Deductibility of Real-Estate Loan Refinancing Charges

By Steven V. Melnik

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With interest rates at all-time lows, many Americans are refinancing home loans. Because refinancing transactions usually cost thousands of dollars, it is important to know when refinancing expenditures are deductible.

Loans Secured by a Principal Residence

The IRC defines a principal residence as where the taxpayer spends the most time during any given taxable year. Consequently, principal residence status can change from year to year. As a general rule, taxpayers can deduct points paid for refinancing principal residence loans.

IRC section 461(g) defines many fees as points, but only qualifying points are allowed as a deduction. Qualifying points are usually fees paid to the lender for a loan (see the Sidebar for a list of requirements). Loan application, processing, underwriting, and other fees are not deductible.

Revenue Procedure 94-27 allows itemized deductions for qualifying points resulting from the purchase of a principal residence. Points paid for refinancing an existing mortgage, however, cannot be immediately deducted. According to IRC section 461(g), those points are deducted over the life of the new loan.

To calculate the portion of those points deductible in any particular year, determine the deductible points for each loan payment and multiply by the number of payments made during that year (per payment amortization). For example, consider an individual who paid $1,800 refinancing qualifying points on a principal residence for a 30-year loan requiring 12 payments per year (a total of 360 payments). The $5 allowable deduction for every loan payment is calculated by dividing $1,800 by 360. Six loan payments during the year would result in a $30 itemized deduction, with unamortized points amounting to $1,770.

Multiple Refinancing Activities

Remaining refinancing points are generally deductible in the year when a second refinancing occurs with a different lender. In the example above, the remaining $1,770 first-loan points would be deductible that year. If the second refinancing is with the same lender, however, the remaining points and any new qualifying points paid would be deductible over the life of the new loan.

Points paid during a refinancing transaction are immediately deductible to the extent the new loan is used to substantially improve a principal residence, assuming the requirements listed in the Sidebar are met. Substantial improvements, such as building an addition to a house, qualify. For example, a $60,000 loan from bank B to refinance bank A’s $40,000 loan and a $20,000 house addition would result in one-third of the newly paid qualifying points being deducted that year.

Refinancing of Second or Vacation Homes

Some Americans are investing in real estate as an alternative to stocks and bonds. Tax rules applicable to vacation and second homes differ from those for primary residences. Points paid for a purchase, substantial improvement, or refinancing of second and vacation homes are generally deductible over the life of the loan. The per-payment amortization method is applicable. Other refinancing-related expenditures increase the tax basis of the home.

Rental Properties and Properties Used in a Trade or Business.

When refinancing rental properties and properties used in a trade or business, all ordinary and necessary refinancing expenditures are deductible over the life of the loan. Refinance-related expenditures for rental properties are deductible on line 18, Form 1040, Schedule E; for properties used in a trade or business, expenditures are deducted on Form 1040, Schedule C.

Other Deductibility Issues

When sellers of real estate pay for points on the buyer’s behalf, they are not allowed to deduct those points, but can reduce sales proceeds. Buyers can deduct those points if the property basis is reduced by the same amount.

All other refinancing-related expenditures, such as attorney, appraisal, bank, title, and other fees, are not deductible. They do, however, increase the tax basis of the home to the extent they are not deductible.

Points are deductible when a cash-basis taxpayer itemizes deductions. Deductibility can be affected, however, when a taxpayer’s adjusted gross income reaches a certain threshold. (The 2003 threshold is $69,750 for married filing separately returns and $139,500 for all others.)

The deductibility of refinancing-related expenditures depends upon the type of property securing the refinanced loan, as well as how the loan proceeds are used. The use of the property must be understood, because properties can be used for more than one tax purpose in any given year. It is important to be familiar with the tax consequences of refinancing transactions in order to derive the maximum benefit.

Steven V. Melnik, LLM, JD, CPA, is Professor of Tax Law and Director of Graduate Tax Programs at Bernard M. Baruch College, City University of New York.




















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