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Home mortgage interest deduction to end? Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac/FHA guarantees to end?

President Obama has proposed small cuts in the mortgage home interest deduction for top earners in the past. The current deduction allows taxpayers to deduct interest paid on mortgages up to $1 million for first and second homes, and up to $100,000 in additional home-equity borrowings.

Early in December 2010, the president’s deficit reduction commission proposed reducing the mortgage interest deduction.

According to the Wall Street Journal’s S. Mitra Kalita and Nick Timiraos (Thursday, December 16, 2010, Page A7, “Homeowner Perks Under Fire”), mortgage deductions will reduce tax revenue in 2012 by $131 billion.

President Obama’s deficit panel seeks to replace the current system with a flat 12% tax credit for interest on mortgages up to $500,000 for first homes.

Another growing debate is whether the government should reduce its role in backing mortgages, as at present, 90% of new mortgages are government backed.

Kalita and Timiraos report that Michael Farrell (Chairman of Annaly Capital Management, a NY-based, mortgage bond investor) believes that if the government stopped guaranteeing mortgages through organizations like the Federal Housing Administration, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, that interest rates could be at least two to three percentage points higher.

Back to the subject of possible changes to the home mortgage interest deduction. Kalita and Timiraos report that a Wednesday, December 15, 2010 WSJ/NBC News poll found that 60% of Americans found it totally or mostly acceptable to eliminate the mortgage deduction on second homes, home-equity loans and any portion of a mortgage over $500,000 – consistent with the recommendations of the presidential deficit reduction commission.

Ideas for Action:

If the ability to deduct home mortgage interest from federal income taxes is in question, and inflationary pressures are on the rise in the economy, then refinancing your mortgage to the lowest rate that you qualify for is one of the most prudent defensive measures that you can take.

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