We have received a lot of questions asking if home equity interest is still deductible. This article should help you answer that question…
Most of us will agree that our biggest investment is in our home. So, it shouldn’t surprise you that your house or condo is your first port-of-call whenever there’s a need to borrow money. And the easiest way to draw funds against the security of real estate is by arranging a Home Equity Loan.
Home Equity funding helps us in important ways:
- Number one, the interest rates payable on this type of loan are arguably the lowest available.
- Secondly, you can get the cash working for you quickly with the least bother, paperwork and tedious protocol.
- Then there’s the third big reason: help from Uncle Sam.
Up to now all interest payments on a Home Equity Loan were tax-deductible (barring the prior tax law thresholds). It made borrowing almost a no-brainer! Who wouldn’t opt for already-low interest rates to be pulled even lower? Benefits like this are rare in our modern world where it seems like everything, including financing fees, are only going up.
Well, it’s time for a retake on the “Uncle Sam thing”: the new taxation laws as per the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, enacted in December of the same year, have removed some delectable treats from the traditional “Home Equity feast”.
Is it likely to change your borrowing behavior anytime soon? No, but it should give you pause. There’s a certain logic to it that really can’t be argued with. Here are the new Home Equity items to keep in mind:
- The amount you can borrow is tied to the value of the residence, be it a primary or secondary home. The I.R.S. has decided that your total loan value cannot be more than the assessed value of the asset as a start.
- And in combination with all other mortgages cannot exceed $750,000 (down from prior law). So Home Equity lending is not the bottomless well some may believe it to be.
- Tax breaks haven’t disappeared but at the same time, they simply are not what they used to be. Any Home Equity draws you make from now on have to be used to build, renovate or essentially improve your residence to qualify the interest payable on them for a tax deduction.
So on this last point, for example: if you use your new funds to pay off student loans, reduce your credit card debt or splurge it on a vacation, nobody is going to stop you. What they are going to stop is anyone claiming tax relief for this type of expenditure for the foreseeable future.
TD Bank in a survey points out that 32% of Home Equity Lending fits the new definition for deductibility. Looking at it from the other side, 68% of the tax deductions we took for granted for so long now fall away. That said, we all know that there’s no substitute for smart thinking to make the most of new terms and conditions.
In addition, a high percentage of taxpayers who are used to itemizing their deductions (where you would deduct the interest), will potentially not itemize going forward due to the increased standard deduction.
Finally, the limitations do not relate to rental properties. Interest on loans are still fully deductible against rental income.
So don’t hesitate to consult with our professional tax team when it comes to making your Home Equity decisions, or to clarify your thinking on any tax matter. We often see benefits buried under the “strict letter of the law” – we could make a difference.