Trump’s Tax Proposal And Housing: Did The Middle Class Just Get Jammed?

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The Trump/Republican tax proposal sketch is out. 360061522-Republican-Tax-Plan

While the hope is that lowering marginal tax rates will stimulate the economy (creating more jobs and tax revenue for Uncle Sam), the impact on housing and the mortgage market is ambiguous at best.

Let’s run through the numbers, that we know about.

Currently, the standard deduction for an individual is $6,350 and $12,700 for a couple. So, the first $12,700 of mortgage interest and property taxes is essentially thrown away. On top of the standard  deduction, however, a family of four can also claim personal exemptions of $4,050 per person for a total of $16,200. That puts that break point at $28,700 for a family of four. Below that point, the family of four would prefer to rent since they would literally be throwing away their mortgage interest and property tax deductions (assuming that the mortgage interest deduction is $8,000 and the property tax deduction is $4,000 for illustrative purposes). So, $12,000 in mortgage interest and property tax deductions is below the standard deduction for a couple for $12,700.

Under the proposed tax reform plan, the standard deduction would be raised to $12,000 for individuals and $24,000 for a couple. At the same time personal exemptions and property tax deductions would be eliminated. This will lead to more households renting rather than owning, holding all else constant.

But President Trump’s tax reform framework calls for collapsing the current seven tax brackets into three, with marginal tax rates of 12 percent, 25 percent and 35 percent. A decline in the marginal tax bracket lowers the value of the mortgage interest deduction resulting in fewer households having an incentive to buy home.

Depending on how the marginal tax brackets are finally decided, renters (generally in the lowest marginal tax bracket) could actually see a lower tax bill (say, tax savings of $500). It becomes muddled for the middle class since the loss of itemized deductions (other than mortgage interest deductions) could actually overwhelm the lowest marginal tax rate resulting in HIGHER taxes for the middle class (say, +$500-$1,000).

There are lots of moving parts on the mortgage side, including future interest rate hikes and housing finance reform. So I hope that Congress carefully weights its options in determing the slashing of deductions in exchange for low marginal tax brackets.

Remember, the US homeownership rate has fallen back to level where it began with President Clinton’s National Homeownership Strategy from 1995.

howntoday

But here is some food for thought. The inventory of renter occupied housing units as of Q2 2017 experienced the largest YoY plunge since the mid-2000s while owner-occupied inventory experienced the largest YoY gain since the mid-2000s.

rentownunits

I am just hoping that the passable version of tax reform doesn’t result in a Jeremy Jamm moment for middle-class homeowners and taxpayers.

jammed

 

 

 

 

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