Tax implications of buying versus renting

This article was originally published in Postnoon on November 23, 2012

Nicky: Oh hello Abhi! When did you come?

Abhi complained: I have been waiting for you since the past half an hour.

Nicky: You should have called before coming. I would have told you that I would be in a meeting. Anyways, tell me how is your new house? I am sorry, I could not come for the house warming ceremony.

Abhi: The house is good, comfortable. Actually I am here to discuss the tax implications of buying the house.

Nicky: What about it?

Abhi: Till last year, I was claiming Housing Rent Allowance (HRA) deduction under section 10(13A) of the income tax act. Am I still eligible to claim those?

Nicky: How can you? Since you are living in your own house, you are not paying any rent. So you cannot claim HRA as a deduction. It is treated as an income for you. But you can claim deductions for your Equated Monthly Installments (EMIs) on your home loan.

Abhi: How?

Nicky: The EMI is divided into the principal component and the interest component. The bank must have sent a statement to you with this break up. Or they will send it to you, if they haven’t done it yet. The principal component of up to Rs1 Lakh can be claimed under section 80c and the interest component of up to Rs1.5 Lakhs can be claimed under section 24b of the income tax act.

Abhi: But isn’t section 80c the same section where we claim our life insurance premium and provident fund (EPF) contributions?

Nicky: Yes, you are right. Hence the benefit of claiming the principal under section 80c is limited. In the initial years of the EMI payment, the principal component is very small. In the later years, when the principal component is larger, assuming that your salary goes up with time, the entire 80c limit may be reached with EPF contributions and insurance premiums alone.

The interest deductions do help in saving significant amounts of tax though. If you fall under the 30% tax bracket and pay more than Rs1.5 lakhs as interest, you end up saving Rs45,000 in taxes.

Abhi: So even if I am not able to claim the HRA, a home loan still helps me reduce my tax burden.

Nicky: Absolutely. Infact you did a very good job of buying a house in Hyderabad. A recent research done by has shown that Hyderabad is one of the most affordable places to buy a house for a professional.

Abhi: Oh really? I am glad I made the right decision.

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