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Homebuyers get a host of tax benefits that renters don’t — critical deductions that can lower your overall tax bill.
But how much do homeowners really save on their taxes? Using 2012 IRS data, the most recent available, we calculated that a homeowner who took the average for each of four tax benefits would claim $15,871 in home-related deductions.
Renting still makes sense for many, particularly when you’re in transition. But you can’t deduct rent on your income taxes. That’s why it’s important to consider the tax benefits when you consider the advantages of buying vs. renting.
Homeowners Can Deduct the Interest They Pay on Their Mortgage (Average deduction: $9,540*)
In the first few years of a mortgage, about two-thirds of the monthly mortgage payment is interest. That can translate to a hefty tax deduction.
For example, with a $200,000, 30-year fixed-rate mortgage at 4%, you’ll pay about $8,000 in interest the first year you own your home. Deducting that interest will save you $2,000 if you’re in a 25% income tax bracket ($8,000 x 0.25 = $2,000).
Since renters don’t have mortgages, they don’t get the mortgage interest deduction. The landlord gets the benefit while the renter typically pays the cost.
Homeowners Can Deduct Discount Points When They Buy (Average deduction: $611*)
Each point typically costs 1% of the loan amount, but you may be able to deduct that cost. So if you take out a $200,000 mortgage and buy one discount point for $2,000, you’d get a one-time $500 tax savings, assuming you’re in the 25% tax bracket ($2,000 x 0.25 = $500). Plus, you’ll be lowering your monthly mortgage payment because your interest rate will be lower.
Homeowners Can Deduct Property Taxes (Average deduction: $4,420*)
A Tax Deduction That Helps Offset the Cost of Buying First Home (Average deduction: $1,300*)
If you put down less than 20%, though, you’ll likely be required to buy mortgage insurance.
The good news: You probably earned another tax deduction. The cost of mortgage insurance is deductible, based on income limits. You can deduct the full cost if your income is less than $100,000, and some of the cost if your income is between $100,000 and $109,999.
Note: The mortgage insurance deduction expired at the end of 2014, and Congress has yet to renew it for 2015. In past years, Congress has renewed it late in the year or early in the following year.
The Biggest Tax Benefit Homeowners Get
Balance this benefit with investing in stocks and bonds. Unless those investments are in a Roth IRA or some other tax-free account, you’ll likely pay capital gains tax of at least 15% on your profit when you cash in those assets. A $500,000 profit in the stock market is typically going to mean you’d owe $75,000 in capital gains taxes.
Tax Credit for Going Green?
A tax credit is even better than a tax deduction because you use a credit dollar-for-dollar to offset what you owe in taxes. So if you owed $500 in federal taxes and you could claim a $100 tax credit, you’d have to pay only $400 in taxes.
Although getting several thousand dollars in deductions is a terrific benefit, it’s only part of the financial boost you get as a homeowner. Once you buy, you’ve locked in your monthly housing costs — no rent increases — and in the future, you end up with a valuable asset: a paid-for home.
* IRS, “SOI Tax Stats – Inpidual Income Tax Returns Publication 1304 (Complete Report);” Basic Tables: Exemptions and Itemized Deductions, Table 2.1: Returns with Itemized Deductions: Sources of Income, Adjustments, Itemized Deductions by Type, Exemptions, and Tax Items 2012, available here.
The thoughts, ideas, and opinions expressed are not intended as tax advice. Please consult your tax advisor for advice regarding your situation.
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