In most developed countries, housing receives preferential tax treatment relative to other assets. In particular (i) the housing services provided by owner-occupied housing (generally referred to as imputed rents) are untaxed and (ii) mortgage interest payments reduce taxable income. The potential economic distortions resulting from the unique treatment of housing may be substantial, especially in light of the fact that residential capital accounts for more than half of the assets in the U.S. In particular, this tax treatment distorts the households' portfolio composition, their saving rates and their tenure choice. In this paper we build a general equilibrium model populated by heterogeneous agents subject to idiosyncratic risk. We use this framework to quantitatively assess the macroeconomic and distributional distortions introduced by this preferential tax treatment. We also study the effects of alternative tax schemes which could correct the current system's bias.
- Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. Research Department.
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