Well it’s done – Congress has passed a sweeping tax overhaul, but thanks to the National Association of Realtors, some of the proposed changes that would have been negative for homeowners remain in tact. Good job NAR! Maybe lobbyists are good for something after all…
Last-minute changes to the bill include the following improvements:
🔹 Capital gains exclusion. In a huge win for current and prospective homeowners, current law is left in place on the capital gains exclusion of $250,000 for an individual and $500,000 for married couples on the sale of a home. Both the House and the Senate had sought to make it much harder to qualify for the exclusion.
🔹 Mortgage interest deduction. The maximum mortgage amount for households deducting their mortgage interest has been decreased to $750,000 from the current $1 million limit. The House bill sought a reduction to $500,000.
🔹 State and local tax deductions. Both property taxes and state and local income taxes remain deductible, although with a combined limit of $10,000. Both the House and Senate bills sought to eliminate the state and local income tax deduction altogether.
🔹 Pass-through entities. The bill significantly reduces the effective rate of tax on business income earned by independent contractors and income received from pass-through entities. This change will lower the taxes of many real estate professionals.
Major Provisions Affecting Current and Prospective Homeowners
Tax Rate Reductions
The new law provides generally lower tax rates for all individual tax filers. While this does not mean that every American will pay lower taxes under these changes, many will. The total size of the tax cut from the rate reductions equals more than $1.2 trillion over ten years.
The tax rate schedule retains seven brackets with slightly lower marginal rates of 10%, 12%, 22%, 24%, 32%, 35%, and 37%.
The final bill retains the current-law maximum rates on net capital gains (generally, 15% maximum rate but 20% for those in the highest tax bracket; 25% rate on “recapture” of depreciation from real property).
Exclusion of Gain on Sale of a Principal Residence
The final bill retains current law. A significant victory in the final bill that NAR achieved.
The Senate-passed bill would have changed the amount of time a homeowner must live in their home to qualify for the capital gains exclusion from 2 out of the past 5 years to 5 out of the past 8 years. The House bill would have made this same change as well as phased out the exclusion for taxpayers with incomes above $250,000 single/$500,000 married.
Mortgage Interest Deduction
The final bill reduces the limit on deductible mortgage debt to $750,000 for new loans taken out after 12/14/17. Current loans of up to $1 million are grandfathered and are not subject to the new $750,000 cap. Neither limit is indexed for inflation.
Homeowners may refinance mortgage debts existing on 12/14/17 up to $1 million and still deduct the interest, so long as the new loan does not exceed the amount of the mortgage being refinanced.
The final bill repeals the deduction for interest paid on home equity debt through 12/31/25. Interest is still deductible on home equity loans (or second mortgages) if the proceeds are used to substantially improve the residence.
Interest remains deductible on second homes, but subject to the $1 million / $750,000 limits.
The House-passed bill would have capped the mortgage interest limit at $500,000 and eliminated the deduction for second homes.
Deduction for State and Local Taxes
The final bill allows an itemized deduction of up to $10,000 for the total of state and local property taxes and income or sales taxes. This $10,000 limit applies for both single and married filers and is not indexed for inflation.
The final bill also specifically precludes the deduction of 2018 state and local income taxes prepaid in 2017.
When House and Senate bills were first introduced, the deduction for state and local taxes would have been completely eliminated. The House and Senate passed bills would have allowed property taxes to be deducted up to $10,000. The final bill, while less beneficial than current law, represents a significant improvement over the original proposals.
The final bill provides a standard deduction of $12,000 for single individuals and $24,000 for joint returns. The new standard deduction is indexed for inflation.
By doubling the standard deduction, Congress has greatly reduced the value of the mortgage interest and property tax deductions as tax incentives for homeownership. Congressional estimates indicate that only 5-8% of filers will now be eligible to claim these deductions by itemizing, meaning there will be no tax differential between renting and owning for more than 90% of taxpayers.
Repeal of Personal Exemptions
Under the prior law, tax filers could deduct $4,150 in 2018 for the filer and his or her spouse, if any, and for each dependent. These exemptions have been repealed in the new law.
This change alone greatly mitigates (and in some cases entirely eliminates) the positive aspects of the higher standard deduction.
Mortgage Credit Certificates (MCCs)
The final bill retains current law.
The House-passed legislation would have repealed MCCs.
Deduction for Medical Expenses
The final bill retains the deduction for medical expenses (including decreasing the 10% floor to 7.5% floor for 2018).
The House bill would have eliminated the deduction for medical expenses.
The final bill increases the child tax credit to $2,000 from $1,000 and keeps the age limit at 16 and younger. The income phase-out to claim the child credit was increased significantly from ($55,000 single/$110,000 married) under current law to $500,000 for all filers in the final bill.
Student Loan Interest Deduction
The final bill retains current law, allowing deductibility of student loan debt up to $2,500, subject to income phase-outs.
The House bill would have eliminated the deduction for interest on student loans.
Deduction for Casualty Losses
The final bill provides a deduction only if a loss is attributable to a presidentially-declared disaster.
The House bill would have eliminated the deduction for casualty losses with limited exceptions.
The final bill repeals moving expense deduction and exclusion, except for members of the Armed Forces.
The House-introduced bill would have eliminated the moving expense deduction for all filers, including military.
You can read about the all of the changes to the new tax law here.