Tax Changes For 2015: A Checklist

New Year's Eve 2015 with Fireworks

It’s been a few months, but “Welcome 2015!” As the new year rolls around, it’s always a sure bet that there will be changes to current tax law and 2015 is no different. From health savings accounts to retirement contributions and standard deductions, here’s a checklist of tax changes to help you plan the year ahead.


For 2015, more than 40 tax provisions are affected by inflation adjustments, including personal exemptions, AMT exemption amounts, and foreign earned income exclusion, as well as most retirement contribution limits.

For 2015, the tax rate structure, which ranges from 10 to 39.6 percent, remains the same as in 2014, but tax-bracket thresholds increase for each filing status. Standard deductions and the personal exemption have also been adjusted upward to reflect inflation. For details see the article, “Tax Brackets, Deductions, and Exemptions for 2015,” below.

Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT)

Exemption amounts for the AMT, which was made permanent by the American Taxpayer Relief Act (ATRA) are indexed for inflation and allow the use of nonrefundable personal credits against the AMT. For 2015, the exemption amounts are $53,600 for individuals ($52,800 in 2014) and $83,400 for married couples filing jointly ($82,100 in 2014).

“Kiddie Tax”

For taxable years beginning in 2015, the amount that can be used to reduce the net unearned income reported on the child’s return that is subject to the “kiddie tax,” is $1,050 (up from $1,000 in 2014). The same $1,050 amount is used to determine whether a parent may elect to include a child’s gross income in the parent’s gross income and to calculate the “kiddie tax”. For example, one of the requirements for the parental election is that a child’s gross income for 2015 must be more than $1,050 but less than $10,500.

For 2015, the net unearned income for a child under the age of 19 (or a full-time student under the age of 24) that is not subject to “kiddie tax” is $2,100.

Health Savings Accounts (HSAs)

Contributions to a Health Savings Account (HSA) are used to pay current or future medical expenses of the account owner, his or her spouse, and any qualified dependent. Medical expenses must not be reimbursable by insurance or other sources and do not qualify for the medical expense deduction on a federal income tax return.

A qualified individual must be covered by a High Deductible Health Plan (HDHP) and not be covered by other health insurance with the exception of insurance for accidents, disability, dental care, vision care, or long-term care.

For calendar year 2015, a qualifying HDHP must have a deductible of at least $1,250 for self-only coverage or $2,500 for family coverage (unchanged from 2014) and must limit annual out-of-pocket expenses of the beneficiary to $6,350 for self-only coverage (up $100 from 2014) and $12,700 for family coverage (up $200 from 2014).

Medical Savings Accounts (MSAs)

There are two types of Medical Savings Accounts (MSAs): the Archer MSA created to help self-employed individuals and employees of certain small employers, and the Medicare Advantage MSA, which is also an Archer MSA, and is designated by Medicare to be used solely to pay the qualified medical expenses of the account holder. To be eligible for a Medicare Advantage MSA, you must be enrolled in Medicare. Both MSAs require that you are enrolled in a high deductible health plan (HDHP).

Self-only coverage. For taxable years beginning in 2015, the term “high deductible health plan” means, for self-only coverage, a health plan that has an annual deductible that is not less than $2,200 (same as 2014) and not more than $3,300 (up $50 from 2014), and under which the annual out-of-pocket expenses required to be paid (other than for premiums) for covered benefits do not exceed $4,450 (up $100 from 2014).

Family coverage. For taxable years beginning in 2015, the term “high deductible health plan” means, for family coverage, a health plan that has an annual deductible that is not less than $4,450 (up $100 from 2014) and not more than $6,650 (up $100 from 2014), and under which the annual out-of-pocket expenses required to be paid (other than for premiums) for covered benefits do not exceed $8,150 (up $150 from 2014).

AGI Limit for Deductible Medical Expenses

In 2015, the deduction threshold for deductible medical expenses remains at 10 percent (same as 2014) of adjusted gross income (AGI); however, if either you or your spouse were age 65 or older as of December 31, 2014, the new 10 percent of AGI threshold will not take effect until 2017. In other words, the 7.5 percent threshold that was in place in earlier tax years continues to apply for tax years 2015 and 2016 for these individuals. In addition, if you or your spouse turns age 65 in 2015 or 2016, the 7.5 percent of AGI threshold applies for that year (through 2016) as well. Starting in 2017, the 10 percent of AGI threshold applies to everyone.

Eligible Long-Term Care Premiums

Premiums for long-term care are treated the same as health care premiums and are deductible on your taxes subject to certain limitations. For individuals age 40 or younger at the end of 2015, the limitation is $380. Persons more than 40 but not more than 50 can deduct $710. Those more than 50 but not more than 60 can deduct $1,430, while individuals more than 60 but not more than 70 can deduct $3,800. The maximum deduction is $4,750 and applies to anyone more than 70 years of age.

Medicare Taxes

The additional 0.9 percent Medicare tax on wages above $200,000 for individuals ($250,000 married filing jointly), which went into effect in 2013, remains in effect for 2015, as does the Medicare tax of 3.8 percent on investment (unearned) income for single taxpayers with modified adjusted gross income (AGI) more than $200,000 ($250,000 joint filers). Investment income includes dividends, interest, rents, royalties, gains from the disposition of property, and certain passive activity income. Estates, trusts and self-employed individuals are all liable for the new tax.

Foreign Earned Income Exclusion

For 2015, the foreign earned income exclusion amount is $100,800, up from $99,200 in 2014.

Long-Term Capital Gains and Dividends
In 2015 tax rates on capital gains and dividends remain the same as 2014 rates; however threshold amounts are indexed for inflation. As such, for taxpayers in the lower tax brackets (10 and 15 percent), the rate remains 0 percent. For taxpayers in the four middle tax brackets, 25, 28, 33, and 35 percent, the rate is 15 percent. For an individual taxpayer in the highest tax bracket, 39.6 percent, whose income is at or above $413,200 ($464,850 married filing jointly), the rate for both capital gains and dividends is capped at 20 percent.

Pease and PEP (Personal Exemption Phaseout)

Both Pease (limitations on itemized deductions) and PEP (personal exemption phase-out) have been permanently extended (and indexed to inflation) for taxable years beginning after December 31, 2012, and in 2015, affect taxpayers with income at or above $258,250 for single filers and $309,900 for married filing jointly.

Estate and Gift Taxes

For an estate of any decedent during calendar year 2015, the basic exclusion amount is $5,430,000, indexed for inflation (up from $5,340,000 in 2014). The maximum tax rate remains at 40 percent. The annual exclusion for gifts remains at $14,000.
Individuals – Tax Credits

Adoption Credit

In 2015, a non-refundable (only those individuals with tax liability will benefit) credit of up to $13,400 is available for qualified adoption expenses for each eligible child.

Earned Income Tax Credit

For tax year 2015, the maximum earned income tax credit (EITC) for low and moderate income workers and working families rises to $6,242, up from $6,143 in 2014. The credit varies by family size, filing status and other factors, with the maximum credit going to joint filers with three or more qualifying children.

Child Tax Credit

For tax year 2015, the child tax credit is $1,000 per child.

Child and Dependent Care Credit

If you pay someone to take care of your dependent (defined as being under the age of 13 at the end of the tax year or incapable of self-care) in order to work or look for work, you may qualify for a credit of up to $1,050 or 35 percent of $3,000 of eligible expenses in 2015. For two or more qualifying dependents, you can claim up to 35 percent of $6,000 (or $2,100) of eligible expenses. For higher income earners the credit percentage is reduced, but not below 20 percent, regardless of the amount of adjusted gross income.
Individuals – Education

American Opportunity Tax Credit and Lifetime Learning Credits
The American Opportunity Tax Credit (formerly Hope Scholarship Credit) was extended to the end of 2017 by ATRA. The maximum credit is $2,500 per student. The Lifetime Learning Credit remains at $2,000 per return.

Interest on Educational Loans

In 2015 (as in 2014), the $2,500 maximum deduction for interest paid on student loans is no longer limited to interest paid during the first 60 months of repayment. The deduction is phased out for higher-income taxpayers with modified AGI of more than $65,000 ($130,000 joint filers).
Individuals – Retirement

Contribution Limits

The elective deferral (contribution) limit for employees who participate in 401(k), 403(b), most 457 plans, and the federal government’s Thrift Savings Plan increases to $18,000 (up from $17,500 in 2014). Contribution limits for SIMPLE plans increase from $12,000 to $12,500. The maximum compensation used to determine contributions increases to $265,000 (up $5,000 from 2014).

Income Phase-out Ranges

The deduction for taxpayers making contributions to a traditional IRA is phased out for singles and heads of household who are covered by an employer-sponsored retirement plan and have modified AGI between $61,000 and $71,000, up from $60,000 and $70,000 in 2014.

For married couples filing jointly, in which the spouse who makes the IRA contribution is covered by an employer-sponsored retirement plan, the phase-out range is $98,000 to $118,000, up from $96,000 to $116,000. For an IRA contributor who is not covered by an employer-sponsored retirement plan and is married to someone who is covered, the deduction is phased out if the couple’s modified AGI is between $183,000 and $193,000, up from $181,000 and $191,000.

The modified AGI phase-out range for taxpayers making contributions to a Roth IRA is $183,000 to $193,000 for married couples filing jointly, up from $181,000 to $191,000 in 2014. For singles and heads of household, the income phase-out range is $116,000 to $131,000, up from $114,000 to $129,000. For a married individual filing a separate return who is covered by a retirement plan, the phase-out range remains $0 to $10,000.

Saver’s Credit

In 2015, the AGI limit for the saver’s credit (also known as the retirement savings contribution credit) for low and moderate income workers is $61,000 for married couples filing jointly, up from $60,000 in 2014; $45,750 for heads of household, up from $45,000; and $30,500 for married individuals filing separately and for singles, up from $30,000.


Standard Mileage Rates
The rate for business miles driven is 57.5 cents per mile for 2015, up from 56 cents per mile in 2014.

Section 179 Expensing

For 2015 the maximum Section 179 expense deduction for equipment purchases decreases to $25,000 of the first $200,000 of business property placed in service during 2015. The bonus depreciation of 50 percent is gone, as is the accelerated deduction, where businesses can expense the entire cost of qualified real property in the year of purchase.

Employee Health Insurance Expenses

For taxable years beginning in 2015, the dollar amount is $25,800. This amount is used for limiting the small employer health insurance credit and for determining who is an eligible small employer for purposes of the credit.

Transportation Fringe Benefits

If you provide transportation fringe benefits to your employees, in 2015 the maximum monthly limitation for transportation in a commuter highway vehicle as well as any transit pass is $130 (same as 2014). The monthly limitation for qualified parking is $250 (same as 2014).

While this checklist outlines important tax changes for 2015, additional changes in tax law are more than likely to arise during the year ahead.

Don’t hesitate to connect with me on TaxConnections if you want to get an early start on tax planning for 2015.

Dan has been preparing tax return for US Taxpayers and Expatriates since 1998 beginning with US military and Embassy mission personnel in Bangkok, Thailand. He has always loved math and took business accounting at City U. in Seattle Washington. Dan worked at Clint Gordon & Associates (Accredited Tax Consultant) were he gained his foundational knoledge of the US taxing system.

Dan has been studying tax preparation and tax law ever since increasing his skill and knowledge of the tax preparation business accordingly, Dan is known in many circles around the globe as an Expatriate Tax Expert. His book entitled “The Complete US Expat Tax Book” has recently been published and is available on Kindle, Amazon and booksellers around the world.

Thru the years, Dan has fought many battles with the Internal Revenue Service as well as various state taxing departments with great success in helping lower and or eliminate his clients tax debts.

Dan Gordon and his staff enjoy the work they do from the simplest 1040EZ to the most complex corporations, with the goal that no client should pay more tax than legally required.

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