Make us your home page
Instagram

The Nation's Housing: Budgeters give tax preference the eye

Budgeters give tax preference the eye

WASHINGTON — Could the popular $250,000-$500,000 tax-free exclusion of capital gains on sales of homes be a target in any broad-scale, post-election effort to reduce the federal debt and deficit?

Absolutely. Though far more public attention has been given to the presidential candidates' proposals for reining in the mortgage interest deduction, the capital gains exclusion is one of a number of housing "preferences" — subsidies — embedded in the tax code that are on the table in fiscal negotiations beginning later this month on Capitol Hill and likely extending well into 2013.

Nonpartisan, corporate-backed groups such as Fix the Debt, which has nearly 100 CEOs of blue-chip companies including GE, Dow Chemical, AT&T and Microsoft on its list of supporters, define the report of President Obama's deficit reduction commission as the starting "framework" for their forthcoming national debt-reduction campaign. The deficit commission, headed by former Wyoming Republican Sen. Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles, White House chief of staff for Bill Clinton, called for eliminating or restricting most current tax deductions as part of a plan to reduce the federal deficit by $4 trillion by 2020. The commission also envisioned deep cuts in federal spending and a reduction in corporate and personal income tax rates.

Though the commission carved out one possible exception for housing — converting the mortgage interest deduction to a 15 percent tax credit — tax experts say that under the Simpson-Bowles version of fiscal reform, virtually all real estate write-offs, including the capital gains exclusion, would disappear in a simplified federal tax code. Others on the list: deductions for local and state property taxes; federal tax exemption for interest on state government bond issues used to help provide mortgages for moderate-income home purchasers; and exemption for income taxation of mortgage amounts forgiven by lenders in loan modifications and short sales.

The exclusion of home sale profits, which is projected to save homeowners $86 billion between 2010 and 2014 according to congressional tax estimates, allows taxpayers who have owned and used their principal residences for two years out of the five years preceding a sale to escape capital gains taxation on as much as the first $250,000 (for single filers) and $500,000 (married joint filers) of the profits they make from the transactions.

The ability to pocket home sale gains without taxation is available to all qualified owners once every two years. But it is of special importance to preretirees and retired owners as it allows many of them to owe no federal taxes on their home sale gains — most sales do not generate anywhere near the $250,000 or $500,000 limits — and to factor this tax-free money into planning for their retirement years.

In a so-called "grand bargain" comprehensive reform plan based on the Simpson-Bowles framework, as advocated by Fix the Debt, owners might pay ordinary income taxes at a lower rate but could also lose valuable preferences built into the tax code over a period of decades that were designed to encourage ownership of a home. Whether the net financial benefits of the lower tax brackets would outweigh owners' loss of deductions for mortgage interest and other current advantages — including tax-free treatment of gains on sales of their homes — would depend on the specifics of the grand bargain, phase-in timetables for the tax code changes, and on each owner's personal situation.

The Nation's Housing: Budgeters give tax preference the eye 11/03/12 [Last modified: Saturday, November 3, 2012 4:30am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, Washington Post - Writers Group.
    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. The FHP trooper behind quota on speeding tickets will retire Sept. 5

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — A Florida Highway Patrol official's call for troopers to meet ticket quotas has cost him his job.

    Major Mark D. Welch, Troop Commander of Troop H, wrote an email asking his employees that he wants them to write two citations each hour. "This is not a quota," he wrote. His resignation is effective Sept. 5. [Florida Highway Patrol]
  2. Trump shuts down CEO advisory councils as main group acts to disband

    Business

    President Donald Trump's main council of top corporate leaders disbanded on Wednesday following the president's controversial remarks in which he equated white nationalist hate groups with the protesters opposing them. Soon after, the president announced on Twitter that he would end his executive councils, "rather than …

    President Donald Trump meets with Merck's chief executive, Kenneth Frazier, second from left, and other leaders of the pharmaceutical industry in the Roosevelt Room of the White House last January. On Wednesday, Trump's main council of top corporate leaders disbanded following the president's controversial remarks in which he equated white nationalist hate groups with the protesters opposing them.
[New York Times file photo]
  3. A long-awaited vision for Tampa's Westshore Marina District

    Real Estate

    TAMPA —Eleven years after plans to develop a waterfront tract on the Tampa side of the Gandy Bridge were first announced, a new rendering gives a hint of what Westshore Marina District ultimately will look like.

    Rendering of Marina Pointe, a condo project overlooking Tampa Bay as part of the Westshore Marina District. [Courtesy of Masterfile Corp.}
  4. Buddy Brew Coffee to open downtown Tampa location

    Business

    TAMPA — Buddy Brew Coffee plans to open a new location in downtown Tampa at Park Tower in early 2018. The specialty coffee craft roaster, which was founded in 2010, has five other locations throughout Tampa including the Oxford Exchange, Sarasota, Hyde Park Village and Terminal F inside the Tampa International …

    A cappuccino is displayed at Buddy Brew in Tampa in January 2017. [CHARLIE KAIJO | Times]
  5. Where to pig out for National Bacon Lovers Day

    Food & Dining

    That's right: Sunday is the national day devoted to all things bacon, National Bacon Lovers Day. Which, really, isn't too different from the other 364 days of the year. But here's a little roundup of some special places to celebrate everyone's favorite meat snack (seriously, even vegans have a grudging respect …

    A creme-filled doughnut topped with maple frosting and bacon at Dough on MacDill Avenue in Tampa.