Even though we all survived tax season and somehow reached the deadline, that doesn't mean the scam artists have reached their end and have moved away from their devious ways until next year. In fact, this is a prime time to be contacted by a scammer due to returns being recently filed. According to this notice from the IRS, scammers are "spoofing" the phone numbers of local Taxpayer Assistance Centers (TAC) to give their scam some credibility. Click on the article to get more details and to get some pointers on the IRS methods when they need to contact you.
New Tax Rates: The bill keeps the graduated taxing structure for individuals but by and large it lowers rates across the board. The top rate of 37% (current rate of 39.6%) kicks in for singles with taxable income in excess of $500,000 and MFJ with taxable income in excess of $600,000. As most of us do not have to worry about paying tax at that rate the other graduated rates are 10%, 12%, 22%, 24%, 32% and 35%. This replaces the current rate structure of 10%, 15%, 25%, 28%, 33% and 35%.
The corporate rates were also cut. The highest corporate rate is now 21% down from 35%. Flow through income (from “S” corporations, LLC, partnerships, sole proprietorships) will also have a rate lower than the individual rates they are currently paying.
Standard Deduction: The standard deduction beginning in 2018 increases to $12,000 for singles and $24,000 for MFJ. This replaces the current amounts of $6,350 for singles and $12,700 for MFJ. With the increased amount many more of you will begin taking the standard deduction as opposed to itemizing beginning next year.
Itemized Deductions: Most of the itemized deductions many of you are familiar with (medical expenses; sales, state income and property taxes; mortgage interest; charitable contributions) remain deductible with a few modifications. Total taxes are only deductible up to $10,000; mortgage interest only on new mortgages up to $750,000; home equity loan interest is no longer deductible are a couple of the changes. Also unreimbursed business expenses and other miscellaneous itemized deduction subject to the 2% floor are no longer deductible.
If you expect to itemize in 2017 but not in 2018 based on the increased standard deduction make your property tax payments and any charitable contributions you were planning to make prior to December 31, 2017.
Exemptions: Beginning in 2018 you are no longer able to deduct a personal exemption for you, your spouse or children. Currently this amount is $4,050 each.
The withholding rules are expected to change in early 2018 to reflect the fact that personal exemptions are no longer deductible. This means your federal withholding from your paycheck will likely change and could so significantly. If you have questions once the new withholding tables go into effect please let me know.
Child Tax Credit: The act increased the amount of the child tax credit to $2,000 per qualifying child (dependent under 17 years old) with $1,400 of this being refundable. Under current law this amount is $1,000 per dependent child. The phase out of this credit begins for singles with adjusted gross income of $200,000 and MFJ with adjusted gross income of $400,000.
Capital Gains Tax Rate: The system for taxing long term capital gains and qualified dividends did not change. This rate remains at 15% for most taxpayers.
Sale of Principal Residence: The act did not change the current rules regarding the exclusion of gain for the sale of your qualified principal residence. As long as you meet certain requirements (mainly it being your principal residence for two of the last five years) and your gain from the sale does not exceed $250,000 for singles and $500,000 for MFJ you will not owe any tax from the sale.
Health Care Penalty: The act reduces to zero the amount of the individual mandate penalty imposed on taxpayers who do not obtain health insurance with minimum essential coverage. This is only the penalty. If you have health care through the exchange and received a credit resulting in a reduced monthly premium based on your prior year income, should your current year income increase you will likely still be responsible for paying the credit back.
Education Provisions: The act modifies Section 529 plans to allow them to distribute no more than $10,000 in expenses for tuition incurred during the tax year at an elementary or secondary school. This limitation applies on a per-student basis, rather than on a per-account basis. Under current law Section 529 plans could only be used for post-secondary education. In addition the American Opportunity Credit, Lifetime Learning Credit and Tuition and Fees Deduction all remain unchanged.
Student Loan Interest: The student loan interest deduction remains the same. You can deduct up to $2,500 of student loan interest paid during the year. This deduction is subject to income limitations.
As always if you have any questions please let me know. I am looking forward to talking with you as we enter tax preparation time for your 2017 taxes. At that time I will be happy to help you understand how your 2018 taxes will be affected by this new act.
After talking about it for the most of the year, Congress completed a tax overhaul this week that will affect almost everyone and change tax strategies for the new year. Most people will see a tax reduction and easier time completing their taxes for the 2018 tax year. Click here for a summation on how the new tax law affects individuals and here for businesses. Also, mileage rates for 2018 have been released. Interest rates for Q1 of 2018 did not change from prior quarter.
Both the House and the Senate have put forth proposals to revise the current tax system with the goal of having something agreed on by the end of the year to go into effect for the 2018 tax year. Whether that will be accomplished is very much up in the air as some provisions are in direct conflict with one another. Although this is just a framework and much will change, Kiplinger.com has put together a slideshow that can be viewed by clicking here that identifies some of the more prominent changes and how the House and the Senate differ.
It's hard to believe that we only have three more months remaining in 2017. Now is a good time to start looking at your tax situation and determining if you need to make some adjustments. No one wants to write that BIG check to the IRS in April and we certainly want to start pulling the money back our way if it looks like we have overpaid in a big way. How do we do that with tax reform on the table? That's a good question that's best approached with the information that we know, our current tax structure. This article from Forbes highlights some areas to focus on now to be best prepared when it comes time to submit your return in 2018.
So you're thinking about starting your own business? Ready to be your own boss? But where do you start? Although simplistic, the article below gives a guideline on starting your new business and the 10 most important areas to focus on first. Click here to to read the article.
While it's true that in order to reduce your taxable income as much as possible you need to itemize deductions on the Schedule A, it is possible to take some deductions on the Form 1040 and still receive the benefit of the Standard Deduction. Kiplinger.com has summarized some of the more common "above the line" deductions in this article.
A recurring theme that you may notice here is tax scams and IRS impersonators. I believe being scammed and being contacted by the IRS are two of the biggest fears people have when it comes to their money. An important point to remember if you ever receive a phone call from someone claiming to be from the IRS is that you don't have to take any action on that phone call as far as giving out your personal information such as social security number, bank information or credit card information. You can call the IRS at their published number on IRS.gov and find out if and why you were previously contacted. The same applies if you receive an email claiming to be from the IRS, simply call their published number to find out if it was a legitimate contact or not. The IRS has the following consumer alert on their website:
Note the IRS will never:
UPDATE: Right on cue, the IRS issued a new warning of a scam related to payments to the EFTPS and use of a debit card. To get the details on this new scam, click here.
Most people don't realize that IRS representatives make house calls. This article explains the different types IRS personnel that you might interact with and what their roles are. An important takeaway is to confirm the visitor is indeed an employee of the IRS and not a scammer looking to gain your personal info or money. The IRS helps with that on their webpage here.
The IRS recently released it's annual list of ways taxpayers are scammed. They have given it a cute name of the "Dirty Dozen" but there is not anything cute about being scammed out of your identity. Click here to see the IRS "Dirty Dozen" tax scams of 2017.
J. Alan Hayes