Housing and the Tax System: How Large are the Distortions in the Euro Area?

European Central Bank

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Date Published 2017
Primary Author Serena Fatica, Doris Prammer
Other Authors
Theme Taxation of Residential Real Estate


This paper presents new evidence on the impact of the preferential treatment of owner-occupied housing in Europe. We find that tax benefits to homeowners reduce the user cost of housing capital by almost 40 percent compared to the efficient level under neutral taxation. On average, the tax subsidy translates into an excess consumption of housing services equivalent to 7.8 percent of the value of owner-occupied housing, or about 30 percent of financial asset holdings in household portfolios. The bulk of the subsidies stems from under-taxation of the return to home equity, while the average contribution of the tax rebate for mortgage interest payments is driven down by relatively low loan-to-value ratios in the data. However, at the margin, the tax-induced incentive to use mortgage debt to finance the purchase of the main residence is sizable.

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