The Tax Snags Homeowners Are Facing This Year

February 11, 2019

Tax season is here, and many homeowners may have questions about what they can and can’t write off under the new tax code.

One big change: Homeowners who used to write off property taxes and interest paid on their mortgage may no longer be able to entirely. But that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll pay higher taxes. HouseLogic, the National Association of REALTORS®’ consumer-facing website, offers guidance and worksheets on the changes for homeowners.

Under the new law, the standard deduction every tax filer gets has nearly doubled ($24,000 for married couples who file jointly and $12,000 for single filers). That means most people likely will be better off taking the standard deduction than itemizing their write-offs.

However, the number of homeowners who will be able to deduct their mortgage interest under the new rules could drop by 56 percent—from 32 million to about 14 million, according to NAR. “This doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll pay more taxes,” Evan Liddiard, NAR’s director of federal tax policy, told HouseLogic. “It just means that they’ll no longer get a tax incentive for buying or owning a home.”

The new tax law caps the mortgage interest at $750,000, but loans that were in place by Dec. 14, 2017, are grandfathered in to the old plan, in which $1 million was the maximum amount. For homeowners who live in pricier housing markets, the new tax law could mean they will not be able to write off interest paid on debt over the $750,000 cap.

State and local tax laws also have been affected by the new federal tax code. Many state and local taxes can still be itemized and written off, which is referred to as the SALT deduction. Under the new tax law, tax filers cannot deduct more than $10,000 for all state and local taxes combined—whether the filer is single or married. Prior to the tax change, the majority of homeowners In about 20 states were writing off more than $10,000 in SALT each year.

“This is going to hurt people in high-tax areas like New York and California,” Lisa Greene-Lewis, a TurboTax expert, told HouseLogic. For example, homeowners in New York were taking an average of $22,000 per household in SALT deductions.