So Slate has this article about how the Republicans are trying to kill something called the Mortgage Interest Deduction. Other sources are piling on to this interpretation, spurred on my my least favorite economist, Lawrence Yun. For those not familiar with the tax code, that’s the bit that allows people who are paying on a mortgage to deduct the portion of the mortgage payment that is interest on the loan — not the whole payment. Technically, you’re also allowed to deduct certain other fees and property taxes.
Here’s the problem: it’s not at all true. The actual proposal is to almost double the standard deduction to $24,000. If you actually have more than $24,000 in deductions, you’ll still be able to claim the Mortgage Interest Deduction. However, for most people this standard deduction is high enough that they won’t need to itemize. Even Slate admits that some experts say this will benefit roughly 38,000,000 taxpayers!
The first benefit is that most people will have simpler taxes. No more complicated deductions to figure out. No more keeping track of documents from the mortgage company and all those little slips of paper you got from donating to charity. Congrats, your taxes may well be reduced to one document and an hour with TurboTax.
The second benefit is a little trickier. The 2016 poverty line is $24,300 for a family of four. This higher standard deduction means that families near the poverty line will not be taxed into poverty. It means that they can spend more of their income on goods and services rather than taxes. That benefits the family and the economy. A win-win situation. Don’t tell me poor people don’t pay income tax, because that’s a lie.