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2017 Tax Cuts Act: Impact on Families

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act makes sweeping tax changes that impact virtually all taxpayers. For individual taxpayers and their families, changes include a decrease in the tax rates, repeal of the personal exemption, increase in the standard deduction, modification to itemized deductions, and doubling of the child tax credit.

Under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, personal exemptions are repealed ($4,050 in 2017) for 2018 through 2025. Instead, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act provides for a near doubling of the standard deduction. For tax year 2018, it increases the standard deduction from $13,000 to $24,000 for married individuals filing a joint return; $9,550 to $18,000 for head-of-household filers; and $6,500 to $12,000 for all other individuals. These standard deduction amounts are indexed for inflation for tax years beginning after 2018. The additional standard deduction for the elderly and the blind ($1,300 for married taxpayers, $1,600 for single taxpayers) is retained.

Itemized deductions
Mortgage interest deduction. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act limits the mortgage interest deduction to interest on $750,000 of acquisition indebtedness ($375,000 in the case of married taxpayers filing separately), for tax years beginning 2018 through 2025. For acquisition indebtedness incurred before December 15, 2017, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act allows current homeowners to keep the current limitation of $1 million ($500,000 in the case of married taxpayers filing separately). Taxpayers may continue to include mortgage interest on second homes, but within those lower dollar caps. However, no interest deduction will be allowed for interest on home equity indebtedness.

State and local taxes. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act limits annual itemized deductions for all nonbusiness state and local taxes deductions, including property taxes, to $10,000 ($5,000 for married taxpayer filing a separate return) for 2018 through 2025. Sales taxes may be included as an alternative to claiming state and local income taxes.

Miscellaneous itemized deductions. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act repeals all miscellaneous itemized deductions for tax years 2018 through 2025 that are subject to the two-percent floor under current law.

Medical expenses. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act lowers the threshold for the deduction to 7.5 percent of adjusted gross income (AGI) for tax years 2017 and 2018.

Casualty losses. For tax years 2018 through 2025, a casualty loss will only be allowed to the extent it is attributable to a federally declared disaster.

The phaseout of itemized deductions is suspended for tax years 2018 through 2025.

The doubling of the standard deduction and modifications to itemized deductions effectively eliminates many individuals from claiming itemized deductions other than higher-income taxpayers. For example, for the vast majority of married taxpayers filing jointly, only those with total allowable mortgage interest, state income and local income/property taxes (up to $10,000), and charitable deductions exceeding $24,000, would claim them as itemized deductions (absent extraordinary medical expenses).

In contrast, the enhanced child credit has been highlighted as one of the provisions that will lower overall tax liability for middle-class families. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act temporarily increases the current child tax credit from $1,000 to $2,000 per qualifying child. Up to $1,400 of that amount is refundable. The child tax credit is also expanded to provide for a $500 nonrefundable credit for qualifying dependents other than qualifying children. More families will be able to take advantage of the credit due to an increase in the adjusted gross income phaseout thresholds, starting at $400,000 for joint filers ($200,000 for all others).

In addition to changes related to exemptions, the child tax credit and the standard and itemized deduction discussed above, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act also makes changes to alternative minimum tax and the individual tax brackets. Because these tax provisions are interrelated, estimating the impact of these changes to the tax liability for any particular family is challenging. However, as with any tax reform, there will be winners and losers.

Example 1: Married Couple (both 45); AGI $100,000; 2 children (ages 8 and 12); mortgage interest $6,000; property tax $5,000; state income tax $3,000; charitable contributions $500

Example 2: Married Couple (both 45); AGI $200,000; 2 children (ages 19 and 22, both in college); mortgage interest $10,000; property tax $18,000; state income tax $6,000; charitable contributions $1,000

Example 3: Married couple (both 45); AGI $400,000; 2 children (ages 10 and 12); mortgage interest $12,500; property tax $25,000; state income tax $8,000; charitable contributions $7,500

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  1. Total itemized deductions in 2018 would remain the same at $14,500 which is less than the new standard deduction of $24,000.
  2. Deduction for total amount of property tax and sales tax would be limited to $10,000 in 2018. Therefore, total allowed itemized deductions of $21,000 would be less than the standard deduction of $24,000.
  3. Deduction for total amount of property tax and sales tax would be limited to $10,000 in 2018. Total allowed itemized deductions of $30,000 are not phased out and is more than the $24,000 standard deduction.

Keep in mind that many of the changes to the Internal Revenue Code in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act are temporary. This is true especially with respect to the provisions impacting individuals. This decision was made in order to keep the tax reform within budgetary parameters, but with no guarantees that a future Congress would extend them. In future years, as the tax reform provisions expire, tax liability for individuals may be negatively affected.

2017 Tax Cuts Act: What it Means For Businesses

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act was signed by President Trump on December 22. The Act makes sweeping changes to the U.S. tax code and impacts virtually every taxpayer. For businesses, tax benefits include a reduction in the corporate tax rate, increase in the bonus depreciation allowance, an enhancement to the Code Sec. 179 expense and repeal of the alternative minimum tax. Owners of partnerships, S corporations, and sole proprietorships are allowed a temporary deduction as a percentage of qualified income of pass-through entities, subject to a number of limitations and qualifications. On the other hand, numerous business tax preferences are eliminated.

Corporate Taxes
A reduced 21-percent corporate tax rate is permanent beginning in 2018. Also, the 80-percent and 70-percent dividends received deductions under current law are reduced to 65-percent and 50-percent, respectively. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act also repeals the alternative minimum tax on corporations.

Bonus Depreciation
The bonus depreciation rate has fluctuated wildly over the last 15 years, from as low as zero percent to as high as 100 percent. It is often seen as a means to incentivize business growth and job creation. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act temporarily increases the 50-percent “bonus depreciation” allowance to 100 percent. It also removes the requirement that the original use of qualified property must commence with the taxpayer, thus allowing bonus depreciation on the purchase of used property.

Section 179 Expensing
The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act sets the Code Sec. 179 dollar limitation at $1 million and the investment limitation at $2.5 million. Although the differences between bonus depreciation and Code Sec. 179 expensing would now be narrowed if both offer 100-percent write-offs for new or used property, some advantages and disadvantages for each will remain. For example, Code Sec. 179 property is subject to recapture if business use of the property during a tax year falls to 50 percent or less; but Code Sec. 179 allows a taxpayer to elect to expense only particular qualifying assets within any asset class.

Deductions and Credits
Numerous business tax preferences are eliminated. These include the Code Sec. 199 domestic production activities deduction, non-real property like-kind exchanges, and more. Additionally, the rules for business meals are revised, as are the rules for the rehabilitation credit. However, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act leaves the research and development credit in place, but requires five-year amortization of research and development expenditures. It also creates a temporary credit for employers paying employees who are on family and medical leave.

Interest Deductions
In an attempt to “level the playing field” between businesses that capitalize through equity and those that borrow, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act generally caps the deduction for net interest expenses at 30 percent of adjusted taxable income, among other criteria. Exceptions exist for small businesses, including an exemption for businesses with average gross receipts of $25 million or less.

Pass-Through Businesses
Currently, up to the end of 2017, owners of partnerships, S corporations, and sole proprietorships – as “pass-through” entities – pay tax at the individual rates, with the highest rate at 39.6 percent. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act allows a temporary deduction in an amount equal to 20 percent of qualified income of pass-through entities, subject to a number of limitations and qualifications.

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act contains rules that will prevent pass-through owners—particularly service providers such as accountants, doctors, lawyers, etc.—from converting their compensation income taxed at higher rates into profits taxed at the lower rate.

Net Operating Losses
The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act modifies current rules for net operating losses (NOLs). Generally, NOLs will be limited to 80 percent of taxable income for losses arising in tax years beginning after December 31, 2017. It also denies the carryback for NOLs in most cases while providing for an indefinite carryforward, subject to the percentage limitation.

These are just highlights of the changes and impact of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. There is much more than can be covered in this post.