On December 22, 2017, The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act was signed into law. The information in this article predates the tax reform legislation and may not apply to tax returns starting in the 2018 tax year. You may wish to speak to your tax advisor about the latest tax law. This publication is provided for your convenience and does not constitute legal advice. This publication is protected by copyright.
Over the past few years, mortgage interest rates have dropped significantly and homeowners in increasing numbers have refinanced their home mortgages and in the process, have extended the term of the loan and are frequently taking additional cash out to pay down other debts, finance education, buy a car, etc. In doing so, homeowners may be unwittingly creating a situation where part of their home mortgage interest may no longer be deductible. Generally, the mortgage interest that you may deduct on your home includes the acquisition debt and $100,000 equity debt, provided the combined debt does not exceed the value of the home or $1,100,000.
The root of the problem is that acquisition debt is not a fixed amount, and it steadily declines to zero over the term of the original purchase mortgage. If that mortgage is refinanced and the new term extends past the term of the original mortgage or the amount of the mortgage is increased, then the amount of the replacement debt that exceeds the original acquisition debt will no longer qualify as acquisition debt. This still may not present a problem so long as the replacement debt never exceeds the original acquisition debt plus the allowable $100,000 of equity debt.
Example: The home was refinanced in the 15th year for $300,000. At the time of the refinance, the original acquisition debt plus the $100,000 equity debt totaled $250,000. Therefore, the amount of interest from the new $300,000 debt will be limited to the interest on $250,000 or 83.3% of the total mortgage interest (250K/300K).
If you have or might refinance, it is imperative that you retain a record of the terms of the original acquisition debt in case you exceed the debt limitation and need to prorate your interest deduction.
When refinancing, you also need to watch out for the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT). The AMT is another way of computing tax liability that is used, if it is greater than the regular method. Congress originally conceived the AMT as a means of extracting a minimum tax from high-income taxpayers who have significant items of tax shelter and/or tax-favored deductions. Since the AMT was created, inflation has driven up income and deductions so that more individuals are becoming subject to the AMT, although Congress finally made permanent some of the temporary fixes to the AMT, such as inflation-indexing the AMT exemptions and tax brackets, which may limit the number of taxpayers affected in the future by the AMT.
When computing the AMT, only the acquisition debt interest is allowed as a deduction; home equity debt interest is not. Neither is the interest on debt for unconventional homes such as boats and motor homes, even if they are the primary residence of the taxpayer.
Before you refinance a home mortgage, it may be appropriate to contact this office to determine the tax implication of your planned refinance and see if there are any other suitable alternatives.