. Rosanne Altshuler & Robert Dietz, 2008. "Reconsidering Tax Expenditure Estimation: Challenges And Reforms," Departmental Working Papers 200804, Rutgers University, Department of Economics.
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    Cited by:

    1. Douglas Sutherland & Peter Hoeller & Balázs Égert & Oliver Röhn, 2010. "Counter-cyclical Economic Policy," OECD Economics Department Working Papers 760, OECD Publishing.
    2. Schünemann, Johannes & Trimborn, Timo, 2017. "Boosting taxes for boasting about houses: Status concerns in the housing market," ECON WPS - Vienna University of Technology Working Papers in Economic Theory and Policy 05/2017, Vienna University of Technology, Institute for Mathematical Methods in Economics, Research Group Economics (ECON).
    3. William G. Gale & Samuel Brown, 2013. "Tax Reform for Growth, Equity, and Revenue," Public Finance Review, , vol. 41(6), pages 721-754, November.
    4. Mika Kortelainen & Tuukka Saarimaa, 2012. "Do Homeowners Benefit Urban Neighborhoods? Evidence from Housing Prices," SERC Discussion Papers 0110, Spatial Economics Research Centre, LSE.
    5. Cho, Sang-Wook (Stanley) & Francis, Johanna L., 2011. "Tax treatment of owner occupied housing and wealth inequality," Journal of Macroeconomics, Elsevier, vol. 33(1), pages 42-60, March.
    6. Poterba, James M. & Sinai, Todd, 2011. "Revenue Costs and Incentive Effects of the Mortgage Interest Deduction for Owner-Occupied Housing," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association;National Tax Journal, vol. 64(2), pages 531-564, June.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • H2 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue
    • H24 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Personal Income and Other Nonbusiness Taxes and Subsidies
    • H71 - Public Economics - - State and Local Government; Intergovernmental Relations - - - State and Local Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue
    • R21 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - Household Analysis - - - Housing Demand

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