Many of the politicians touted the new Tax Cuts and Jobs Act as the simplification of our tax code. While it is true that some people may now be able to file less complicated tax returns, the law contains so many provisions that it could effect each person’s tax return in a different way. Much of the “simplification” comes from the repeal of certain deductions which required detailed record keeping and calculations. Whether or not this will save people money is yet to be seen.
Another important thing to remember is that most of the changes to the individual tax law are temporary. They will only be in effect for eight years from 2018 through 2025. After that, unless Congress passes new legislation, we will go back to the 2017 rules.
New Tax Rates
For individuals, the tax rates have been reduced for almost all brackets. There are still seven brackets, but the rates are 1% to 4% lower in most. The size of the brackets varies, and taxpayers won’t hit the highest rate of 37% until taxable income is over $500,000 for a single taxpayer or $600,000 for a married couple. The IRS has issued new withholding tables, so employees could see an increase in take-home pay as soon as their employers can implement the new tables, but no later than February 15, 2018.
The standard deduction is doubled to $24,000 for joint filers, $18,000 for heads-of-household, and $12,000 for everyone else. This is good news for taxpayers whose itemized deductions were below these amounts. Even those with deductions above these amounts may be using the standard deduction in 2018, however, because many deductions have been limited or eliminated.
Medical expenses will still be deductible, but only the amount that exceeds 7.5% of adjusted gross income. State and local income taxes and real estate taxes are deductible, but are capped at a total of $10,000. For many New Jersey residents, this cap will be filled up by real estate taxes alone and none of the state income tax will be deductible. Mortgage interest is still deductible, but interest on home equity loans is not. Interest on new mortgages will only be deductible on the first $750,000 of debt. Charitable contributions are still deductible. Most miscellaneous itemized deductions are no longer allowed. These include items like tax preparation fees, unreimbursed employee expenses, investment fees, moving expenses, and home office deductions.
Most education tax breaks and dependent care deductions remain the same. Casualty losses are disallowed unless incurred in a federally declared disaster. No longer will taxpayers be able to deduct other casualty losses such as theft or damage caused by a kitchen fire.
No Personal Exemptions
Personal exemptions are no longer allowed, but the child tax credit is increased to $2,000. Many more taxpayers will qualify for this credit since the income phase-out has been increased to $200,000 for single filers and $400,000 for joint filers.
The relatively new taxes created by the Affordable Care Act remain, which are the 0.9% additional Medicare tax on wages above a certain threshold and the 3.8% net investment income tax. Alternative minimum tax survives, but the phase-out threshold is significantly increased, so fewer taxpayers will be subject to it.
For taxpayers who get divorced in 2019 or later, alimony is no longer deductible. The recipient will not report it as taxable income, either. This provision does not apply to agreements finalized in 2018.
Owners of small businesses organized as partnerships, LLCs, S-Corporations, or sole proprietorships may now be able to take a 20% deduction, which means a business owner may end up paying income tax on only 80% of his business’s taxable income. If a taxpayer has taxable income from all sources in excess of $315,000 (for a married taxpayer), there are limits on the business deduction and special calculations need to be performed. Specified service businesses cannot take the deduction at all if the owner’s taxable income is in excess of $415,000 (for a married taxpayer). Service businesses include lawyers, accountants, doctors, and athletes, among others.
Have a question? Contact John Adams. Your comments are always welcome!