If you’re thinking about becoming a homeowner any time soon, there are tax benefits to buying. In particular, tax deductions are one way to reduce your tax bill and income. Tax deductions are different from credits. Credits are money that gets taken off a tax bill. You can think of them somewhat like a coupon. A tax deduction reduces your adjusted gross income or AGI, reducing your tax liability.
The following are key tax benefits and things to know for homebuyers or possible homebuyers.
Mortgage Interest Deduction
Homeowners can deduct interest on their home mortgage for the first $750,000 of mortgage debt. That limit is $375,000 if you’re married and filing separately. If you bought your home prior to December 16, 2017, an old limit of $1 million applies, and $500,000 if you’re married but filing separately.
In January, at the tax year’s end, a lender sends you Form 1098. This details the interest you paid over the previous year. You should include the interest you paid as part of the closing too.
Your lender includes interest for the partial initial month of your mortgage as part of your closing. You can locate this on your settlement sheet. If it’s not included on the 1098, add it to your total mortgage interest.
Mortgage Points Deduction
If you paid mortgage points to a lender as part of your loan or refinancing, then each point you buy will generally cost 1% of the total loan. They lower your interest rate by 0.25% each. If you paid, let’s say, $300,000 for your home, every point equals $3,000. If your interest rate is 4% in this example, the one point will lower your rate to 3.75% for the rest of your loan. You would get a deduction if you gave your lender money for your discount points.
If you refinanced your loan or took out a home equity line of credit, you are eligible for a deduction for points for your loan’s life.
Every time you’re making a payment on your mortgage, a smaller percentage of the points is built into your loan, and you can deduct that amount for every month you make payments. Again, your lender sends Form 1098, which details what you paid in interest on your mortgage and mortgage points.
You can claim the deduction based on that information on Schedule A of your Form 1040 or 1040-SR.
Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI)
If you have private mortgage insurance, which lenders usually charge to borrowers who put down less than 20% on a conventional loan, you may be able to deduct your payments. PMI usually costs anywhere from $30 to $70 monthly for every $100,000 borrowed. As with other types of mortgage insurance, PMI protects a lender if you don’t make your mortgage payments.
Whether or not you can deduct PMI payments can depend on when you bought your home and your income.
The IRS says that homeowners can treat what you pay for PMI as interest on a home mortgage. If your adjusted gross income is under $100,000 or $50,000 if married, filing separately, you’re eligible for the full deduction here.
If you’re above that threshold, the deduction is phased out. If your AGI is above $109,000 or $54,500 to file separately as a married person, you aren’t eligible to take the deduction.
State and Local Tax Deduction
The state and local tax deduction, also known as SALT, lets you deduct some taxes you pay to the state or local government, but you have to itemize on your federal return.
Under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, there was a cap on previously unlimited deductions. The cap is $10,000 per year in combined property taxes and either state income or sales taxes. The cap applies whether you’re single or married filing jointly. It goes down to $5,000 if you’re married and filing separately.
Home Sale Exclusion
If you profit after selling your home, you may not have to pay taxes. If you’ve owned and then lived in the home for at least two of the five years before the sale, you won’t pay taxes on the initial $250,000 of your profit. This profit is your capital gain. If you're married, filing jointly, that number goes up to $500,000.
However, at least one of the spouses has to meet an ownership requirement. Both spouses must meet a residency requirement, meaning they have lived in the home for two of the past five years.
Finally, you could qualify for a mortgage credit if you received a mortgage credit certificate or MCC from a state or local government agency under a qualified mortgage credit certification program. You can also see if your state offers rebates, tax credits, or incentives for making improvements to your home to make it more energy efficient.