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Taxpayers can deduct mortgage insurance

January 30, 2008
From staff and wire reports
Homeowners may have reason to smile this tax season, something few have had the opportunity to do with the current state of the housing market.

Congress implemented tax breaks in late 2007 that would extend the mortgage insurance deduction for three more years and create a new tax break for homeowners facing foreclosure.

The mortgage insurance deduction will help certain low- and moderate-income homeowners, especially first-time homebuyers and those struggling with higher house payments as adjustable rate mortgages reset.

“Mortgage insurance is insurance on the actual loan,” said Audrey Augenstein, Realtor and office manager with Century 21 Full Service Realty on Pike Street in Marietta. “It used to be people could put down 20 percent (toward the purchase of a home). Now that’s very uncommon. With PMI (principle mortgage insurance), the lender is guaranteed to get at least 20 percent back.”

This type of insurance should not be confused with the homeowners’ insurance you take out on your home and its contents in case of fire or other disaster. It’s also not the same thing as mortgage protection insurance, which is a form of life insurance some people buy to pay off a mortgage when they die.

Mortgage insurance is required by government and private lenders on home purchases in which the buyer makes a down payment of less than 20 percent. Often, these are first-time buyers or people with lower incomes. The insurance protects the lender if the borrower defaults on the loan – a very real prospect last year for homeowners who took out adjustable mortgages with low teaser rates that have since risen.

Typically, homeowners pay an average of $50 to $100 a month in mortgage insurance on a median single family home price of $217,600, according to the Mortgage Insurance Companies of America, a trade association.

The new tax deduction could save taxpayers who itemize as much as $300 to $350 in federal taxes, MICA estimates.

There are restrictions, however. Only taxpayers with adjusted gross incomes of $100,000 or less can take the full deduction, which gradually decreases for incomes above that and is eliminated altogether for those with AGIs of more than $109,000.

And only insurance on mortgages taken out in 2007 — new or refinanced — qualifies for the deduction. If you simply continued paying mortgage insurance in 2007 on a loan taken out in an earlier year, you cannot deduct those payments.

To be deductible, the insurance must have been paid on ‘‘home acquisition debt’’ — debt incurred to buy, build or substantially improve a principal residence or second home.

Most tax experts interpret this provision as meaning that if in 2007 you refinanced your home to take out extra cash from your equity — then used that cash toward building a home addition or making a substantial home improvement —insurance on that added mortgage debt is deductible along with insurance on the old mortgage amount.

But if you simply refinanced your home to take out extra cash for other purposes, the portion of a mortgage insurance premium that covers that additional amount isn’t deductible, only the amount that covers the original mortgage debt.

Some area tax experts suggest filers do their homework when it comes to the mortgage insurance deduction.

“It’s probably not something a lot of people have,” said Jim Wellspring with Bennett Tax Service.

Nyla Boggs, an enrolled agent from Stockport, concurred.

“Very few people will qualify for that,” she said. “And it’s really just too new; we don’t have a lot of information on that yet.”

Fact Box

Tax benefit tips
Several other common tax benefits are in effect for homeowners who itemize. They include:
¯ Mortgage interest deduction: Interest you paid to the lender in 2007 on mortgages for your principal home and a second home for your personal use, providing the mortgages are secured by the home.
¯ Points: Certain fees, computed as a percentage of the loan amount, that you paid to obtain your mortgage; for second homes, these must be amortized over the life of the loan. For your principal home, points are fully deductible in 2007 if you took out the mortgage that year and certain conditions were met. (There are nine tests, spelled out in Publication 936.)
¯ Refinancings: Points paid for refinancing are usually not deductible in full during the year you refinance, but are instead amortized over the life of the loan. But if you refinanced in 2007 and used part of the refinancing proceeds to substantially improve your home, you can deduct in full the points on that part of the loan; the remaining points are amortized.
Source: The Associated Press



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