The tax reform passed at the end of 2017 runs to about 70,000 words. It's a large and complicated piece of legislation, and we can look forward to additional guidance and clarifications. For now, here are summaries of some of the key provisions:
Key changes for individuals
Standard deduction amount increased. For 2018, the standard deduction amount has been significantly increased for all filers, as noted below. Some taxpayers who previously itemized their deductions may no longer find that necessary.
- Single or married filing separately: $12,000.
- Married filing jointly or qualifying widow(er): $24,000.
- Head of household: $18,000.
Deduction for personal exemptions suspended. For 2018, you can't claim a personal exemption deduction for yourself, your spouse or your dependents.
Changes to deductions.Those who still will be itemizing should note the following changes and plan accordingly:
- Your itemized deductions are no longer limited if your adjusted gross income is over a certain amount.
- You can deduct the part of your medical and dental expenses that is more than 7.5 percent of your AGI.
- Your deduction of state and local income, sales and property taxes is limited to a combined total of $10,000 ($5,000 if married filing separately).
- You can no longer deduct job-related expenses or other miscellaneous itemized deductions that were subject to the 2 percent of your AGI floor. You may still deduct certain other items on Schedule A, such as gambling losses.
- No more deductions for tax preparation fees or investment expenses, including investment management fees.
- For indebtedness incurred after Dec.15, 2017, the deduction for home mortgage interest is limited to interest on up to $750,000 of home acquisition indebtedness. This new limit doesn't apply if you had a binding contract to close on a home after Dec. 15, 2017, and closed on or before April 1, 2018, and the prior limit would apply.
- You can no longer deduct interest on home equity indebtedness, which means indebtedness not incurred for the purpose of buying, building or substantially improving the qualified residence secured by the indebtedness.
- The limit on charitable contributions of cash has increased from 50 percent to 60 percent of your AGI.
Children and dependents. The law made some significant changes here.
Child tax credit and additional child tax credit. For 2018, the maximum credit increased to $2,000 per qualifying child. The maximum additional child tax credit increased to $1,400. In addition, the income threshold at which the credit begins to phase out is increased to $200,000 ($400,000 if married filing jointly).
Credit for other dependents. A new credit of up to $500 is available for each of your dependents who does not qualify for the child tax credit. In addition, the maximum income threshold at which the credit begins to phase out is increased to $200,000 ($400,000 if married filing jointly).
Marriage. Alimony and separate maintenance payments are no longer deductible for any agreement executed or modified after Dec. 31, 2018.
What isn't changing. The new tax law changed a lot, but not everything. The IRS has noted that the following provisions and numbers remain the same. For tax year 2018:
- The annual exclusion for gifts is $15,000.
- The monthly limitation for the qualified transportation fringe benefit is $260, as is the monthly limitation for qualified parking.
- The AGI amount used by joint filers to determine the reduction in the Lifetime Learning Credit is $114,000.
Social Security. Not related to tax reform changes, but still important to individuals and businesses, is the decision to give Social Security recipients a 2.8 percent cost-of-living raise in 2019. Also changed is the maximum taxable amount subject to Social Security tax. This number will increase to $132,900 from $128,400. The tax rate itself is unchanged: 7.65 percent each for employees and employers and 15.30 percent for those who are self-employed.
Key changes for businesses
Based on the kind of business you run, you may see significant changes under the new laws.
Pass-through provisions. Many owners of sole proprietorships, partnerships, trusts and S corporations may be eligible for a new deduction — referred to as the Qualified Business Income Deduction — allowing them to deduct up to 20 percent of their qualified business income.
Meals and entertainment. The new law generally eliminated the deduction for any expenses related to activities considered entertainment, amusement or recreation. However, under the new law, taxpayers can continue to deduct 50 percent of the cost of business meals if the taxpayer (or an employee of the taxpayer) is present and the food or beverages are not considered lavish or extravagant.
Temporary 100 percent expensing. The new law temporarily allows 100 percent expensing for business property acquired and placed in service after Sept. 27, 2017, and before Jan. 1, 2023. The 100 percent allowance generally decreases by 20 percent per year in taxable years beginning after 2022 and expires Jan. 1, 2027.
Expensing depreciable business assets. The law increased the maximum deduction to $1 million and increased the phase-out threshold to $2.5 million. It also modifies the definition of section 179 property to allow the taxpayer to elect to include certain improvements made to nonresidential real property.
New employer credit for paid family and medical leave. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act added a new tax credit for employers that offer paid family and medical leave to their employees. The credit applies to wages paid in taxable years beginning after Dec. 31, 2017, and before Jan. 1, 2020.
Opportunity Zones. Investments in Opportunity Zones provide tax benefits to investors. Investors can elect to temporarily defer tax on capital gains that are reinvested in a Qualified Opportunity Fund (QOF). The tax on the gain can be deferred until the earlier of the date on which the QOF investment is sold or exchanged, or Dec. 31, 2026.
Sexual harassment. This provision did not get a lot of attention, but the new law makes it clear that no deduction is allowed for certain payments made in sexual harassment or sexual abuse cases.
What's the bottom line?
This isn't everything you need to know, of course. There are a lot of details and additional guidance. The key is to be proactive and speak to us about withholding adjustments and other tax planning issues in the new year.