You’ve probably heard that IRS will be making millions of ‘‘economic impact payments’’ (also called ‘‘recovery rebates’’) in the coming months to help people stay afloat during this time of economic uncertainty related to the COVID-19 crisis. Here’s what you need to know about this program.
Amount of payment. IRS will soon begin making payments of up to $1,200 to eligible taxpayers or up to $2,400 to married couples filing joint returns. Parents will get an additional $500 for each dependent child under age 17. Thus, the payment for a married couple with two children under 17 will be $3,400.
Who is eligible. U.S. citizens and residents are eligible for a full payment if their adjusted gross income (AGI) is under $75,000 (singles or marrieds filing separately), $112,500 (heads of household), and $150,000 (joint filers). The individual must not be the dependent of another taxpayer and must have a social security number that authorizes employment in the U.S.
Phaseout based on income. For individuals whose AGI exceeds the above thresholds, the payment amount is phased out at the rate of $5 for each $100 of income. Thus, the payment is completely phased out for single filers with AGI over $99,000 and for joint filers with no children with AGI over $198,000. For a married couple with two children, the payment will be completely phased out if their AGI exceeds $218,000.
How to get a payment. The vast majority of people won’t have to do anything in order to get an economic impact payment. IRS will calculate and send the payment automatically to those who are eligible.
If you’ve already filed your 2019 tax return, IRS will use the AGI and dependents from that return to calculate the payment amount. If you haven’t filed for 2019 yet, information from your 2018 return will be used.
IRS will deposit the payment directly into the banking account reflected on the return. IRS plans to develop a web-based portal for individuals to provide banking information to IRS, so that payments can be received as a direct deposit rather than by check sent in the mail.
People who are not otherwise required to file a tax return will need to file an abbreviated return to receive an economic impact payment. IRS will soon provide instructions on how to do this. This category includes low-income taxpayers, some veterans, and individuals with disabilities.
Social security recipients who aren’t typically required to file tax returns won’t have to file an abbreviated return to receive a payment. IRS will use information from social security Form SSA- 1099 or Form RRB-1099 to generate an automatic payment. The payment will be made by direct deposit or paper check, in the same manner as the recipient’s regular benefits.
Payments nontaxable. Economic impact payments will not be included in the recipient’s income for tax purposes.
COVID-19 Employer Impact: CARES Act, Financial Resources & Employment Law
Mike Anderson will be cohosting a 60-minute interactive webinar with Karen A. Doner, Esq., to address relevant information on how to obtain a quick infusion of cash to cover your business right now, how to obtain capital to cover the cost of retaining employees, requirements and impacts of the health crisis on employers--including information related to the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, and federal paid sick leave and emergency paid FMLA under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.
Register here viennava.gov/covidwebinar
To help small business owners and entrepreneurs better understand the new programs that will soon be available to them, the Senate has created a comprehensive to many of the small business provisions in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act that was just passed by Congress. These programs and initiatives are intended to assist business owners with whatever needs they have right now.
Do not reduce the number of employees or the amount of your payroll until you consider how that will affect your business in light of the Cares Act (S.3548), which is currently being voted on. This bill could quite possibly pay your employees for you! Contact Mike for more details
Filing and payment deadlines deferred. After briefly offering more limited relief, the IRS almost immediately pivoted to a policy that provides the following to all taxpayers-meaning all individuals, trusts, estates, partnerships, associations, companies or corporations regardless of whether or how much they are affected by COVID-19:
1. For a taxpayer with a Federal income tax return or a Federal income tax payment due on April 15, 2020, the due date for filing and paying is automatically postponed to July 15, 2020, regardless of the size of the payment owed.
2. The taxpayer doesn't have to file Form 4686 (automatic extensions for individuals) or Form 7004 (certain other automatic extensions) to get the extension.
3. The relief is for (A) Federal income tax payments (including tax payments on self-employment income) and Federal income tax returns due on April 15, 2020 for the person's 2019 tax year, and (B) Federal estimated income tax payments (including tax payments on self-employment income) due on April 15, 2020 for the person's 2020 tax year.
4. No extension is provided for the payment or deposit of any other type of Federal tax (e.g. estate or gift taxes) or the filing of any Federal information return.
5. As a result of the return filing and tax payment postponement from April 15, 2020, to July 15, 2020, that period is disregarded in the calculation of any interest, penalty, or addition to tax for failure to file the postponed income tax returns or pay the postponed income taxes. Interest, penalties and additions to tax will begin to accrue again on July 16, 2020.
Favorable treatment for COVID-19 payments from Health Savings Accounts. Health savings accounts (HSAs) have both advantages and disadvantages relative to Flexible Spending Accounts when paying for health expenses with untaxed dollars. One disadvantage is that a qualifying HSA may not reimburse an account beneficiary for medical expenses until those expenses exceed the required deductible levels. But IRS has announced that payments from an HSA that are made to test for or treat COVID-19 don't affect the status of the account as an HSA (and don't cause a tax for the account holder) even if the HSA deductible hasn't been met. Vaccinations continue to be treated as preventative measures that can be paid for without regard to the deductible amount.
Tax credits and a tax exemption to lessen burden of COVID-19 business mandates. On March 18, President Trump signed into law the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (the Act, PL 116-127), which eased the compliance burden on businesses. The Act includes the four tax credits and one tax exemption discussed below.
Payroll tax credit for required paid sick leave (the payroll sick leave credit). The Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act (EPSLA) division of the Act generally requires private employers with fewer than 500 employees to provide 80 hours of paid sick time to employees who are unable to work for virus-related reasons (with an administrative exemption for less-than-50-employee businesses that the leave mandate puts in jeopardy). The pay is up to $511 per day with a $5,110 overall limit for an employee directly affected by the virus and up to $200 per day with a $2,000 overall limit for an employee that is a caregiver.
The tax credit corresponding with the EPSLA mandate is a credit against the employer's 6.2% portion of the Social Security (OASDI) payroll tax (or against the Railroad Retirement tax). The credit amount generally tracks the$511/$5,110 and $200/$2,000 per-employee limits described above. The credit can be increased by (1) the amount of certain expenses in connection with a qualified health plan if the expenses are excludible from employee income and (2) the employer's share of the payroll Medicare hospital tax imposed on any payments required under the EPSLA. Credit amounts earned in excess of the employer's 6.2% Social Security (OASDI) tax (or in excess of the Railroad Retirement tax) are refundable. The credit is electable and includes provisions that prevent double tax benefits (for example, using the same wages to get the benefit of the credit and of the current law employer credit for paid family and medical leave). The credit applies to wages paid in a period (1) beginning on a date determined by IRS that is no later than April 2, 2020 and (2) ending on December 31, 2020.
Income tax sick leave credit for the self-employed (self-employed sick leave credit). The Act provides a refundable income tax credit (including against the taxes on self-employment income and net investment income) for sick leave to a self-employed person by treating the self-employed person both as an employer and an employee for credit purposes. Thus, with some limits, the self-employed person is eligible for a sick leave credit to the extent that an employer would earn the payroll sick leave credit if the self-employed person were an employee.
Accordingly, the self-employed person can receive an income tax credit with a maximum value of $5,110 or $2,000 per the payroll sick leave credit. However, those amounts are decreased to the extent that the self-employed person has insufficient self-employment income determined under a formula or to the extent that the self-employed person has received paid sick leave from an employer under the Act. The credit applies to a period (1) beginning on a date determined by the IRS that is no later than April 2, 2020 and (2) ending on December 31, 2020.
Payroll tax credit for required paid family leave (the payroll family leave credit). The Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act (EFMLEA) division of the Act requires employers with fewer than 500 employees to provide both paid and unpaid leave (with an administrative exemption for less-than-50-employee businesses that the leave mandate puts in jeopardy). The leave generally is available when an employee must take off to care for the employee's child under age 18 because of a COVID-19 emergency declared by a federal, state, or local authority that either (1) closes a school or childcare place or (2) makes a childcare provider unavailable. Generally, the first 10 days of leave can be unpaid and then paid leave is required, pegged to the employee's pay rate and pay hours. However, the paid leave can't exceed $200 per day and $10,000 in the aggregate per employee.
The tax credit corresponding with the EFMLEA mandate is a credit against the employer's 6.2% portion of the Social Security (OASDI) payroll tax (or against the Railroad Retirement tax). The credit generally tracks the $200/$10,000 per employee limits described above. The other important rules for the credit, including its effective period, are the same as those described above for the payroll sick leave credit.
Income tax family leave credit for the self-employed (self-employed family leave credit). The Act provides to the self-employed a refundable income tax credit (including against the taxes on self-employment income and net investment income) for family leave similar to the self-employed sick leave credit discussed above. Thus, a self-employed person is treated as both an employer and an employee for purposes of the credit and is eligible for the credit to the extent that an employer would earn the payroll family leave credit if the self-employed person were an employee. Accordingly, the self-employed person can receive an income tax credit with a maximum value of $10,000 as per the payroll family leave credit. However, under rules similar to those for the self-employed sick leave credit, that amount is decreased to the extent that the self-employed person has insufficient self-employment income determined under a formula or to the extent that the self-employed person has received paid family leave from an employer under the Act. The credit applies to a period (1) beginning on a date determined by IRS that is no later than April 2, 2020 and (2) ending on December 31, 2020.
Exemption for employer's portion of any Social Security (OASDI) payroll tax or railroad retirement tax arising from required payments. Wages paid as required sick leave payments because of EPSLA or as required family leave payments under EFMLEA aren't considered wages for purposes of the employer's 6.2% portion of the Social Security (OASDI) payroll tax or for purposes of the Railroad Retirement tax.
I will be pleased to hear from you at any time with questions about the above information or any other matters, related to COVID-19 or not. I wish all of youthe very best in a difficult time.
(Updated to include Virginia's extension information)
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin just announced that the IRS deadline for filing taxes from April 15 to July 15 due to the disruption caused by the coronavirus.
We are till working tirelessly to prepare tax returns because we believe that those with refunds should be filed as soon as they can be completed. Please get yours to us right away. If you expect to owe money, well, you have a bit of reprieve.
One question I now have is whether the extension period will adjust to December 15. It is usually a six-month extension. Stand by...
Virginia has extended its and payment deadline to June 1, 2020. The filing deadline has not been extended (May 1), but there is an automatic six month extension available.
Taxpayers and businesses will have until July 15, 2020 to pay their taxes this year, but the filing deadline is still April 15. The change was announced on Tuesday afternoon by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, following President Donald Trump's declaration of a national state of emergency in the United States as a result of efforts to combat the Covid-19 Coronavirus pandemic and minimize economic disruption.
While the IRS extended the tax payment deadline to July 15, 2020, that does not mean that we should all wait to file our tax returns. If you have a refund coming to you, we strongly advise that you file as soon as possible to get the ball rolling on your refunds.
Also, remember that the tax payment deadline extension does not extend the April 15th filing date. However, we are happy to obtain a 6 month filing extension if you want one.
We are following very closely to see if Virginia will offer any similar relief.
We are watching the evolving guidelines from the CDC and hoping we can all do our part at this critical time for our country.
During this time, we plan to continue to serve our clients with the highest quality service possible while also protecting our staff so that they and their loved ones remain healthy. Starting today, our staff will begin working remotely from their homes. Thankfully, the technology required to accomplish this was put in place years ago, so we expect this to work seamlessly. Also, we are closely monitoring any IRS updates regarding deadlines and will provide you with the most up to date information as soon as it becomes available.
Those of you who are completely paperless should have no problem delivering your tax documents to us from the comfort of your homes either through our portal, which can be accessed here, or via email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
For those times where there is no easy digital alternative for tax documents, we have developed the following protocols that we ask you to use:
- Mail documents to the following address:
The Anderson Group, PC.
2915 Hunter Mill Rd Suite 1
Oakton, VA 22124
- Drop off documents in the mail slot in our door (we have two doors; the one on the left has the mail slot), or
- Fax documents to 703-281-4914
Our phones are set to forward on to cell phones, but since not all of us have tested this feature yet, they will be often be answered by voicemail. If you leave a message for a member of our staff, they will receive an email with a recording of your voicemail attached. As a result, we will be able to respond in a timely manner to any questions and service requests left on voicemails. Emailing may be preferable during this time because it allows you to copy more than one employee, and may lead to a more rapid response, but both options are available.
We will return our staff to the office when it appears safe to do so. In the meantime, we will manage our client meetings via webinars, phone calls, or postponing until we reopen.
Please do not hesitate to reach out. That is what we are here for!
If you suffered damage to your home or personal property last year, you may be able to deduct these “casualty” losses on your 2017 federal income tax return. For 2018 through 2025, however, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act suspends this deduction except for losses due to an event officially declared a disaster by the President.
What is a casualty? It’s a sudden, unexpected or unusual event, such as a natural disaster (hurricane, tornado, flood, earthquake, etc.), fire, accident, theft or vandalism. A casualty loss doesn’t include losses from normal wear and tear or progressive deterioration from age or termite damage.
Here are some things you should know about deducting casualty losses on your 2017 return:
When to deduct. Generally, you must deduct a casualty loss on your return for the year it occurred. However, if you have a loss from a federally declared disaster area, you may have the option to deduct the loss on an amended return for the immediately preceding tax year.
Amount of loss. Your loss is generally the lesser of 1) your adjusted basis in the property before the casualty (typically, the amount you paid for it), or 2) the decrease in fair market value of the property as a result of the casualty. This amount must be reduced by any insurance or other reimbursement you received or expect to receive. (If the property was insured, you must have filed a timely claim for reimbursement of your loss.)
$100 rule. After you’ve figured your casualty loss on personal-use property, you must reduce that loss by $100. This reduction applies to each casualty loss event during the year. It doesn’t matter how many pieces of property are involved in an event.
10% rule. You must reduce the total of all your casualty losses on personal-use property for the year by 10% of your adjusted gross income (AGI). In other words, you can deduct these losses only to the extent they exceed 10% of your AGI.
Note that special relief has been provided to certain victims of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria and California wildfires that affects some of these rules. For details on this relief or other questions about casualty losses, please contact us.
Whether you’re claiming charitable deductions on your 2017 return or planning your donations for 2018, be sure you know how much you’re allowed to deduct. Your deduction depends on more than just the actual amount you donate.
Type of gift
One of the biggest factors affecting your deduction is what you give:
Cash. You may deduct 100% gifts made by check, credit card or payroll deduction.
Ordinary-income property. For stocks and bonds held one year or less, inventory, and property subject to depreciation recapture, you generally may deduct only the lesser of fair market value or your tax basis.
Long-term capital gains property. You may deduct the current fair market value of appreciated stocks and bonds held for more than one year.
Tangible personal property. Your deduction depends on the situation:
- If the property isn’t related to the charity’s tax-exempt function (such as a painting donated for a charity auction), your deduction is limited to your basis.
- If the property is related to the charity’s tax-exempt function (such as a painting donated to a museum for its collection), you can deduct the fair market value.
Vehicle. Unless the vehicle is being used by the charity, you generally may deduct only the amount the charity receives when it sells the vehicle.
Use of property. Examples include use of a vacation home and a loan of artwork. Generally, you receive no deduction because it isn’t considered a completed gift.
Services. You may deduct only your out-of-pocket expenses, not the fair market value of your services. You can deduct 14 cents per charitable mile driven.
First, you’ll benefit from the charitable deduction only if you itemize deductions rather than claim the standard deduction. Also, your annual charitable donation deductions may be reduced if they exceed certain income-based limits.
In addition, your deduction generally must be reduced by the value of any benefit received from the charity. Finally, various substantiation requirements apply, and the charity must be eligible to receive tax-deductible contributions.
While December’s Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) preserves the charitable deduction, it temporarily makes itemizing less attractive for many taxpayers, reducing the tax benefits of charitable giving for them.
Itemizing saves tax only if itemized deductions exceed the standard deduction. For 2018 through 2025, the TCJA nearly doubles the standard deduction ? plus, it limits or eliminates some common itemized deductions. As a result, you may no longer have enough itemized deductions to exceed the standard deduction, in which case your charitable donations won’t save you tax.
You might be able to preserve your charitable deduction by “bunching” donations into alternating years, so that you’ll exceed the standard deduction and can claim a charitable deduction (and other itemized deductions) every other year.
Let us know if you have questions about how much you can deduct on your 2017 return or what your charitable giving strategy should be going forward, in light of the TCJA.
Passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) in December 2017 has led to confusion over some of the changes to longstanding deductions, including the deduction for interest on home equity loans. In response, the IRS has issued a statement clarifying that the interest on home equity loans, home equity lines of credit and second mortgages will, in many cases, remain deductible under the TCJA — regardless of how the loan is labeled.
Under prior tax law, taxpayers could deduct “qualified residence interest” on a loan of up to $1 million secured by a qualified residence, plus interest on a home equity loan (other than debt used to acquire a home) up to $100,000. The home equity debt couldn’t exceed the fair market value (FMV) of the home reduced by the debt used to acquire the home.
For tax purposes, a qualified residence is the taxpayer’s principal residence and a second residence, which can be a house, condominium, cooperative, mobile home, house trailer or boat. The principal residence is where the taxpayer resides most of the time; the second residence is any other residence the taxpayer owns and treats as a second home. Taxpayers aren’t required to use the second home during the year to claim the deduction. If the second home is rented to others, though, the taxpayer also must use it as a home during the year for the greater of 14 days or 10% of the number of days it’s rented.
In the past, interest on qualifying home equity debt was deductible regardless of how the loan proceeds were used. A taxpayer could, for example, use the proceeds to pay for medical bills, tuition, vacations, vehicles and other personal expenses and still claim the itemized interest deduction.
The TCJA rules
The TCJA limits the amount of the mortgage interest deduction for taxpayers who itemize through 2025. Beginning in 2018, a taxpayer can deduct interest only on mortgage debt of $750,000. The congressional conference report on the law stated that it also suspends the deduction for interest on home equity debt. And the actual bill includes the section caption “DISALLOWANCE OF HOME EQUITY INDEBTEDNESS INTEREST.” As a result, many people believed the TCJA eliminates the home equity loan interest deduction.
On February 21, the IRS issued a release (IR 2018-32) explaining that the law suspends the deduction only for interest on home equity loans and lines of credit that aren’t used to buy, build or substantially improve the taxpayer’s home that secures the loan. In other words, the interest isn’t deductible if the loan proceeds are used for certain personal expenses, but it is if the proceeds go toward, for example, a new roof on the home that secures the loan. The IRS further stated that the deduction limits apply to the combined amount of mortgage and home equity acquisition loans — home equity debt is no longer capped at $100,000 for purposes of the deduction.
Some examples from the IRS help show how the TCJA rules work:
Example 1: A taxpayer took out a $500,000 mortgage to buy a principal residence with an FMV of $800,000 in January 2018. The loan is secured by the residence. In February, he takes out a $250,000 home equity loan to pay for an addition to the home. Both loans are secured by the principal residence, and the total doesn’t exceed the value of the home.
The taxpayer can deduct all of the interest on both loans because the total loan amount doesn’t exceed $750,000. If he used the home equity loan proceeds to pay off student loans and credit card bills, though, the interest on that loan wouldn’t be deductible.
Example 2: The taxpayer from the previous example takes out the same mortgage in January. In February, he also takes out a $250,000 loan to buy a vacation home, securing the loan with that home. Because the total amount of both mortgages doesn’t exceed $750,000, he can deduct all of the interest paid on both mortgages. But, if he took out a $250,000 home equity loan on the principal home to buy the second home, the interest on the home equity loan wouldn’t be deductible.
Example 3: In January 2018, a taxpayer took out a $500,000 mortgage to buy a principal home, secured by the home. In February, she takes out a $500,000 loan to buy a vacation home, securing the loan with that home. Because the total amount of both mortgages exceeds $750,000, she can deduct only a percentage of the total interest she pays on them.
The new IRS announcement highlights the fact that the nuances of the TCJA will take some time to shake out completely. We’ll keep you updated on the most significant new rules and guidance as they emerge.
Here are some of the key tax-related deadlines affecting businesses and other employers during the first quarter of 2018. Keep in mind that this list isn’t all-inclusive, so there may be additional deadlines that apply to you. Contact us to ensure you’re meeting all applicable deadlines and to learn more about the filing requirements.
- File 2017 Forms W-2, “Wage and Tax Statement,” with the Social Security Administration and provide copies to your employees.
- Provide copies of 2017 Forms 1099-MISC, “Miscellaneous Income,” to recipients of income from your business where required.
- File 2017 Forms 1099-MISC reporting nonemployee compensation payments in Box 7 with the IRS.
- File Form 940, “Employer’s Annual Federal Unemployment (FUTA) Tax Return,” for 2017. If your undeposited tax is $500 or less, you can either pay it with your return or deposit it. If it’s more than $500, you must deposit it. However, if you deposited the tax for the year in full and on time, you have until February 12 to file the return.
- File Form 941, “Employer’s Quarterly Federal Tax Return,” to report Medicare, Social Security and income taxes withheld in the fourth quarter of 2017. If your tax liability is less than $2,500, you can pay it in full with a timely filed return. If you deposited the tax for the quarter in full and on time, you have until February 12 to file the return. (Employers that have an estimated annual employment tax liability of $1,000 or less may be eligible to file Form 944,“Employer’s Annual Federal Tax Return.”)
- File Form 945, “Annual Return of Withheld Federal Income Tax,” for 2017 to report income tax withheld on all nonpayroll items, including backup withholding and withholding on accounts such as pensions, annuities and IRAs. If your tax liability is less than $2,500, you can pay it in full with a timely filed return. If you deposited the tax for the year in full and on time, you have until February 12 to file the return.
- File 2017 Forms 1099-MISC with the IRS if 1) they’re not required to be filed earlier and 2) you’re filing paper copies. (Otherwise, the filing deadline is April 2.)
- March 15
- If a calendar-year partnership or S corporation, file or extend your 2017 tax return and pay any tax due. If the return isn’t extended, this is also the last day to make 2017 contributions to pension and profit-sharing plans.
The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) generally reduces individual tax rates for 2018 through 2025. It maintains seven individual income tax brackets but reduces the rates for all brackets except 10% and 35%, which remain the same.
It also makes some adjustments to the income ranges each bracket covers. For example, the 2017 top rate of 39.6% kicks in at $418,401 of taxable income for single filers and $470,701 for joint filers, but the reduced 2018 top rate of 37% takes effect at $500,001 and $600,001, respectively.
Below is a look at the 2018 brackets under the TCJA. Keep in mind that the elimination of the personal exemption, changes to the standard and many itemized deductions, and other changes under the new law could affect the amount of your income that’s subject to tax. Contact us for help assessing what your tax rate likely will be for 2018.
Heads of households
Married individuals filing joint returns and surviving spouses
Married individuals filing separate returns
Congress is enacting the biggest tax reform law in thirty years, one that will make fundamental changes in the way you, your family and your business calculate your federal income tax bill, and the amount of federal tax you will pay. Since most of the changes will go into effect next year, there's still a narrow window of time before year-end to soften or avoid the impact of crackdowns and to best position yourself for the tax breaks that may be heading your way. Here's a quick rundown of last-minute moves you should think about making.
Lower tax rates coming. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act will reduce tax rates for many taxpayers, effective for the 2018 tax year. Additionally, many businesses, including those operated as passthroughs, such as partnerships, may see their tax bills cut.
The general plan of action to take advantage of lower tax rates next year is to defer income into next year. Some possibilities follow:
. . . If you are about to convert a regular IRA to a Roth IRA, postpone your move until next year. That way you'll defer income from the conversion until next year and have it taxed at lower rates.
. . . Earlier this year, you may have already converted a regular IRA to a Roth IRA but now you question the wisdom of that move, as the tax on the conversion will be subject to a lower tax rate next year. You can unwind the conversion to the Roth IRA by doing a recharacterization-making a trustee-to-trustee transfer from the Roth to a regular IRA. This way, the original conversion to a Roth IRA will be cancelled out. But you must complete the recharacterization before year-end. Starting next year, you won't be able to use a recharacterization to unwind a regular-IRA-to-Roth-IRA conversion.
. . . If you run a business that renders services and operates on the cash basis, the income you earn isn't taxed until your clients or patients pay. So if you hold off on billings until next year-or until so late in the year that no payment will likely be received this year-you will likely succeed in deferring income until next year.
. . . If your business is on the accrual basis, deferral of income till next year is difficult but not impossible. For example, you might, with due regard to business considerations, be able to postpone completion of a last-minute job until 2018, or defer deliveries of merchandise until next year (if doing so won't upset your customers). Taking one or more of these steps would postpone your right to payment, and the income from the job or the merchandise, until next year. Keep in mind that the rules in this area are complex and may require a tax professional's input.
. . . The reduction or cancellation of debt generally results in taxable income to the debtor. So if you are planning to make a deal with creditors involving debt reduction, consider postponing action until January to defer any debt cancellation income into 2018.
Disappearing or reduced deductions, larger standard deduction. Beginning next year, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act suspends or reduces many popular tax deductions in exchange for a larger standard deduction. Here's what you can do about this right now:
- Individuals (as opposed to businesses) will only be able to claim an itemized deduction of up to $10,000 ($5,000 for a married taxpayer filing a separate return) for the total of (1) state and local property taxes; and (2) state and local income taxes. To avoid this limitation, pay the last installment of estimated state and local taxes for 2017 no later than Dec. 31, 2017, rather than on the 2018 due date. But don't prepay in 2017 a state income tax bill that will be imposed next year - Congress says such a prepayment won't be deductible in 2017. However, Congress only forbade prepayments for state income taxes, not property taxes, so a prepayment on or before Dec. 31, 2017, of a 2018 property tax installment is apparently OK.
- The itemized deduction for charitable contributions won't be chopped. But because most other itemized deductions will be eliminated in exchange for a larger standard deduction (e.g., $24,000 for joint filers), charitable contributions after 2017 may not yield a tax benefit for many because they won't be able to itemize deductions. If you think you will fall in this category, consider accelerating some charitable giving into 2017.
- The new law temporarily boosts itemized deductions for medical expenses. For 2017 and 2018 these expenses can be claimed as itemized deductions to the extent they exceed a floor equal to 7.5% of your adjusted gross income (AGI). Before the new law, the floor was 10% of AGI, except for 2017 it was 7.5% of AGI for age-65-or-older taxpayers. But keep in mind that next year many individuals will have to claim the standard deduction because many itemized deductions have been eliminated. If you won't be able to itemize deductions after this year, but will be able to do so this year, consider accelerating "discretionary" medical expenses into this year. For example, before the end of the year, get new glasses or contacts, or see if you can squeeze in expensive dental work such as an implant.
Other year-end strategies. Here are some other last minute moves that can save tax dollars in view of the new tax law:
- The new law substantially increases the alternative minimum tax (AMT) exemption amount, beginning next year. There may be steps you can take now to take advantage of that increase. For example, the exercise of an incentive stock option (ISO) can result in AMT complications. So, if you hold any ISOs, it may be wise to postpone exercising them until next year. And, for various deductions, e.g., depreciation and the investment interest expense deduction, the deduction will be curtailed if you are subject to the AMT. If the higher 2018 AMT exemption means you won't be subject to the 2018 AMT, it may be worthwhile, via tax elections or postponed transactions, to push such deductions into 2018.
- Like-kind exchanges are a popular way to avoid current tax on the appreciation of an asset, but after Dec. 31, 2017, such swaps will be possible only if they involve real estate that isn't held primarily for sale. So if you are considering a like-kind swap of other types of property, do so before year-end. The new law says the old, far more liberal like-kind exchange rules will continue apply to exchanges of personal property if you either dispose of the relinquished property or acquire the replacement property on or before Dec. 31, 2017.
- For decades, businesses have been able to deduct 50% of the cost of entertainment directly related to or associated with the active conduct of a business. For example, if you take a client to a nightclub after a business meeting, you can deduct 50% of the cost if strict substantiation requirements are met. But under the new law, for amounts paid or incurred after Dec. 31, 2017, there's no deduction for such expenses. So if you've been thinking of entertaining clients and business associates, do so before year-end.
- Under current rules, alimony payments generally are an above-the line deduction for the payor and included in the income of the payee. Under the new law, alimony payments aren't deductible by the payor or includible in the income of the payee, generally effective for any divorce decree or separation agreement executed after 2017. So if you're in the middle of a divorce or separation agreement, and you'll wind up on the paying end, it would be worth your while to wrap things up before year end. On the other hand, if you'll wind up on the receiving end, it would be worth your while to wrap things up next year.
- The new law suspends the deduction for moving expenses after 2017 (except for certain members of the Armed Forces), and also suspends the tax-free reimbursement of employment-related moving expenses. So if you're in the midst of a job-related move, try to incur your deductible moving expenses before year-end, or if the move is connected with a new job and you're getting reimbursed by your new employer, press for a reimbursement to be made to you before year-end.
- Under current law, various employee business expenses, e.g., employee home office expenses, are deductible as itemized deductions if those expenses plus certain other expenses exceed 2% of adjusted gross income. The new law suspends the deduction for employee business expenses paid after 2017. So, we should determine whether paying additional employee business expenses in 2017, that you would otherwise pay in 2018, would provide you with an additional 2017 tax benefit. Also, now would be a good time to talk to your employer about changing your compensation arrangement-for example, your employer reimbursing you for the types of employee business expenses that you have been paying yourself up to now, and lowering your salary by an amount that approximates those expenses. In most cases, such reimbursements would not be subject to tax.
Please keep in mind that I've described only some of the year-end moves that should be considered in light of the new tax law. If you would like more details about any aspect of how the new law may affect you, please do not hesitate to call.