Replacing the home mortgage interest deduction

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Article Highlights

  • The federal tax treatment of owner-occupied housing cries out for reform.

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  • Current tax policy offers unwarranted subsidies for the purchase of expensive homes by high-income taxpayers.

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  • Current tax policy does little to promote homeownership by those of more modest means.

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In this policy proposal - part of The Hamilton Project's 15 Ways to Rethink the Federal Budget - Alan Viard proposes to replace the mortgage interest deduction with a refundable credit as a way to reduce the artificial incentive for the construction of high-end homes by better targeting the tax breaks for housing. The article has been revised from the published version to remove the invalid $300 billion 10-year revenue gain estimated in the published version. The author thanks Sheila Crowley for detecting the flaw in the original revenue estimate. 

INTRODUCTION
The federal tax treatment of owner-occupied housing cries out for reform. Current tax policy offers unwarranted subsidies for the purchase of expensive homes by high-income taxpayers, but does little to promote homeownership by those of more modest means. To address these problems, I propose to replace the mortgage interest deduction with a refundable credit and to reduce the size of the mortgages eligible for the credit while providing transition relief. Although this proposal is not ideal in every respect, it offers an effective way to scale back and better target the tax system's housing tax breaks while raising revenue in a progressive manner. 

Viard: Replacing the Home Mortgage Interest Deduction

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About the Author

 

Alan D.
Viard
  • Alan D. Viard is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), where he studies federal tax and budget policy.

    Prior to joining AEI, Viard was a senior economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas and an assistant professor of economics at Ohio State University. He has also been a visiting scholar at the US Department of the Treasury's Office of Tax Analysis, a senior economist at the White House's Council of Economic Advisers, and a staff economist at the Joint Committee on Taxation of the US Congress. While at AEI, Viard has also taught public finance at Georgetown University’s Public Policy Institute. Earlier in his career, Viard spent time in Japan as a visiting scholar at Osaka University’s Institute of Social and Economic Research.

    A prolific writer, Viard is a frequent contributor to AEI’s “On the Margin” column in Tax Notes and was nominated for Tax Notes’s 2009 Tax Person of the Year. He has also testified before Congress, and his work has been featured in a wide range of publications, including Room for Debate in The New York Times, TheAtlantic.com, Bloomberg, NPR’s Planet Money, and The Hill. Viard is the coauthor of “Progressive Consumption Taxation: The X Tax Revisited” (2012) and “The Real Tax Burden: Beyond Dollars and Cents” (2011), and the editor of “Tax Policy Lessons from the 2000s” (2009).

    Viard received his Ph.D. in economics from Harvard University and a B.A. in economics from Yale University. He also completed the first year of the J.D. program at the University of Chicago Law School, where he qualified for law review and was awarded the Joseph Henry Beale prize for legal research and writing.
  • Phone: 202-419-5202
    Email: aviard@aei.org
  • Assistant Info

    Name: Regan Kuchan
    Phone: 202-862-5903
    Email: regan.kuchan@aei.org

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