The tax deduction for mortgage interest is pretty well-known, but it's not the only tax break you could get for buying a home. Between the interest, property taxes, mortgage insurance, and discount points, your new home could cut your tax bill by hundreds or even thousands of dollars every year.
Tax breaks you can get for a mortgage
When you get a mortgage, there are some potentially lucrative tax benefits that may come with it. Here's a list of the most common mortgage-related tax deductions you can take.
1. Mortgage interest -- This is the big one for most borrowers. You're allowed to deduct the interest you pay on mortgages (purchase or refinance) on up to $1 million in original mortgage principal. Also, the deduction can be taken on a first and/or a second home, provided that the total principal doesn't exceed the threshold.
One big caveat -- to take the mortgage interest deduction, or any of the others I'm about to mention, you'll need to itemize deductions on your tax return. So, these tax breaks only benefit you if your total deductions are more than the standard deduction threshold, which is currently $6,350 for singles and married taxpayers filing separately, and $12,700 for married couples filing jointly.
2. Mortgage insurance (PMI) -- If you put less than 20% down when buying your home, chances are that you'll have to pay mortgage insurance, unless you use a loan program that specifically doesn't require it. The good news is that mortgage insurance is deductible, as long as your income is under a certain limit. The deduction begins to phase out above adjusted gross incomes (AGI) of $50,000 for singles and $100,000 for married couples filing jointly, and disappears completely above AGI of $54,000 and $109,000, respectively.
One word of caution: This deduction technically expired at the end of 2016, and as of this writing, it remains unclear as to whether it will be extended for 2017 and beyond.
3. Discount points -- The term "discount points" refer to an upfront charge you agree to pay when you get a mortgage in exchange for a lower interest rate. If you pay discount points on a loan obtained to buy (or build) your home, you can generally deduct the points you pay on your taxes during the same year. On the other hand, if the purpose of the loan was to refinance, you'll need to amortize the deduction over the entire term of the loan.
4. Property taxes -- Technically speaking, this one is available to all homeowners, regardless of whether they own their home outright or have a mortgage. However, it's certainly worth mentioning, since a condition for claiming the other deductions is itemizing, and the deduction for property taxes could potentially push your overall deductions over the threshold that makes itemizing worthwhile (LINK). If you do pay a mortgage, you probably contribute to an escrow account each month as part of your monthly payment, and your mortgage servicer pays your taxes directly. So, when you receive your annual interest statement from your mortgage company, it typically includes the amount of property taxes you paid as well.
Taxes you may have to pay when getting a mortgage
In addition to the tax benefits, it's also worth mentioning that you'll likely pay one or more taxes as part of your closing costs when you obtain your mortgage.
These will likely be in the form of county, local, or state charges, such as transfer taxes, which are paid on the transfer of any property from one owner (or lender) to another, and can vary substantially depending on the home's location.
In addition, you'll probably need to prepay a portion of your annual property taxes into an escrow account when you close your loan. Virtually all lenders require monthly escrow payments for property taxes and insurance, and these costs will then be paid directly by the lender, once a year. In general, expect to be required to pre-pay about six months' worth of these expenses.
The tax benefits of a mortgage can be a big benefit of homeownership
I've written before about the various benefits of homeownership, and the tax advantages are certainly one of the biggest draws for taxpayers who itemize deductions. So, be sure to consider the potential tax breaks when deciding whether to own or rent your next home.
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