Removing homeownership bias in taxation: the distributional effects of including net imputed rent in taxable income

Publication type

Journal Article


Publication date

December 15, 2017


Most countries’ income tax systems entail a favourable treatment of
homeownership, compared to rental-occupied housing. Such ‘homeownership
bias’ and its consequences for a wide range of economic outcomes have
long been recognized in the economic literature. Although a removal of
the homeownership bias is generally advocated on efficiency grounds, its
distributional implications are often neglected, especially in a cross
country perspective. This paper aims to fill this gap by investigating
the first order effects, in terms of distribution of income and work
incentives, of removing the income tax provisions favouring
homeownership. We consider six European countries – Belgium, Germany,
Greece, Italy, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, who exhibit
important variation in terms of income tax treatment of homeowners.
Using the multi-country tax benefit model EUROMOD, we analyse the
distributional consequences of including net imputed rent in the taxable
income definition applying in each country, together with the removal
of existing special tax treatments of incomes or expenses related to the
main residence; thus, we provide a measure of the homeownership bias.
We implement three tax policy scenarios: in the first imputed rent is
included in the taxable income of homeowners, while at the same time
existing mortgage interest tax relief schemes and taxation of cadastral
incomes are abolished. In two further revenue-neutral scenarios, the
additional tax revenue raised through the taxation of imputed rent is
redistributed to taxpayers, either through a tax rate reduction or a tax
exemption increase. Results show how including net imputed rent in the
tax base might affect inequality in each of the countries considered.
Housing taxation appears to be a promising avenue for raising additional
revenues, or lightening taxation of labour, with no
inequality-increasing side-effects.

Published in

Fiscal Studies

Volume and page numbers

Volume: 38 , p.525 -557






Online Open article



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