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How Could the New Tax Reform Affect You?

On December 22, President Trump signed into law the “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act” (P.L. 115-97), a sweeping tax reform law that will entirely change the tax landscape. The legislation reflects the largest major tax reform in over three decades.

This comprehensive tax overhaul dramatically changes the rules governing the taxation of individual taxpayers beginning in 2018. Providing new income tax rates and brackets, increasing the standard deduction, suspending personal exemptions, increasing the child tax credit, limiting the state and local tax deduction, and temporarily reducing the medical expense threshold, among many other changes. The legislation also provides a new deduction for non-corporate taxpayers with qualified business income from pass-throughs.

For businesses, the legislation permanently reduces the corporate tax rate to 21%, repeals the corporate alternative minimum tax, imposes new limits on business interest deductions, and makes a number of changes involving expensing and depreciation. The legislation also makes significant changes to the tax treatment of foreign income and taxpayers, including the exemption from U.S. tax for certain foreign income and the deemed repatriation of off-shore income.

Here's a more detailed look at some of the more important elements of the new law that may affect you. Unless otherwise noted, the changes are effective for tax years beginning in 2018 through 2025.

  • Tax rates. The new law imposes a new tax rate structure with seven tax brackets: 10%, 12%, 22%, 24%, 32%, 35%, and 37%.

  • Standard deduction. The new law increases the standard deduction to $24,000 for joint filers, $18,000 for heads of household, and $12,000 for singles and married taxpayers filing separately. Given these increases, many taxpayers will no longer be itemizing deductions, or, may want to double itemize every other year to still get some tax benefit.

  • Exemptions. The new law suspends the deduction for personal exemptions. Thus, starting in 2018, taxpayers can no longer claim personal or dependency exemptions.

  • Child and family tax credit. The new law increases the credit for qualifying children (i.e., children under 17) to $2,000 from $1,000, and increases to $1,400 the refundable portion of the credit. It also introduces a new (nonrefundable) $500 credit for a taxpayer's dependents who are not qualifying children. The adjusted gross income level at which the credits begin to be phased out has been increased to $200,000 ($400,000 for joint filers).

  • State and local taxes. The itemized deduction for state and local income and property taxes is limited to a total of $10,000.

  • Mortgage interest. Under the new law, mortgage interest on loans used to acquire a principal residence and a second home is only deductible on debt up to $750,000 (down from $1 million), starting with loans taken out in 2018. And there is no longer any deduction for interest on home equity loans, regardless of when the debt was incurred.

  • Miscellaneous itemized deductions. There is no longer a deduction for miscellaneous itemized deductions which were formerly deductible to the extent they exceeded 2 percent of adjusted gross income.

  • Medical expenses. Under the new law, for 2017 and 2018, medical expenses are deductible to the extent they exceed 7.5 percent of adjusted gross income for all taxpayers. Previously, the AGI “floor” was 10% for most taxpayers.

  • Health care “individual mandate.” Starting in 2019, there is no longer a penalty for individuals who fail to obtain minimum essential health coverage.

  • Alimony. For post-2018 divorce decrees and separation agreements, alimony will not be deductible by the paying spouse and will not be taxable to the receiving spouse.

  • New deduction for “qualified business income.” Starting in 2018, taxpayers may be allowed a deduction equal to 20 percent of “qualified business income,” otherwise known as “pass-through” income, i.e., income from partnerships, S corporations, LLCs, and sole proprietorships. The income must be from a trade or business within the U.S. Investment income does not qualify, nor do amounts received from an S corporation as reasonable compensation or from a partnership as a guaranteed payment for services provided to the trade or business. The deduction is subject to limitations based on taxable income of the taxpayer.

  • Bonus depreciation. Under the new law, a 100% first-year deduction is allowed for qualified new and used property acquired and placed in service after September 27, 2017 and before 2023. Pre-Act law provided for a 50% allowance, to be phased down for property placed in service after 2017. Under the new law, the 100% allowance is phased down starting after 2023.

  • Increased Code Sec. 179 expensing. The new law increases the maximum amount that may be expensed under Code Sec. 179 to $1 million. If more than $2.5 million of property is placed in service during the year, the $1 million limitation is reduced by the excess over $2.5 million.

  • Withholding Tables. New payroll withholding tables come out in February. Be advised to update your W-4 with your employer as needed. If you are married and filing jointly and have multiple W-2's, you'll want to look closely at the changes.

As you can see from this overview, the new law affects these items listed above and many other areas of taxation. If you wish to discuss the impact of the law on your particular situation, please don't hesitate to call your CPA.

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