Monday, October 12, 2009

Join me at the welfare trough

We home owners are welfare bums. That's a startling thought implied by commentator Justin Fox recently in Time magazine in a discussion of some of the tax benefits available for those of who own the roofs over our heads.

The basic idea has been kicking around since a college professor named Christopher Howard described what he called a hidden welfare state kicking around in tax rules that benefit the middle and upper class.

IRS lists bunches of them just for home owners - mortgage interest, mortgage tax credits, real estate and property taxes, energy credits and more. And owning a home often lets you itemize your deductions, which opens up a whole new roomful of potential deductions, H&R Block points out.

Home owning isn't the only tax perk producer, of course. Owning real estate of any kind gets you some generous tax breaks, CPA Richard Lai found in 2003. Sending your kids to college works too. So does opening a business.

One person's tax boondoggle is someone else's support of a laudable social goal, I guess. Still, it's hard to think of Bill and Melinda Gates as welfare abusers just because they save a bundle on taxes by giving gazillions of dollars to good causes around the world.

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