Republican leaders recently offered reassurances that when Congress tackles taxes this fall, the mortgage interest deduction will be protected.
This begs the question: Who really benefits from it?
The vast majority of people see no tax benefit from the deduction, because just 20 percent of filers use it, according to the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center. And if Republicans successfully deliver generous increases in the standard deduction while eliminating other deductions, its utility could decline even more.
"At that point, very few people would claim the mortgage interest deduction," said Joseph Rosenberg, a senior research associate at the Tax Policy Center. "It may be the case that a lot of taxpayers wouldn't care if it went away, but it's a politically difficult thing to touch."
In an analysis of the GOP tax plan released last year, the Tax Policy Center estimated that of the 45 million filers who itemize, 38 million, or 84 percent, would opt for the $24,000 standard deduction proposed under the Republican plan because it would exceed the combined value of other deductions available to them.
The tax break for mortgage interest has remained unchanged since the Tax Reform Act of 1986, when it survived the legislative ax to deductions for other forms of consumer interest (such as on credit card debt). The provision generally lets taxpayers deduct the interest on mortgage debt up to $1 million, along with interest on home-equity debt up to $100,000.
To claim it, you must itemize deductions on your tax return, which only about a third of taxpayers do. Of those one-third, 74 percent take the mortgage interest deduction, according to the Tax Policy Center.