Five changes to be aware of under 2018 tax reform

At the end of last year President Trump signed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act into law, signaling the largest tax reform in over three decades. We have received a lot of questions recently on how this law will affect our clients. With the tax season now behind us it is time to address how these changes will impact you in 2018.

There are many aspects to this law and there is no “one size fits all” explanation for how it will impact our clients. Some of our clients will win and some of them will lose under the new law. With that in mind we have outlined the five changes that we believe are most relevant to you.

1. ITEMIZED DEDUCTIONS AND THE STANDARD DEDUCTION

One of the most promoted aspects of the new tax law is the nearly doubling of the standard deduction to $12,000 for single, $18,000 for head of household, and $24,000 for joint filers. While the standard deduction amounts are receiving significant increases, many of the allowed itemized deductions are either being handicapped or removed entirely:

  • The deductions for state and local income taxes as well as property taxes are capped at a combined total of $10,000. This means that homeowners in high income-tax states are likely to lose a portion of this former deduction.

  • The deduction for home mortgage interest remains but is limited to mortgages that do not exceed $750,00, down from the previous threshold of $1,000,000.

  • All miscellaneous itemized deductions (including tax preparation fees, casualty losses and all unreimbursed employee expenses) have been eliminated entirely.

The increased standard deduction amounts combined with the additional restrictions on itemized deductions increases the chances of the standard deduction being more beneficial than itemizing deductions in 2018.​

2. REIMBURSED EMPLOYEE EXPENSES

The change that could have the greatest impact on our public servant clients is the elimination of the deduction for unreimbursed employee expenses. As the law currently stands, employees will no longer be able to deduct their union dues, work uniforms, tools, or any other expenses related to their employment. The only exception to this is the special $250 allowance for teacher’s expenses which remains unaffected.

There is currently a bill in congress which seeks to reinstate the deduction for unreimbursed expenses. The “Tax Fairness for Workers Act” would not only bring back the itemized deduction for employee expenses but would go a step further and allow for specific deductions to be taken above-the-line, meaning they would not be subject to many of the limitations that currently restrict their use. It remains to be seen how far this bill will go but we strongly recommend that you keep track of your job expenses until a decision is reached.  If the bill passes, this will cause job related expenses to have a greater impact on your tax return.

3. PERSONAL EXEMPTIONS AND THE CHILD TAX CREDIT

Personal exemptions historically represented a $4,000 reduction in taxable income for each dependent listed on the tax return. Under the new law these exemptions have been eliminated. However, to help mitigate the loss of these exemptions, the law also made changes to the child tax credit and has added a new credit for non-child dependents.

Starting in 2018 the Child Tax Credit has been doubled to $2,000 per child, $1,400 of which is refundable. The phaseout threshold for the Child Tax Credit has also been drastically increased to $200,000 for single filers and $400,000 for joint filers. This means that most taxpayers who were previously prevented from claiming the full Child Tax Credit will now be able to claim the entire credit.

Additionally, the law has introduced a new $500 credit for any dependents who are over the age of 17, allowing parents to continue to receive a tax benefit for children in college or other adults residing in their home.

4. ABOVE THE LINE DEDUCTIONS

Above-the-line deductions are more beneficial than itemized deductions as they have far fewer restrictions. The new tax law retains many of these deductions including educator expenses, student loan interest, and contributions to Health Savings Accounts. Two deductions that have been changed are expenses for a job-related move, and alimony payments.

Starting in 2018 expenses for a job-related move will only be deductible by active members of the military. Starting in 2019 alimony payments will no longer be deductible. However, this will only apply to divorce agreements settled after the start of 2019. This means that alimony payments from divorce agreements that were already in place prior to 2019 will continue to be deductible.

5. Tax Brackets

The number of brackets remains at seven. And the percentage charged at each of these brackets has been reduced, with the notable exception of the lowest bracket of 10% which remains unchanged. The majority of our clients who were previously in the 15% or 25% tax bracket will now find themselves in the 12% or 22% bracket respectively. You may have already noticed the impact of these new brackets when your employer adjusted your withholdings earlier in the year, increasing your take home pay.

SUMMARY

There are many moving parts in the new tax law, with a lot of them working to balance one another out. Some of our clients will see a decrease in their tax bill while others will see it increase. Overall, we do not expect any of our clients to see drastic changes, good or bad, with the new code. We expect the majority of our clients to see an increase or decrease in their tax bill of less than $1,000. If you would like to know how the tax reform will directly impact you, please call our office.

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