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

  • James M. Poterba
  • Todd M. Sinai

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.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 14253.

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Date of creation: Aug 2008
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Publication status: published as Todd Sinai, James Poterba (2011), Revenue Costs and Incentive Effects of the Mortgage Interest Deduction for Owner-Occupied Housing, National Tax Journal, 64 (2), 531 - 564
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:14253
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  1. 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.
  2. 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 710-36, August.
  3. 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.
  4. Charles Himmelberg & Christopher Mayer & Todd Sinai, 2005. "Assessing High House Prices: Bubbles, Fundamentals, and Misperceptions," NBER Working Papers 11643, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Martin Gervais, 1998. "Housing Taxation and Capital Accumulation," UWO Department of Economics Working Papers 9807, University of Western Ontario, Department of Economics.
  6. 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.
  7. James M. Poterba, 1992. "Taxation and Housing: Old Questions, New Answers," NBER Working Papers 3963, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Anderson, John E. & Clemens, Jeffrey & Hanson, Andrew, 2007. "Capping the Mortgage Interest Deduction," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 60(4), pages 769-85, December.
  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, vol. 44(2), pages 147-68, June.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. 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.
  13. 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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