The recently enacted Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) is a sweeping tax package. Here’s a look at some of the more important elements of the new law that have an impact on individuals.
IMPORTANT: California does not conform to the TCJA, therefore, we will still be requesting all of the information that we have in the past in order to properly prepare your federal and California tax returns. Unless otherwise noted, the changes are effective for tax years beginning in 2018 through 2025.
The new law imposes a new tax rate structure with seven tax brackets: 10%, 12%, 22%, 24%, 32%, 35%, and 37%. The top rate applies to taxable income above $500,000 for single taxpayers, and $600,000 for married couples filing jointly. The rates applicable to net capital gains and qualified dividends were not changed. The “kiddie tax” rules were simplified. The net unearned income of a child subject to the rules will be taxed at the capital gain and ordinary income rates that apply to trusts and estates. Thus, the child’s tax is unaffected by the parent’s tax situation or the unearned income of any siblings.
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 benefit from “bunching” deductions in alternate years.
The new law suspends the deduction for personal exemptions. Thus, starting in 2018, taxpayers can no longer claim personal or dependency exemptions.
NEW DEDUCTION FOR “QUALIFIED BUSINESS INCOME”
Starting in 2018, taxpayers may be allowed a deduction up 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 not used in computing adjusted gross income, just taxable income. For taxpayers with taxable income above $157,500 ($315,000 for joint filers), (1) a limitation based on W-2 wages paid by the business and depreciable tangible property used in the business is phased in, and (2) income from the following trades or businesses is phased out of qualified business income: health, law, consulting, athletics, financial or brokerage services, or where the principal asset is the reputation or skill of one or more employees or owners.
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 starting in 2018. Therefore, prepaying your state and property taxes before the end of the calendar year may not provide a tax benefit.
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. This category included items such as tax preparation costs, investment expenses, union dues, and unreimbursed employee 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.
The deduction for job-related moving expenses has been eliminated, except for certain military personnel. The exclusion for moving expense reimbursements has also been suspended.
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.
HEALTH CARE “INDIVIDUAL MANDATE”
Starting in 2019, there is no longer a penalty for individuals who fail to obtain minimum essential health coverage.
ESTATE AND GIFT TAX EXEMPTION
Effective for decedents dying, and gifts made, in 2018, the estate and gift tax exemption has been increased to roughly $11.2 million ($22.4 million for married couples).
ALTERNATIVE MINIMUM TAX (AMT) EXEMPTION
The AMT has been retained for individuals by the new law but the exemption has been increased to $109,400 for joint filers ($54,700 for married taxpayers filing separately), and $70,300 for unmarried taxpayers. The exemption is phased out for taxpayers with alternative minimum taxable income over $1 million for joint filers, and over $500,000 for all others.
As you can see from this overview, the new law affects many areas of taxation. Since the Treasury has not issued final regulations in many areas of the TCJA we anticipate extending several returns in order to avoid possible amendments after additional guidance is issued. Keep in mind that extending your return does not increase your chances of an audit but an amended return might! If you wish to discuss the impact of the law on your particular situation, please give us a call.