Though its demise drew little attention because of the partisan year-end brawl over the payroll tax cut extension in Congress, a key mortgage financing benefit disappeared at the end of December: The ability of large numbers of homebuyers and owners to write off the premiums they pay for mortgage insurance.
The loss of that tax deduction – plus mandatory new fees imposed by Congress on all new conventional and Federal Housing Administration loans – could effectively ratchet up the costs of homeownership this year.
The expiration of mortgage insurance deductibility will hit many low-down payment conventional loans originated since 2007, plus virtually all new mortgages closed this year where the down payment is less than 20 percent. Though industry experts do not have precise numbers, their estimates range into the millions of existing owners and new purchasers potentially touched by the deductibility termination. Borrowers using guaranteed veterans (VA) and rural housing loans, where down payments can drop to zero, also are affected.
The change in the law took effect Jan. 1 along with the expiration of 58 other tax code benefits that Congress failed to renew, such as credits for home-energy improvements, credits for builders of energy-efficient new houses and deductions for state and local sales tax payments. They were all components of what would have been an annual “tax extenders” bill authorizing continuation of relatively noncontroversial expiring benefits for another year or more. Congress could still reauthorize all or some of the write-offs retroactively this year, but the current poisonous political atmosphere on Capitol Hill raises doubts about the timing of that scenario.
The mortgage insurance premium deduction dates to legislation enacted in 2006. It allows purchasers and refinancers who use either private mortgage insurance or federal insurance or guarantees, and who itemize on their federal tax returns, to write off their premiums. Borrowers who are single or married and filing jointly with adjusted gross incomes of $100,000 or less can write off 100 percent of their annual mortgage insurance premiums. Married homeowners filing singly can write off 50 percent of premiums. Borrowers with incomes above $100,000 may qualify for partial deductions on a sliding scale.