Mortgage Refinance and Taxes

One of the great benefits of owning your home is the large income tax deduction you're allowed for mortgage interest. However, when you refinance your mortgage loan into a lower interest rate, you'll pay less interest. Lowering interest payments also means shrinking that juicy tax deduction.

Acquisition vs. Equity Debt

What happens to your taxes if you do a cash-out refinancing? It depends on what you use the extra funds for. First or second mortgages that are used to buy, build, or improve your home are termed "Home Acquisition Debt" (HAD) by the IRS. If you refinance to get either better rates or more favorable terms, you're accumulating HAD. If you do a cash-out refinance, the money that is not used for home improvements is considered Home Equity Debt (HED).

Acquisition Debt is fully deductible, up to $500,000 for individuals, and $1,000,000 for married couples who file joint returns. The deduction limit for Equity Debt is $100,000 more than the existing debt at the time of your refinancing. If you have a mortgage with a balance of $200,000, you can refinance into a $300,000 loan (assuming your home appraises for at least that much now), and still deduct the full interest payments from your taxes. The interest paid on any balance higher than $300,000 is not deductible at all.

Getting the Point

You can take out points on your mortgage in order to push down the interest rate even further. Points are generally tax-deductible, like interest payments-except when you're refinancing.

Some points are charged for lender services (not tax deductible), and others for prepaid interest (deductible). In general, the points are prorated throughout the life of the loan; so if you paid $4,000 in points for your 30-year loan, but $1,000 of that was for services, you can deduct 1/30th of $3,000, which is $100 a year.

But if part of the refinancing funds were used for home improvements, a portion of the points can be deducted immediately. For example, if you took a $100,000 mortgage loan, you could pay off an existing $80,000 mortgage and use the rest for home improvements. In this case, you can deduct 20 percent of the points the first year, and spread the remainder throughout the next 29 years.

One more twist: If you refinance again, all points that have not yet been deducted are applied in that one year, regardless of whether the new loan carries any points.

As you can see, refinancing your mortgage can make tax time a lot more interesting. It pays to do a tax code cram session before deciding how to refinance, so you won't get caught unprepared when you file your next tax return.

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