Pay off mortgage with lower-rate HELOC?

Retaining tax benefits a top concern

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DEAR BENNY: I have about $40,000 left on my 15-year fixed mortgage at 4 percent interest. I owe about $13,000 on a home equity line that is 2.99 percent variable rate. I have a $100,000 equity line open. I have no other debt. I am considering paying off my remaining mortgage with the lower-interest home equity line. Do you think that is a good idea since I am giving up a fixed rate for a variable rate? I would pay both off in about three years. Also, if I close out my mortgage, can I still declare the interest on my taxes from the home equity line? –Wade

DEAR WADE: In general, I am always reluctant to advise readers to switch from a fixed interest rate to a variable one. I am old enough to remember when mortgage interest rates soared to 18 percent.