The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) – Part 2

In this second blog post I’ll be discussing individual itemized tax deductions that are taken on Schedule A (And, If by chance you missed Part 1 of this article about the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act you can read it here).

Everyone has been talking about the limit on state and local taxes, but there are additional cutbacks. As under prior law you want to take the larger of the standard deduction or your itemized deductions. The big increase in the standard deduction reduces your chances of your itemized deductions exceeding the standard. That’s made even more difficult by the new restrictions on state and local taxes, mortgage interest, and the elimination of miscellaneous itemized deductions. (Note: There are sometimes reasons to itemize even when you’d come out ahead with the standard deduction.)

For example, Fred and Wilma had state and local income taxes in 2017 $14,000; mortgage interest of $13,000 and charitable contributions of $1,000. Thus, instead of taking the standard deduction of $12,700 they itemized and deducted $28,000. Assuming the same expenses for 2018, because of the $10,000 limit on state and local taxes, their itemized deductions will only total $24,000, the same as the standard deduction.

Clearly, fewer taxpayers are likely to itemize for federal purposes. But that may prove disadvantageous for state purposes. For example, New York (and many other states) uses your federal itemized deductions and disallows the deduction for state income taxes. If, in 2018, Fred and Wilma lived in New York and had real estate taxes of $9,000, interest of $13,000 and $1,000 in charitable contributions they could take itemized deductions of $23,000 for state purposes. Their standard deduction for state purposes would be a bit above $16,050 substantially less (Side note: As of the date of this post the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance has not released their standard deduction amount for 2018, therefore I used the 2017 NYS standard deduction amount of $16,050 for a married couple filing jointly for illustration. Based on history, I do not expect the 2018 NYS standard deduction amount to be significantly higher than the 2017 NYS standard deduction amount). They may have to compute their itemized deductions just for state purposes. But there’s another hitch. Many states don’t allow you to itemize for state purposes if you didn’t itemize for federal. More than likely, a number of states will revise their rules to accommodate the federal changes.

There is some offsetting good news. First, the new law removes the limitation on itemized deductions (the Pease limitation) that’s based on Adjusted Gross Income (AGI). Under the old law taxpayers with AGI of more than $320,000 (married, joint; $266,700 for single individuals) would see their itemized deductions phased out.

Second, state and local taxes, certain interest deductions, etc. were not deductible for Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) purposes. So many higher-income taxpayers ended up receiving little or no benefit from some of their deductions. The changes in the Alternative Minimum Tax make that much less likely.

 

State and Local Taxes

This change may be the one most talked about, and it’s also one of the most straightforward. Your deduction for state and local income, property, and sales taxes (if you use that option), combined, is limited to $10,000 ($5,000 married filing separate). No deduction is allowed for foreign real property taxes paid in the years 2018 through 2025; foreign income taxes are still deductible, subject to the restrictions on all taxes. If you prepaid state and local income taxes for 2018 in 2017, they’re not deductible until 2018. Real property taxes that are assessed in 2017 are deductible if paid in 2017, if you’re allowed to do so under local law.

There is an exception for state and local real or personal property taxes paid or accrued in carrying on a trade or business or income-producing activity. So let’s say that you have an auto repair business operated as a sole proprietorship. You own the building that is used by the business. The real property taxes would be fully deductible, but on Schedule C. Property taxes related to rental property should be taken on Schedule E as part of the rental expenses.

There are some issues here that will probably be addressed in guidance from the IRS.

If you have a vacation home that’s not being used, you might consider renting it to secure a deduction on Schedule E.

If you are self-employed and use a portion of your home for business, the business portion of the taxes (and other expenses) are deducted on Schedule C (or Schedule F for farm income). For example, you use 20% of your home for business. Your real estate taxes are $10,000 for the year. Of the total $2,000 (20%) would be deductible on Schedule C, the remaining $8,000 would be deductible on Schedule A, subject to the overall $10,000 limit rule.

 

Home Mortgage Interest Deduction

This change, too, is pretty simple. Mortgage interest on acquisition indebtedness on a qualified residence incurred on or after December 15, 2017 is deductible, but only to the extent of the interest on the first $750,000 ($375,000 if married filing separate) of debt, not the $1 million limit under the old law. No deduction is allowed for home equity debt, regardless of when incurred.

A qualified residence is your principal residence plus one other residence. That includes a vacation home, or a boat or recreational vehicle with living accommodations. The old rules continue to apply as well to other definitions. For example, the debt must be secured by the residence and acquisition indebtedness includes refinanced debt not in excess of the original debt. Acquisition debt includes debt incurred in the purchase, construction, or substantial improvement of the residence. There are other rules with respect to refinanced debt including that the refinancing cannot extend the term of the original loan. The qualifying debt on a mortgage refinanced that was taken out before December 15, 2017 can be as much as the old limitation, $1 million.

The two changes here are the loss of a deduction for home equity interest and the lower maximum indebtedness. Like other provisions in the new law, both of these restrictions expire after 2025.

While there are no “loopholes” there are steps you can take to make sure you don’t give away an interest deduction. For example, many taxpayers use their home equity line to add a room, redo a kitchen, finish the basement, etc. Under the prior law the first $100,000 of home equity interest was deductible, so it really didn’t make much difference if the amount was incurred for a addition to the home or a new foreign sports car. But for home improvements the home equity loan is really acquisition debt and the interest on the portion of the total debt used for these purposes should still be deductible, subject to the overall limits. Interest on home equity debt incurred to purchase a new car would not be. If you do use the home equity line for this purpose you need to keep accurate records of the date and amount spent and be able to tie it to the amount withdrawn from the home equity line. Talk to Solid Tax Solutions about the fine points of record keeping here.

Example–In 2017 Bill and Carol drew down $30,000 on a $100,000 home equity line to purchase a car. On July 1, 2018 they take $60,000 from their home equity line to pay for a new kitchen and an additional bathroom. The interest on the $60,000 home improvement debt would be deductible in 2018. But that amount was outstanding for only half the year. Bill and Carol would have to determine the amount of interest on that $60,000 for the last six months of 2018.

Business owners can encounter the situation where they borrow on their home to finance their business or for the purchase of a rental property. In both of these situations the loan and the interest really belongs on the business or the rental property and should be deducted on that business. Debt related to these types of loans is not subject to the $750,000 restriction. For example, John and Susan have a home worth $2.3 million. They borrow $1.25 million to finance their business. Interest on the entire debt would be deductible, but not as an itemized deduction on Schedule A. Again, talk to Solid Tax Solutions about the record keeping and mechanics, both of which can be critical.

Investors can still deduct investment interest. Amounts borrowed through a home equity line should be allocated to the investment interest deduction.

While the interest isn’t deductible, that doesn’t mean taking out a home equity loan no longer makes sense. If you got into financial difficulty and ran up your credit cards, using a home equity loan at 4% or a similar interest rate to pay off 22% credit card balances makes sense. On the other hand, car loans currently carry a low rate. It may make more sense to finance a new car with an auto loan rather than use home equity money. A home equity line can still prove useful in many situations, but you shouldn’t use it indiscriminately.

 

Medical Expense Deduction

Here, the change is a positive one. Under prior law only unreimbursed medical expenses that exceeded 10% of AGI were deductible for regular or AMT purposes. The new law lowers the percentage threshold to 7.5% for both regular and AMT purposes, but only for 2017 and 2018. (It had been 7.5% some years ago.) For example, under the 10% threshold a taxpayer with AGI of $50,000 would be able to deduct only the amount of unreimbursed medical expenses that exceeded $5,000 (10% of $50,000). Under the new law, that same taxpayer would get a deduction for expenses that exceeded $3,750 (7.5% of $50,000). Medical expenses includes health insurance, long-term care insurance (subject to restrictions), unreimbursed doctor and hospital bills, tests, prescriptions, etc.

This change applies to tax years beginning after December 31, 2016. That means it applies to 2017 tax returns, one of the few changes that does.

There’s a downside here though. The lowered threshold only applies to tax years beginning before January 1, 2019. For almost all taxpayers that means it only applies to tax years 2017 and 2018.

 

Miscellaneous Itemized Deductions

Unfortunately, here we will see another cut courtesy of the Tax Cut and Jobs Act. These miscellaneous itemized deductions (subject to a 2% of AGI threshold) include a broad range of expenditures from job hunting expenses, union dues, professional uniforms, an employee’s home office, unreimbursed employee business expenses (e.g., travel, lodging, meals and entertainment), continuing education expenses, to professional subscriptions and dues. The expenses deductible under this category also include expenses for the production and collection of income such as the cost of preparing your tax return, investment advisory publications and advisory fees. They may also include attorney’s fees for the collection of income a safety deposit box, and appraisal fees. Finally, expenses related to “hobby losses” are deductible here.

Many taxpayers don’t break the 2% threshold required to deduct any of these expenses, or do so only sporadically, but the category is such a catchall that more than a few taxpayers, particularly professionals who are employees will feel the pinch on a regular basis.

Taxpayers who are self-employed (that includes partners in a partnership and LLC members) or do business through a regular corporation or ‘S’ corporation should be particularly careful who the expenses belong to and who pays them. For example, you may have been deducting unreimbursed business expenses on Schedule A where you could be deducting them on your S corporation. Talk to Solid Tax Solutions about the correct treatment.

Business owners may have to reconsider their reimbursement policies. If the business had a policy of not reimbursing employees for meals that were business related, the employee will now be forced to absorb the entire bill. In order to placate and retain employees you may have to start reimbursing for items you didn’t in the past.

Please feel free to share this post and any other of our blog posts with your friends and family.

Also, Part 3 is soon to follow. The wait is over 😃. Part 3 is ready and you can read it here.

Call and talk to your tax adviser at Solid Tax Solutions (Web: SolidTaxSolutions.com) about these and other ways the Tax Cut and Jobs Act will affect your 2018 AND 2017 taxes.

→(845) 344-1040←

 

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Bruce – Your Host at The Tax Nook

Our Firm’s Website: SolidTaxSolutions.com.

Other Social Media Outlets: Facebook.com/SolidTaxSolutions.

Twitter: Twitter.com/@SolidTax1040 (BTW, We Follow-Back).

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) – Part 1

Lately I’ve received a lot of calls as well, as impromptu questions when I am moving around town, of people wanting to know what the heck is the ‘new tax law’ all about and how these changes will affect them.

So, I thought the best and most efficient way to get preliminary information out to everyone is through this blog with a “brief” (Lol) overview.

And, off to the races we go……

Soooo, there have been many claims on both sides of the political aisle about the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act which is also referred to as the TCJA (and as a side note the TCJA is over 500 pages). Will your taxes go down? By how much? For middle class taxpayers it will ultimately depend on your particular situation. There’s no doubt that some taxpayers in states with high income and/or real estate taxes could see their taxes go up. And it can also depend on what other deductions you’re losing. But higher-income taxpayers won’t feel the pinch as much. That’s because their deductions under the old law may be phased out or lost because of the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT). Most taxpayers will see a decline in their taxes, a few will see an increase. The higher your income the bigger the benefit, both in absolute and percentage amounts. The increase in the exemption for the Alternative Minimum Tax will mean far fewer taxpayers will be caught in the trap. In fact the estimate is that only about 200,000 taxpayers will pay the tax, down from 4.4 million. For many taxpayers that can be a big saving.

Home ownership will not be as attractive as it was, particularly in high tax states. And that could depress home prices. On the other hand, new benefits for landlords will make owning a rental more profitable. That could be enhanced because more people may be renting.

Business owners should fare well under the new rules. While owners of business in certain services (medicine, accounting, legal, etc.) may not do as well as others, everyone will get a benefit. For C corporations (otherwise known as a regular corporation) tax rates will be materially lower; for owners of S corporations and other pass-through entities, the benefits are less clear, but should be significant. But there are some changes that could reduce the benefits. For example, an employee who is asked to move to another location may want more of an incentive since his moving expenses are no longer deductible.

One issue that I haven’t heard mentioned more than once is the effect on state income taxes. Most states tie their computation of taxable income to the federal rules. Some do it automatically (when the fed makes a change, the state automatically does), some have to pass a legislation to follow the change. Most states have modifications to federal taxable (or adjusted gross) income. For example, New York State excludes state and federal pensions and allows an exclusion for up to $20,000 in other pension income. It also exempts all of Social Security income. But it doesn’t follow some of the federal depreciation rules.

Some deductions were eliminated in total. For example, moving expenses are no longer deductible (with an exception for the armed forces). But unless a provision of existing law was mentioned, it’s still in effect. The 0.9% medicare tax on wages of higher income individuals as well as the 3.8% tax on net investment income. The special benefits for capital gains and dividends were largely untouched.

Most amounts in the new law are adjusted for inflation using the ‘chained consumer price index’ (C-CPI-U) approach (for your reference, a quick read primer about the ‘chained consumer price index’ (C-CPI-U) is here. This is a method, that will be used going forward, that results in smaller annual increases in tax brackets, thresholds, etc.

Finally, keep in mind that most of the provisions take effect January 1, 2018. (Technically, they apply to tax years beginning after December 31, 2017; I’ll point out any that don’t). Most of the provisions that apply to individuals expire on December 31, 2025.

Beginning with this article you and I will take a look at all the important changes in the law and how it will affect taxpayers.

 

Individual Tax Rates

 

Tax Rates Based on Filing Status

 

There’s no question that income tax rates are lower across the board (with the exception of estates and trusts). But how much varies with your situation. Of course, you could still pay higher taxes if your taxable income is higher because you can’t deduct some of your state and local taxes, can’t claim a credit, etc. That’s why it’s important to work through your numbers. Unless you take the standard deduction and never have any unusual circumstances, trying to make them arrive at generic examples is very difficult =>(Solid Tax Solutions can work the numbers for you).

Tax Rates: Single Taxpayers–>2018
      Taxable income:                   Tax:
  Over     But not over         Tax       +%   On amount over            

$      0     $  9,525        $    0.00   10       $      0
   9,525       38,700           952.50   12          9,525
  38,700       82,500         4,453.50   22         38,700
  82,500      157,500        14,089.50   24         82,500
 157,500      200,000        32,089.50   32        157,500
 200,000      500,000        45,689.50   35        200,000
 500,000      .......       150,689.50   37        500,000
 

Tax Rates: Married Individuals Filing Joint and Surviving Spouses–>2018
      Taxable income:                   Tax:
  Over     But not over         Tax       +%   On amount over            

$      0     $ 19,050        $     0.00  10       $      0
  19,050       77,400          1,905.00  12         19,050
  77,400      165,000          8,907.00  22         77,400
 165,000      315,000         28,179.00  24        165,000
 315,000      400,000         64,179.00  32        315,000
 400,000      600,000         91,379.00  35        400,000
 600,000      .......        161,379.00  37        600,000 
 
Tax Rates–Head of Household–>2018
      Taxable income:                   Tax:
  Over     But not over         Tax       +%   On amount over            

$      0     $ 13,600        $     0.00  10       $      0
  13,600       51,800          1,360.00  12         13,600
  51,800       82,500          5,944.00  22         51,800
  82,500      157,500         12,698.00  24         82,500
 157,500      200,000         30,698.00  32        200,000
 200,000      500,000         44,298.00  35        200,000
 500,000      .......        149,298.00  37        500,000 
 
Tax Rates: Married Filing Separate–>2018
      Taxable income:                   Tax:
  Over     But not over         Tax       +%   On amount over            

$      0     $  9,525        $     0.00  10       $      0
   9,525       38,700            952.50  12          9,525
  38,700       82,500          4,453.50  22         38,700
  82,500      157,500         14,089.50  24         82,500
 157,500      200,000         32,089.50  32        157.500
 200,000      300,000         45,689.50  35        200,000
 300,000      .......         80,689.50  37        300,000 
 
Tax Rates: Estates and Trusts–>2018
      Taxable income:                   Tax:
  Over     But not over         Tax       +%   On amount over            

$      0     $  2,550        $     0.00  10       $      0
   2,550        9,150            255.00  24          2,550
   9,150       12,500          1,839.00  35          9,150
  12,500      .......          3,011.50  37         12,500 
 

So what are the savings? I computed the tax using several levels of taxable income. I didn’t take into account different situations such as the loss of tax deductions or the higher standard deductions or the Alternative Minimum Tax. I used 2017 rates for the “old” rates because many taxpayers want to compare last year to the new rates. If the law hadn’t been enacted, 2018 rates would be slightly lower after accounting for the annual cost-of-living adjustment.

Here’s how a married couple would fare under four different taxable income assumptions.

Taxable Income of $40,000– Jack and Jill have taxable income of $40,000. Under the new law they’ll pay tax of $4,419 versus $5,068 under the old law. That’s a savings of $649.

Taxable Income of $100,000– Assume taxable income of $100,000. They’ll pay $13,879 under the new law versus $16,478 under the old. A savings of $2,599.

Taxable Income of $375,000– With taxable income of $375,000 they’ll pay $83,379 versus $98,967 for a $15,588 savings.

Taxable Income of $600,000– Taxable income of $600,000 will result in $161,379 under the new law, down from $182,831 under the old law. A savings of $21,452.

I also computed the saving at taxable income of $75,000. That was $1,699, in between the $40,000 and $100,000 savings amounts.

For single individuals, I computed the differences at taxable income of $100,000 and $500,000. At $100,000 there’s a savings of $2,692; at $500,000 the savings rise to $3,129.

There’s no question that the tax rates are lower, and higher-income taxpayers will see the biggest savings, both in absolute and percentage amounts. But all taxpayers should benefit. The question is how will this be offset by the loss of deductions? That depends on your particular situation. Both the rates and brackets generally combine to lower taxes. For example, in 2017 the 25% rate for a married couple filing joint started at $75,901; under the new law, the rate is 22% and the bracket starts at $77,401. But there are some anomalies, such as the 35% bracket for married, filing joint starts at $416,701 under the old law and $400,001 under the new.

Capital Gain Rates and Related Taxes

The tax rate on long-term capital gains follows the old rules updated for the new rates. For example, under the old rules, you’d pay no tax on qualified dividends or long-term capital gains if you’re in the 10% or 15% bracket. There is no 15% bracket under the new law. The 12% bracket is substituted. Thus, if you’re in the 10% or 12% bracket, you pay no tax on qualified dividends or long-term capital gains. Above that, qualified dividends and long-term capital gains are taxed at 15% until you reach the top bracket. If you’re in the top bracket, they’re taxed at 20%.

The maximum tax rate on unrecaptured Section 1250 gains remains at 25%; the maximum tax on collectibles is 28%, as under prior law.

The Net Investment Income Tax (NIIT) of 3.8% remains in effect. This tax generally applies to dividends, capital gains, and passive income. The additional medicare tax of 0.9% continues to apply to Medicare wages in excess of the threshold amounts.

 

Alternative Minimum Tax

Congress did not eliminate the alternative minimum tax for individuals, but by making two strategic changes it slashed its impact.

The first change is the exemptions. Under prior law the exemption was $84,500 for a married couple filing joint. That’s increased to $109,400. For single individuals or head of household, the exemption increases from $54,300 to $70,300; for married filing separate it goes from $42,500 to $54,700. Under both prior and new law the exemption is phased out 25 cents for each $1 that the Alternative Minimum Taxable Income (AMTI) exceeds the thresholds. That was a big trap for many taxpayers. Under prior law the phaseouts began AMTI of $160,900 (married, joint), $120,700 (single, head of household), and $90,450 for a married couple filing separately. Under the new law, phaseout of the exemption begins at $1 million for a married couple filing joint and $500,000 for all other filers. That, coupled with the fact that only the first $10,000 of state and local taxes are deductible for regular tax purposes (state and local taxes are not deductible for AMT purposes) significantly reduces a major add-back.

The rates for the AMT are unchanged from prior law (after adjustment for inflation). The 26% rate applies to AMTI up to $191,500 ($95,750 if married, filing separate) for 2018; the 28% rate applies to income above those amounts.

For many taxpayers who either paid or had to consider the AMT in the past, they should discuss the tax with their advisor. There’s a good chance a few rules of thumb may provide them with relief from having to consider the tax.

 

Standard Deduction, Personal Exemption and Child Tax Credit

This is where things start to get more complicated. Under prior law, the standard deduction for a single taxpayer was $6,500 and $13,000 for a married couple filing jointly. Each individual was entitled to a personal exemption of $4,150. These were the amounts released by the IRS in November that would have taken effect for 2018. Thus, a single taxpayer, taking the standard deduction would have been entitled to deduct $10,650 from their adjusted gross income to arrive at taxable income. A married couple with no children could deduct $21,300 ($13,000 standard deduction plus two $4,150 exemptions). They could deduct another $4,150 for each dependent child. In addition, a single individual or married couple with children could take a tax credit of $1,000 for each child under the age of 17. The personal exemption and child credit were phased out for higher-income individuals.

Under the new law the standard deduction is increased to $12,000 for a single individual; $24,000 for a married couple filing jointly and $18,000 for head of households. The amounts are adjusted annually for inflation. That seems generous, but the new law also eliminates the personal exemption. That would be $4,150 per person. Thus, the standard deduction isn’t going from $13,000 to $24,000 for a married couple with no children, in effect it’s going from $21,300 to $24,000. For a single individual the deduction is going from $10,650 to $12,000. It’s an increase, but a more modest one than appears on the surface.

A bigger issue is the exemptions for dependent children. These are also eliminated. In their place is a higher child tax credit.

Under prior law taxpayers could claim a tax credit of $1,000 for each child under the age of 17 at the end of the year. The credit is phased out ($50 for every $1000) for taxpayers with Modified Adjusted Gross Income (MAGI) above $110,000 (married, joint) $75,000 (single). Part of the credit may be refundable. There are other restrictions.

Under the new law the credit is increased to $2,000 per qualifying child. Phaseout begins at $400,000 (married, joint); $200,000 for any other filing status. The phaseout is the same as under the old law. In addition, a $500 credit can be claimed for each dependent who doesn’t qualify for the child credit. The maximum refundable portion is $1,400 per qualifying child. The refundable portion is equal to 15% of a taxpayer’s earned income in excess of $2,500 to the amount the tax credit exceeds the taxpayer’s tax liability. In addition, there are new requirements for a proper taxpayer identification number. A social security number will be valid only for a person who is a U.S citizen or is authorized to work in the U.S. Without this, the refundable credit is limited to $500.

So, are you better or worse off under the new law? Here it depends on your tax rate. A credit is a direct reduction in taxes. The tax savings doesn’t depend on your tax rate. With a deduction, the value depends on your tax rate. For example, Bob and Susan can get a $1,000 tax credit or a $4,150 deduction (the amount of the personal exemption for a child). They’re in the 10% bracket. The tax credit will save them $1,000 in taxes, but a $4,150 deduction will only reduce their taxes by $415 (10% of $4,150). Jack and Jill can also choose between a $1,000 credit or a $4,150 deduction, but they’re in the 35% bracket. The $4,150 deduction will reduce their taxes by $1,452.50. They’re better off with a deduction.

Under the old law a qualifying child would give you a $1,000 credit and a $4,150 deduction. Continuing the example above, under the new law Bob and Susan now have $2,000, much better than the $1,000 credit and a personal exemption which would save $415 in taxes. Jack and Jill get a $1,000 credit (which they would not have gotten under prior law because of the phaseout of the credit). But they also get another $1,000 credit instead of a $4,150 deduction which would have been worth $1,452.

There’s another important difference here. Under prior law a qualifying child for the dependency exemption had to be either under age 19 or, if a full-time student, under age 24 at the end of the calendar year. For the $2,000 credit the child must be under the age of 17. For a dependent older than that you’re only entitled to a $500 credit. Offsetting this is the phaseout of the child credit under the new law which occurs at a much higher income level.

Stay tuned ladies and gentlemen there is more TCJA fun to follow, you can find Part 2 of this article here.

You can reach Solid Tax Solutions by ☎ at: (845)344-1040.

You can also visit us on the web at: SolidTaxSolutions.com.

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Bruce – Your Host at The Tax Nook

Our Firm’s Website: SolidTaxSolutions.com.

Other Social Media Outlets: Facebook.com/SolidTaxSolutions.

Twitter: Twitter.com/@SolidTax1040 (BTW, We Follow-Back).