Mortgage Interest Deductible or Not?


house-186400_640Mortgage Interest and Home Mortgage Tax Deduction is not all it may seem. One of the current IRS audit initiatives is checking to see if taxpayers are deducting too much home equity debt interest. Taxpayers are allowed to deduct the interest on up to $1 million of home acquisition debt. This debt includes debt incurred to make improvements, but not repairs. It also includes the interest on up to $100,000 of home equity debt. Equity debt is debt not incurred to acquire or improve the home. Taxpayers often exceed the equity debt limit. They fail to adjust their interest deduction accordingly.

The best way to explain this interest deduction limitation is by example. Let’s assume you have never refinanced the original loan that was used to purchase your home, and the current principal balance of that acquisition debt is less than $1 million. However, you also have a line of credit on the home. The debt on that line of credit is treated as equity debt. If the balance on that line of credit is $120,000, then you have exceeded the equity debt limitation. This debt is only 83.33% ($100,000/$120,000) of the equity line interest. It is deductible as home mortgage interest on Schedule A. The balance is not deductible unless you can trace the use of the excess debt to either investment or business use. If traceable to investments, the interest you pay on the amount traceable would be deductible as investment interest. This is deducted on Schedule A but is limited to an amount equal to your net investment income (investment income less investment expenses). If the excess debt was used for business, you could deduct the interest on that excess debt on the appropriate business schedule.

Secured or Not Secured

On the other hand, the IRS allows you to elect to treat the equity line debt as “not secured.”. This allows the interest on the entire equity debt to be traced to its use, as well as, if it was deducted on the appropriate schedule. For instance, you borrow from the equity line for a down payment on a rental. If you make the “not secured” election. The interest on the amount borrowed for the rental down payment would be deductible on the Schedule E rental income and expense schedule. But it would not be subject to the home equity debt limitations.

However, one of the rules that allows home mortgage interest to be deductible is it must be secured by the home. If the unsecured election is used, none of the interest can be traced back to the home itself. What if the equity line was used partly for the rental down payment and partially for personal reasons? The interest associated with the personal portion of the loan would not be deductible since you elected to treat it as not secured by your home.

Using the unsecured election can have unexpected results in the current year and in the future. You should use that election only after consulting with this office. We admit, it can get confusing for people who are not familiar with the complicated rules associated with home mortgage interest. They may think that the interest shown on the Form 1098, issued by their lenders at the end of the year, is fully deductible. In many cases, when taxpayers have refinanced or have equity loans, that may be far from the truth. It could result in an IRS inquiry and potential multi-year adjustments. In fact, for Forms 1098 issued after 2016 (thus effective for 2016 information), the IRS will require lenders to include additional information, including:

1) the amount of the outstanding mortgage principal as of the beginning of the calendar year,
2) the mortgage origination date, and
3) the address of the property securing the mortgage

This information will provide the IRS additional tools for audits.

When in doubt about mortgage interest rules, ask:

When in doubt about how much interest you can deduct.  Or, if you have questions about how refinancing. Or, questions about taking on additional home mortgage debt and how it will impact your taxes? Please call Alex for assistance.

For more information, call Alex Franch at 781.789.7200. WorthTax has locations in Norwell, Dedham, and Weymouth, Massachussetts.
Alex Franch

Mr. Franch is a Tax Specialist and Partner at Joseph Cahill & Associates / WorthTax. He has a diverse background including a Bachelor of Science from Boston College in Mathematics and extensive military service. Mr. Franch is an Enrolled Agent and has eight years of tax preparation experience. He has been serving individuals, families, and businesses for several years with tax and financial planning strategies and is a junior partner with the firm. Mr. Franch is licensed by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) with a Series 6, 63, 65, and 7, and by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Division of Insurance.

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