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When Is Mortgage Interest Deductible?

Updated: Oct 4, 2023

Whether you're a first-time homebuyer or real estate investor, one of the benefits of homeownership is the mortgage interest deduction. This popular tax break allows you to reduce your taxable income by deducting the interest paid on a mortgage loan. However, there are specific rules and limitations around when and how mortgage interest can be deducted. In this comprehensive guide, we'll break down when mortgage interest is deductible for both primary residences and investment properties.


Deducting Mortgage Interest for a Primary Residence


If you itemize deductions on your tax return, the interest paid on a loan secured by your primary residence is generally deductible. The choice between itemizing and taking the standard deduction on your income tax return depends on your financial situation. Individuals with deductible expenses such as significant mortgage interest, medical expenses, charitable contributions, or state and local taxes often find it beneficial to itemize deductions.


On the other hand, those with fewer deductible expenses or whose total deductions don't exceed the standard deduction threshold typically opt for the standard deduction, as it simplifies the tax filing process and may result in a lower tax liability.


Below is an easy-to-read chart displaying the standard deduction amounts for 2023. Individuals whose total itemized deductions exceed the standard deduction would typically opt for itemizing and, therefore, make use of the mortgage interest deduction.


Filing Status

2023 Standard Deduction

Single; Married Filing Separately

$13,850

Married Filing Jointly; Qualifying widow(er)

$27,700

Head of Household

$20,800



Here are some key factors to keep in mind:


  • Your primary residence is your main home where you live the majority of the time. This includes traditional stick-built homes, condos, cooperatives, mobile homes, houseboats, and other types of principal residences.

  • The mortgage can be for either your original purchase or a refinance of your primary residence. Cash-out refinances and home equity loans or lines of credit can also qualify provided the funds are used to substantially improve your home.

  • To claim the full deduction, you must itemize deductions on Schedule A of your tax return instead of taking the standard deduction. This gives a tax benefit if your total itemized deductions exceed the standard deduction amount.

Limits on Mortgage Deductibility


Homeowners in the United States are subject to limitations when it comes to deducting mortgage interest on their primary residence, primarily governed by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) guidelines. One of the most significant limitations is the cap placed on the mortgage interest deduction, which currently stands at $750,000 for new mortgages taken out after December 15, 2017. This means that homeowners can only deduct the interest paid on the first $750,000 of their mortgage principal when they itemize their deductions on their federal income tax return. For mortgages taken out before this date, the limit is more generous at $1 million. This limitation was established as part of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) to reform the tax code, and it significantly reduces the potential tax benefits of homeownership for those with higher-value properties.


The rationale behind this limitation is to strike a balance between incentivizing homeownership and ensuring that tax deductions primarily benefit middle-income homeowners. By limiting the mortgage interest deduction to $750,000, lawmakers aimed to make the tax code more equitable while still providing meaningful tax benefits to the majority of homeowners. It's worth noting that these limitations apply only to primary residences, and different rules and limits may apply to second homes or investment properties. Homeowners must keep accurate records of their mortgage interest payments and adhere to IRS guidelines to ensure they receive the maximum allowable deduction while staying within the established limits.





Let's look at a quick example:


Consider a couple who has a mortgage of $1,250,000 on their primary residence. When they itemize their deductions on their tax return, they realize that they can only use up to $750,000 of the mortgage as a tax deduction due to IRS limitations. Over the course of the year, they paid $60,000 in mortgage interest. However, because of the deduction limitation, they can only deduct 60% of that amount, which translates to $36,000 in deductible mortgage interest. Despite paying a higher interest amount, they are restricted by the IRS cap on eligible mortgage debt, resulting in a reduced deduction compared to the full interest amount paid.


Tips for Maximizing Mortgage Interest Deductions:


  • If your mortgage is below $750,000 don't pay down your mortgage early if you can instead invest the money for a higher return. The mortgage deduction often provides a greater tax benefit if you are itemizing.

  • Time home purchases and refinancing to maximize your interest payment deductions each year.

  • Track mortgage interest with each lender using IRS Form 1098 received after year-end.

How Is Mortgage Interest For 2nd Home Considered?


Mortgage debt on a second home can be itemized and deducted, similar to your primary residence, but there are key considerations. The combined debt on both your primary and second homes is deductible up to $750,000. If you rent out the second home for up to fourteen days, it's tax-free. If you rent it for longer, it's considered personal use as long as you occupy it for at least 10% of the time. Otherwise, it becomes an investment property reported on Schedule E instead of being itemized.


Deducting Mortgage Interest on Investment Properties


If you own a rental property or a second home as an investment, the mortgage interest can also provide sizable tax deductions each year. Here are the key rules and limitations to be aware of:


  • Investment property mortgage interest deductions are claimed on Schedule E of your personal tax return. This applies to rental houses, apartments, cabins, condos, houseboats, and other investment real estate.

  • The deduction applies to original purchase mortgages as well as refinances. Interest on home equity loans used for property improvements is also deductible.

  • The property must be a legitimate rental property actively managed and rented at fair market rates to qualify for full deductions. For vacation homes, deductions are limited based on the number of days rented.

  • Passive loss rules limit deductions to offset only passive income sources like rental earnings. Unused passive losses can be carried forward to future tax years.

  • Real estate professionals who materially participate in rental activities can deduct up to $25,000 in passive losses each year to offset ordinary income like wages.

The rule that limits mortgage deductibility to $750,000 does not apply to rental properties. This means that, regardless of the size of your mortgage on a rental property, you can fully deduct the interest against the income generated from your rental activities. This is especially advantageous for investors who own substantial rental properties such as apartment complexes or commercial real estate, as they can maximize their deductions and potentially reduce their taxable rental income significantly.





Let's look at an example:


John purchased a rental condo this year for $400,000 with 20% down and a $320,000 mortgage at 6% interest. His monthly payments are $1,920, including $1,600 in interest and $320 in principal. In the first year, John paid approximately $19,200 in mortgage interest on the property. On his Schedule E, he can deduct the $19,200 in mortgage interest from his rental earnings. This will reduce the taxable net income from the property.


Paying Down A Mortgage Early Considerations:


When it comes to managing your finances, it's wise to prioritize paying off non-deductible consumer debts before making extra payments on deductible rental mortgages. Debts like credit card balances and personal loans typically come with high-interest rates and offer no tax benefits, so eliminating them can save you money in the long run.


Moreover, consider not paying down your rental mortgage early if you have the opportunity to invest that money elsewhere for a potentially higher return. Rental mortgage interest deductions can provide significant tax benefits, especially if you're itemizing your deductions, as they can help lower your taxable rental income. In essence, making strategic financial decisions, such as focusing on non-deductible debts and leveraging mortgage deductions when it's advantageous, can help you optimize your overall financial situation.


Frequently Asked Questions:


My spouse and I separated this year. Are we both able to deduct mortgage interest?


For a married couple filing jointly, both spouses can claim mortgage interest deductions on a jointly-owned primary residence. If you're married but file separate returns, you can each deduct half of the mortgage interest paid. If the home is owned by only one spouse, only that spouse who paid the interest can claim the deduction.


I paid mortgage points on my refinance this year. Can I deduct the full amount in one year?


When refinancing, you typically pay upfront points based on a percentage of your loan amount. These points must be deducted incrementally over the life of the loan. You can deduct the portion of points paid for the current tax year.


Does mortgage insurance premiums also count as deductible interest?


No, private mortgage insurance paid on conventional home loans is not tax deductible, even though it may be required by your lender. FHA mortgage insurance premiums can be deducted if you itemize.


I inherited a home from a relative that has an existing mortgage. Can I deduct this interest?


Yes, interest paid on a mortgage that was placed on a property before you inherited it can still be deducted against rental income if you convert the home to a rental property or vacation home.


My home equity loan was used to pay off credit card debt. Is the interest still deductible?


No, if a home equity loan is used for personal expenses like paying off credit card balances or auto loans, the interest is not tax deductible. The funds must be used to substantially improve your primary residence.


Putting It All Together - Mortgage Interest Deduction


The mortgage interest deduction remains one of the most valuable tax breaks for homeowners and real estate investors alike. To maximize your deductions, be sure you understand the limits based on your situation and residency status. At UnitedTax.Ai our tax professionals ensure you are capturing all available deductions and optimally timing major financial decisions that involve deductible mortgage interest. This can lead to substantial tax savings each year. Feel free to schedule a call to discuss your tax situation.






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