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Mortgage Interest Deduction Eligibility Requirements

Mortgage Interest Deduction

As a homeowner, the IRS allows you to claim the mortgage interest deduction on your tax return for the portion of your mortgage payments that represent interest charges. However, you don’t automatically qualify for the mortgage interest deduction just because you borrow money to purchase your home; you must satisfy two very important IRS requirements first. The first is that you can only deduct the mortgage interest on qualified homes and the second is that your mortgage lender has a security interest in them.

Qualified Home Secured by Mortgage

It is very common for a mortgage lender to take a security interest in the home it lends you money to purchase. Generally, a security interest gives the mortgage lender an automatic ownership claim in your home. This means that if you default on making your mortgage payments, the lender has the right to foreclose on the home and sell it. To further illustrate, compare this to a credit card that never takes a security interest in the property you purchase with it. Suppose you finance your home purchase with a credit card and stop paying the bill. Although the credit card can eventually sue you to obtain payment, it has no right in the home you purchased and is precluded from foreclosing on it. In addition to this security interest, you can only take the mortgage interest deduction on a qualified home. A qualified home only includes your main home, which is where you live for most of the year, plus one additional home of your choosing, provided it’s not an investment or rental property.

Reporting Mortgage Interest Deduction on Schedule A

As with most income tax deductions that relate to your home, deducting mortgage interest requires you to itemize deductions on a Schedule A form. However, it may not always save you more in income tax to itemize. Generally, you will only recognize additional tax savings when the total of all your expenses eligible to be itemized exceed the standard deduction for your filing status. For example, if you are a single filer you are eligible for a $5,800 standard deduction. This means that to take a mortgage interest deduction, all of your tax deductible expenses, including the mortgage interest, must total more than $5,800. If it doesn’t, then you’re better off foregoing the mortgage interest deduction and claiming the standard deduction.

Reference: IRS Publication 936-Home Mortgage Interest Deduction