By Ben Harris :: January 6th, 2014
Tax expenditures for homeownership, such as deductions for mortgage interest and property taxes and the partial exclusion for capital gains on the sale of a primary residence, have long been recognized as ineffective, regressive, and extraordinarily expensive—costing $121 billion in 2013 alone. Until now, most reforms—including the Bowles-Simpson deficit-reduction plan—have focused on restructuring the mortgage […]
By Howard Gleckman :: April 10th, 2012
Last week, I blogged about a plan to use tax-exempt bonds to finance the demolition of vacant homes in distressed Midwestern neighborhoods. Rolf Pendall, director of the Urban Institute’s Metropolitan Housing and Communities Policy Center, has a different perspective: I agree entirely that a piecemeal approach to the current crisis isn’t appropriate and that the […]
By Howard Gleckman :: February 10th, 2011
Tomorrow, the White House will release its ideas for overhauling mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. While there is little agreement in Washington over just what to do, there is broad bipartisan support for big changes. In large part that’s because when the implicit government guaranty behind Fan and Fred turned explicit in the […]
By Howard Gleckman :: September 2nd, 2010
Please tell me it isn’t true: Washington is buzzing with talk of Homebuyer Tax Credit III. Like the killers in those really bad slasher movies, this tax subsidy wreaks havoc wherever it goes, appears to meet its demise in the last reel, yet returns to create more misery. The latest round started on Sunday, when […]
By Howard Gleckman :: June 24th, 2010
For two years, the homebuyer credit has been in the running for Washington’s worst tax policy idea. Now, new evidence about this bit of legislative bilge suggests it may be time to retire the trophy.
The Commerce Department reports the new homes market collapsed in May after booming in March and April (chart). Why? Well, in early spring, in response to an intense marketing campaign by the real estate and mortgage industries, tens of thousands of buyers accelerated home purchases to take advantage of this sweet tax give-away (as much as $8,000 for some buyers) before the credit expired on April 30. Then, just as most sentient economists predicted, the market dried up. Actually, it didn’t just dry up. It became the Death Valley of housing.
By Howard Gleckman :: October 22nd, 2009
The early returns are coming in on the First-Time Homebuyer Tax Credit. And it appears to be a bigger boondoggle than even I thought it would be.
At a House Ways & Means Oversight subcommittee hearing today, the Internal Revenue Service inspector general reported that the IRS is auditing more than 100,000 of the roughly 1.4 million returns that included a claim for the credit. This is a staggering audit rate for an agency that usually reviews only about 1 percent of returns.
By Howard Gleckman :: September 24th, 2009
We’ve been hearing an awful lot lately about big government taking over the health insurance business. But there may be no commercial transaction in the country more heavily subsidized than housing. And now, many of the very people who are in a panic over government interference in medical care want to increase Washington’s role in home ownership.
By Howard Gleckman :: March 19th, 2009
The AIG bonuses are an outrage. But the bigger scandal is that a grandstanding Congress wants to use the tax law to punish the companies that paid them and the employees that got them.
If Congress wants to limit bonuses for employees of bailed-out companies, it should just do it. But using the Internal Revenue Code is a truly terrible idea. And dipping into the Code to win political points is worse. Long ago, people were rightly outraged when Richard Nixon tried to turn the IRS into a weapon to punish his enemies. This gotcha tax is another variation on the theme, and nearly as inexcusable. Imagine, for instance, if a GOP Congress retroactively barred people from deducting charitable gifts to Planned Parenthood. Or Democrats imposed a 50 percent surtax on companies that that do security work in Iraq.
By Howard Gleckman :: December 11th, 2008
Did bad tax policy help cause the economic meltdown? Former assistant Treasury Secretary for Tax Policy Pam Olson thinks so.
Speaking at a Dec. 5 tax reform conference sponsored by TPC and Tax Analysts, Pam fingered what she called an “anti-equity and pro-leverage” Internal Revenue Code as one culprit in the collapsing credit markets. TPC’s Bill Gale agrees–after a fashion–although other tax experts are unconvinced.
By Howard Gleckman :: October 8th, 2008
The most interesting thing I heard in last night's debate between John McCain and Barack Obama (in fact, the only interesting thing I heard) was McCain's call for a new federal effort to directly refinance residential mortgages into new low-interest loans. The plan got me thinking about a provocative way to pay for it—eliminate the mortgage interest deduction for these new loans.