And I mean absurd in the most literal sense. We all know that the U.S. tax code is riddled with “loopholes”, exemptions and deductions intended to incentivize certain activities. Many of these are of dubious provenance and questionable utility. But, there is one that is particularly ridiculous. As in, how can this possibly be thought of as a loophole? But, to the technocrats in the federal government, the tax you don’t have to pay on the value of rent you don’t have to pay because you own your home is a loophole.

Read that last sentence again. Its called “The Imputed Net Rental Income on Owner-Occupied Housing” and the feds include it in their annual list of “tax expenditures.” That term is how Washington officially refers to credits, deductions and exemptions. Here’s how the federal government describes it:

Under the baseline tax system, the taxable income of a taxpayer who is an owner-occupant would include the implicit value of gross rental income on housing services earned on the investment in owner-occupied housing and would allow a deduction for expenses, such as interest, depreciation, property taxes, and other costs, associated with earning such rental income. In contrast, the Tax Code allows an exclusion from taxable in- come for the implicit gross rental income on housing services, while in certain circumstances allows a deduction for some costs associated with such income, such as for mortgage interest and property taxes.

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