How Tax Breaks Fueled the Housing Bubble

This article from <em>The New York Times</em> looks at how Clinton-era tax breaks helped create the housing bubble.
December 20, 2008, 1pm PST | Nate Berg
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"Thanks to a tax break proposed by President Bill Clinton and approved by Congress in 1997, he did not have to pay tax on most of that profit. It was a break that had not been available to generations of Americans before him. The benefits also did not apply to other investments, be they stocks, bonds or stakes in a small business. Those gains were all taxed at rates of up to 20 percent."

"The different tax treatments gave people a new incentive to plow ever more money into real estate, and they did so."

"By itself, the change in the tax law did not cause the housing bubble, economists say. Several other factors - a relaxation of lending standards, a failure by regulators to intervene, a sharp decline in interest rates and a collective belief that house prices could never fall - probably played larger roles."

"But many economists say that the law had a noticeable impact, allowing home sales to become tax-free windfalls. A recent study of the provision by an economist at the Federal Reserve suggests that the number of homes sold was almost 17 percent higher over the last decade than it would have been without the law."

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Published on Thursday, December 18, 2008 in The New York Times
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