Tax Credits & Deductions

2018 Tax Reform

What the Tax Reform Act Means for You

Congress has passed a tax reform act that will take effect in 2018, ushering in some of the most significant tax changes in three decades. There are a lot of changes in the new act, which was signed into law on Dec. 22, 2017.

You can use this memo as a high-level overview of some of the most significant items in the new act. Because major tax reform like this happens so seldom, we recommend you schedule a tax-planning consultation to ensure you reap the most tax savings possible during 2018. 

Key changes for individuals:

Here are some of the key items in the tax reform act that affect individuals:

  • Reduces income tax brackets: The act retains seven brackets, but at reduced rates, with the highest tax bracket dropping to 37 percent from 39.6 percent. The individual income brackets are also expanded to expose more income to lower rates (see charts below).
  • Doubles standard deductions: The standard deduction nearly doubles to $12,000 for single filers and $24,000 for married filing jointly. To help cover the cost, personal exemptions and most additional standard deductions are suspended.
  • Limits itemized deductions: Many itemized deductions are no longer available, or are now limited. Here are some of the major examples:
    • Caps state and local tax deductions: State and local tax deductions are limited to $10,000 total for all property, income and sales taxes.
    • Caps mortgage interest deductions: For new acquisition indebtedness, mortgage interest will be deductible on indebtedness of no more than $750,000. Existing mortgages are unaffected by the new cap as the new limits go into place for acquisition indebtedness after Dec. 14, 2017. The act also suspends the deductibility of interest on home equity debt.
    • No more 2 percent miscellaneous deductions: Most miscellaneous deductions subject to the 2 percent of adjusted gross income threshold are now gone.

Tip: If you’re used to itemizing your return, that may change in coming years as the doubled standard deduction and reduced deductions make itemizing less attractive. To the extent you can, make any remaining itemizable expenditures before the end of 2017.

  • Cuts some above-the-line deductions: Moving expense deductions get eliminated except for active-duty military personnel, along with alimony deductions beginning in 2019.
  • Weakens the alternative minimum tax (AMT): The act retains the alternative minimum tax but changes the exemption to $109,400 for joint filers and increases the phaseout threshold to $1 million. The changes mean the AMT will affect far fewer people than before.
  • Bumps up child tax credit, adds family tax credit: The child tax credit increases to $2,000 from $1,000, with $1,400 of it being refundable even if no tax is owed. The phaseout threshold increases sharply to $400,000 from $110,000 for joint filers, making it available to more taxpayers. Also, dependents ineligible for the child tax credit can qualify for a new $500-per-person family tax credit.
  • Doubles estate tax exemption: Estate taxes will apply to even fewer people, with the exemption doubled to $11.2 million ($22.4 million for married couples).

What stays the same for individuals:

  • Itemized charitable deductions: Remain largely the same.
  • Itemized medical expense deductions: Remain largely the same. The deduction threshold drops back to 7.5 percent of adjusted gross income for 2017 and 2018, but reverts to 10 percent in the following years.
  • Some above-the-line deductions: Remain the same, including $250 of educator expenses and $2,500 of qualified student loan interest.
  • Gift tax deduction: Remains and increases to $15,000 from $14,000 for 2018.

Farewell to the healthcare individual mandate penalty

One of the changes in the tax act is the suspension of the individual mandate penalty in the Affordable Care Act (also known as “Obamacare”). The penalty is set to zero starting in 2019, but remains in place for 2018 and prior years.

Tip: Retain your Form 1095s, which will provide evidence of your healthcare coverage. Without it, you may have to pay the individual mandate penalty, which is the higher of $695 or 2.5 percent of income. Beginning in 2019, this penalty is set to zero.

NOTICE: The IRS recently granted employers and health care providers a 30-day filing extension for Forms 1095-B and 1095-C, to March 2, 2018. The IRS clarified that taxpayers are not required to wait until receipt of these forms to file their taxes.

 

New 2018 tax bracket structures for individuals

Single taxpayer

Taxable income over But not over Is taxed at
$0 $9,525 10%
$9,525 $38,700 12%
$38,700 $82,500 22%
$82,500 $157,500 24%
$157,500 $200,000 32%
$200,000 $500,000 35%
$500,000   37%

Head of household

Taxable income over But not over Is taxed at
$0 $13,600 10%
$13,600 $51,800 12%
$51,800 $82,500 22%
$82,500 $157,500 24%
$157,500 $200,000 32%
$200,000 $500,000 35%
$500,000   37%

 

Married filing jointly

Taxable income over But not over Is taxed at
$0 $19,050 10%
$19,050 $77,400 12%
$77,400 $165,000 22%
$165,000 $315,000 24%
$315,000 $400,000 32%
$400,000 $600,000 35%
$600,000   37%

 

Married filing separately

Taxable income over But not over Is taxed at
$0 $9,525 10%
$9,525 $38,700 12%
$38,700 $82,500 22%
$82,500 $157,500 24%
$157,500 $200,000 32%
$200,000 $300,000 35%
$300,000   37%

 

Estates and trusts

Taxable income over But not over Is taxed at
$0 $2,550 10%
$2,550 $9,150 24%
$9,150 $12,500 35%
$12,500   37%

This brief summary of the tax reform act is provided for your information. Any major financial decisions or tax-planning activities in light of this new legislation should be considered with the advice of a tax professional. Call if you have questions regarding your particular situation. Feel free to share this memo with those you think may benefit from it.

Information from Knutte & Associates, Tax Reform Newsletter 12-28-17 was used in this blog post.

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Moving Expenses Can Be Deductible

Moving Expenses Can Be Deductible

Did you move due to a change in your job or business location? If so, you may be able to deduct your moving expenses. Moving expenses can be deductible and taken as a deduction to Adjusted Gross Income. Here are some tax tips for moving expenses.

In order to deduct moving expenses, your move must meet three requirements:

  1. The move must closely relate to the start of work.  Generally, you can consider moving expenses within one year of the date you start work at a new job location. Additional rules apply to this requirement.
  2. Your move must meet the distance test.  Your new main job location must be at least 50 miles farther from your old home than your previous job location. For example, if your old job was three miles from your old home, your new job must be at least 53 miles from your old home.
  3. You must meet the time test.  After the move, you must work full-time at your new job for at least 39 weeks in the first year. If you’re self-employed, you must meet this test and work full-time for a total of at least 78 weeks during the first two years at your new job site. If your income tax return is due before you’ve met this test, you can still deduct moving expenses if you expect to meet it.

If you can claim this deduction, here are a few more tips from the IRS:

  • Travel.  You can deduct transportation and lodging expenses for yourself and household members while moving from your old home to your new home. You cannot deduct your travel meal costs.
  • Household goods and utilities.  You can deduct the cost of packing, crating and shipping your things. You may be able to include the cost of storing and insuring these items while in transit. You can deduct the cost of connecting or disconnecting utilities.
  • Nondeductible expenses.  You cannot deduct as moving expenses any part of the purchase price of your new home, the cost of selling a home or the cost of entering into or breaking a lease. See Publication 521 for a complete list.
  • Reimbursed expenses.  If your employer later pays you for the cost of a move that you deducted on your tax return, you may need to include the payment as income. You report any taxable amount on your tax return in the year you get the payment.
  • Address Change.  When you move, be sure to update your address with the IRS and the U.S. Post Office. To notify the IRS file Form 8822, Change of Address.

Information from IRS Summertime Tax Tip 2016-20 was used in this post.

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2017 Mileage Rates

2017 Mileage Rates

The Internal Revenue Service has issued the 2017 optional standard mileage rates to calculate the deductible costs of operating an automobile for business, charitable, medical or moving purposes.

Beginning Jan. 1, standard mileage rates for the use of a car (also vans, pickups or panel trucks) will be:

  • 53.5 cents per mile for business miles driven, down from 54 cents for 2016;
  • 17 cents per mile driven for medical or moving purposes, down from 19 cents for 2016;
  • 14 cents per mile driven in service of charitable organizations.

The business mileage rate decreased half a cent per mile and the medical and moving expense rates each dropped 2 cents per mile from 2016. The charitable rate is set by statute and remains unchanged.

The standard mileage rate for business is based on an annual study of the fixed and variable costs of operating an automobile. The rate for medical and moving purposes is based on the variable costs.

These rules and rates are in Rev. Proc. 2010-51Notice 2016-79 contains the standard mileage rates, the amount a taxpayer must use in calculating reductions to basis for depreciation taken under the business standard mileage rate and the maximum standard automobile cost that a taxpayer may use in computing the allowance under a fixed and variable rate plan.

Information from www.accountingtoday.com was used in this blog post.

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Home Office Deduction Tips

Home Office Deduction Tips

If you use your home for business, you may be able to deduct expenses for the business use of your home. If you qualify, you can claim the deduction whether you rent or own your home. You may use either the simplified method or the regular method to claim your deduction. Here are six tips that you should know about the home office deduction:

  1. Regular and Exclusive Use. As a general rule, you home-office-sandboxmust use a part of your home regularly and exclusively for business purposes. The part of your home used for business must also be:
  • Your principal place of business, or
  • A place where you meet clients or customers in the normal course of business, or
  • A separate structure not attached to your home. Examples could include a garage or a studio.
  1. Simplified Option. If you use the simplified option, multiply the allowable square footage of your office by a rate of $5. The maximum footage allowed is 300 square feet. This option will save you time because it simplifies how you figure and claim the deduction. It will also make it easier for you to keep records. This option does not change the rules for claiming a home office deduction.
  2. Regular Method. This method includes certain costs that you paid for your home. For example, if you rent your home, part of the rent you paid may qualify. If you own your home, part of the mortgage interest, taxes and utilities you paid may qualify. The amount you can deduct usually depends on the percentage of your home used for business.
  3. Deduction Limit. If your gross income from the business use of your home is less than your expenses, the deduction for some expenses may be limited.
  4. Self-Employed. If you are self-employed and home-office-flowchartchoose the regular method, use Form 8829, Expenses for Business Use of Your Home, to figure the amount you can deduct. You can claim your deduction using either method on Schedule C, Profit or Loss From Business. See the Schedule C instructions for how to report your deduction.
  5. Employees. You must meet additional rules to claim the deduction if you are an employee. For example, your business use must also be for the convenience of your employer. If you qualify, you claim the deduction on Schedule A, Itemized Deductions.

Information from IRS Tax Tip 2016-53 was used in this blog post.

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Deducting Losses from a Disaster

10 Tips For Deducting Losses from a Disaster

To mark National Hurricane Preparedness Week, the IRS wants you to know it stands ready to help. If you suffer damage to your home or personal property, you may be able to deduct the losses you incur on your federal income tax return. Here are 10 tips you should know about deducting casualty losses:

  1. Casualty loss.  You may be able to deduct losses based on the damage done to your property during a disaster. A casualty is a sudden, unexpected or unusual event. This may include natural disasters like hurricanes, tornadoes, floods and earthquakes. It can also include losses from fires, accidents, thefts or vandalism.
  2. Normal wear and tear.  A casualty loss does not include losses from normal wear and tear. It does not include progressive deterioration from age or termite damage.
  3. Covered by insurance.  If you insured your property, you must file a timely claim for reimbursement of your loss. If you don’t, you cannot deduct the loss as a casualty or theft. You must reduce your loss by the amount of the reimbursement you received or expect to receive.
  4. When to deduct.  As a general rule, you must Disaster Housededuct a casualty loss in the year it occurred. However, if you have a loss from a federally declared disaster area, you may have a choice of when to deduct the loss. You can choose to deduct the loss on your return for the year the loss occurred or on an amended return for the immediately preceding tax year. Claiming a disaster loss on the prior year’s return may result in a lower tax for that year, often producing a refund.
  5. Amount of loss.  You figure the amount of your loss using the following steps:
    • Determine your adjusted basis in the property before the casualty. For property you buy, your basis is usually its cost to you. For property you acquire in some other way, such as inheriting it or getting it as a gift, you must figure your basis in another way. For more see Publication 551, Basis of Assets.
    • Determine the decrease in fair market value, or FMV, of the property as a result of the casualty. FMV is the price for which you could sell your property to a willing buyer. The decrease in FMV is the difference between the property’s FMV immediately before and immediately after the casualty.
    • Subtract any insurance or other reimbursement you received or expect to receive from the smaller of those two amounts.
  6. $100 rule.  After you have 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 does not matter how many pieces of property are involved in an event.
  7. 10 percent rule.  You must reduce the total of all your casualty or theft losses on personal-use property for the year by 10 percent of your adjusted gross income.
  8. Future income.  Do not consider the loss of future profits or income due to the casualty as you figure your loss.
  9. Form 4684.  Complete Form 4684, Casualties and Thefts, to report your casualty loss on your federal tax return. You claim the deductible amount on Schedule A, Itemized Deductions.
  10. Business or income property.  Some of the casualty loss rules for business or income property are different than the rules for property held for personal use.

Information from IRS Special Edition Tax Tip 2015-08 was used in this blog post.

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Back-to-School Tax Tips

Back-to-School Tax Tips

With the start of school just around the corner, taxpayers should be aware of the following tax breaks and deductions available for qualifying expenses.

Private School Tuition and School Uniforms

The cost of private school or parochial school tuition is not deductible. However, the child care component costs of private school tuition for children under 13 may qualify the taxpayer for a tax credit. School uniforms are also not deductible even if they are required.

Before and After School Care Can Be Deducted

For a child under the age of 13, the cost of before or after school care may qualify the taxpayer for a tax credit if it is a qualifying expense.

Tax Deductions for School Fundraisers are Limited

You are required to reduce your deduction by the market value of any goods or services received in return for your charitable donation.

Earnings in 529 Plans are Not Federally Taxable

The earnings in 529 plans are not taxable. The money grows tax-free and withdrawals are not taxable as long as the money is used for eligible college expenses.

Moving Expenses to Go to College are Not Deductible

Going away to college is not moving for a job and is not considered a moving expense deduction by the IRS. However, the expenses for moving from college for that first job may be eligible for the moving expenses deduction.

Use Tax-Deferred Accounts to Pay for Educational Expenses

You can use tax-deferred accounts (i.e., an Educational Savings Account) to pay for qualified educational expenses including books and computers for elementary, high school and college expenses.

Student Loan Interest is Deductible Above the Line

Student loan interest is generally deductible as an above the line deduction, meaning you do not have to itemize in order to claim the deduction. There is a student loan interest deduction of up to $2,500 for paying interest on a student loan used for higher education. The amount of the student loan interest deduction is gradually reduced if the taxpayer’s modified adjusted gross income is within a certain range.

American Opportunity Tax Credit

The American Opportunity Tax Credit can amount to $2,500 in tax credits per eligible student and is available for the first four years of post-secondary education at a qualified education institution. Up to 40% of the credit is refundable, which means that the taxpayer may be able to receive up to $1,000, even if they have no tax liability. Eligible expenses include tuition at an eligible institution, books and required supplies, but not room and board, medical expenses, insurance, etc. Income limits apply. The taxpayer is now required to have the 1098-T from the qualified educational institution to take the AOTC, and the credit has to be based on amount paid and not billed.

Lifetime Learning Credit

Up to a maximum of $2,000 credit for qualified education expenses paid for a student enrolled in an eligible educational institution. The credit is a nonrefundable credit of 20% of a maximum $10,000 in qualified education expenses. There is currently no limit on the number of years a taxpayer can claim the credit. Income limits apply. Please keep in mind, this credit does not allow for some of the items that are allowed for the AOTC. This credit is generally based on tuition and fees.

Tuition and Fees Deduction

The Tuition and Fees Deduction applies to qualified education expenses for higher education for an eligible student taking undergraduate, graduate or post graduate courses. The deduction gradually phases out after a certain income range. There is no limit to the number of years the credit can be claimed.

Information from accountingtoday.com was used in this blog post.

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Energy Credit Tips

Energy Credit Tips

You can trim your taxes and save on your energy bills with certain home improvements. Here are some key facts to know about home energy tax credits:

Non-Business Energy Property Credit 

  • Part of this credit is worth 10 percent of the cost of certain qualified energy-saving items you added to your main home last year. This may include items such as insulation, windows, doors and roofs.
    Energy Credit
  • The other part of the credit is not a percentage of the cost. It is for the actual cost of certain property. This may include items like water heaters and heating and air conditioning systems. The credit amount for each type of property has a different dollar limit.
  • This credit has a maximum lifetime limit of $500. You may only use $200 of this limit for windows.
  • Your main home must be located in the U.S. to qualify for the credit.
  • Be sure you have the written certification from the manufacturer that their product qualifies for this tax credit. They usually post it on their website or include it with the product’s packaging. You can rely on it to claim the credit, but do not attach it to your return. Keep it with your tax records.
  • You may claim the credit on your 2015 tax return if you didn’t reach the lifetime limit in past years. Under current law, this credit is available through Dec. 31, 2016.

Residential Energy Efficient Property Credit

  • This tax credit is 30 percent of the cost of alternative energy equipment installed on or in your home.Wind Turbines
  • Qualified equipment includes solar hot water heaters, solar electric equipment, wind turbines and fuel cell property.
  • There is no dollar limit on the credit for most types of property. If your credit is more than the tax you owe, you can carry forward the unused portion of this credit to next year’s tax return.
  • The home must be in the U.S. It does not have to be your main home, unless the alternative energy equipment is qualified fuel cell property.
  • This credit is available through 2016.

Talk to one of the tax professionals at Fox Peterson to see how you can benefit from one or more of these tax credits.

Information from IRS Tax Tip 2016-29 was used in this blog post.

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Dependent Care Credit Tips

Dependent Care Credit Tips

Dependent CareDon’t miss out on this tax break if you use a flex plan for child care costs: You can still claim the dependent care credit to the extent your expenses are more than the amount that you pay through your flexible spending account. The maximum amount of dependent care costs you can fund through an FSA is $5,000. But the credit applies to as much as $6,000 of expenses for filers with two or more kids under the age of 13. In that case, you’d run the first $5,000 of dependent care costs through the FSA, and the next $1,000 would be eligible for the credit on Form 2441. For most filers in this situation, taking the credit will save an extra $200 in taxes.

Remember that summer day camp costs qualify for the dependent care credit. If you send your child to any special day camps this summer, such as those for sports, computers, math or theater, don’t forget to take the tax brel)tk. The same goes for camps your child is attending this summer that focus on improving reading or study skills. But the costs of summer school and tutoring programs aren’t eligible for the credit. Neither are overnight camps. The other rules for the tax credit also must be satisfied. The child must be under 13, and expenses must be incurred so the parents can work.

The tax professionals at Fox Peterson can further assist you to know how to take advantage of these Dependent Care Credit opportunities.

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Facts about the Child Tax Credit

Facts about the Child Tax Credit  

The Child Tax Credit is an important tax credit that may save you up to $1,000 for each eligible qualifying child. Be sure you qualify before you claim it. Here are five useful facts from the IRS on the Child Tax Credit:

  1. Qualifications. For the Child Tax Credit, a qualifying child must pass several tests:
  • Age. The child must have been under age 17 at the end of 2015.
  • Relationship. The child must be your son, daughter, stepchild, foster child, brother, sister, stepbrother, Child Tax Creditstepsister, half brother, or half sister. The child may be a descendant of any of these individuals. A qualifying child could also include your grandchild, niece or nephew. You would always treat an adopted child as your own child. An adopted child includes a child lawfully placed with you for legal adoption.
  • Support. The child must have not provided more than half of their own support for the year.
  • Dependent. The child must be a dependent that you claim on your federal tax return.
  • Joint return. The child cannot file a joint return for the year, unless the only reason they are filing is to claim a refund.
  • Citizenship. The child must be a U.S. citizen, a U.S. national or a U.S. resident alien.
  • Residence. In most cases, the child must have lived with you for more than half of 2015.

 

  1. Limitations. The Child Tax Credit is subject to income limitations. The limits may reduce or eliminate your credit depending on your filing status and income.
  2. Additional Child Tax Credit. If you qualify and get less than the full Child Tax Credit, you could receive a refund even if you owe no tax with the Additional Child Tax Credit.
  3. Schedule 8812. If you qualify to claim the Child Tax Credit, make sure to check if you must complete and attach Schedule 8812, Child Tax Credit, with your tax return. For example, if you claim a credit for a child with an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number, you must complete Part I of Schedule 8812. If you qualify to claim the Additional Child Tax Credit, you must complete and attach Schedule 8812. You can visit IRS.gov to view, download or print IRS tax forms anytime.

Information from IRS Tax Tip 2016-27 was used in this blog post.

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2015 IRA Contribution Facts

2015 IRA Contribution Facts

Did you contribute to an Individual Retirement Arrangement last year? Are you thinking about contributing to your IRA now? If so, you may have questions about IRAs and your taxes. Here are some IRS tax tips about saving for retirement using an IRA:

  • Age Rules. You must be under age 70½ at the end of the tax year in order to contribute to a traditional IRA. There is no age IRA-Contributionslimit to contribute to a Roth IRA.
  • Compensation Rules. You must have taxable compensation to contribute to an IRA. This includes income from wages and salaries and net self-employment income. It also includes tips, commissions, bonuses and alimony. If you are married and file a joint tax return, only one spouse needs to have compensation in most cases.
  • When to Contribute. You can contribute to an IRA at any time during the year. To count for 2015, you must contribute by the due date of your tax return. This does not include extensions. This means most people must contribute by April 18, 2016. If you contribute between Jan. 1 and April 18, make sure your plan sponsor applies it to the year you choose (2015 or 2016).
  • Contribution Limits. In general, the most you can contribute to your IRA for 2015 is the smaller of either your taxable compensation for the year or $5,500. If you were age 50 or older at the end of 2015, the maximum you can contribute increases to $6,500. If you contribute more than these limits, an additional tax will apply. The additional tax is six percent of the excess amount contributed that is in your account at the end of the year.
  • Taxability Rules. You normally don’t pay income tax on funds in your traditional IRA until you start taking distributions from it. Qualified Savers Creditdistributions from a Roth IRA are tax-free.
  • Deductibility Rules. You may be able to deduct some or all of your contributions to your traditional IRA. See IRS Publication 590-A for more.
  • Saver’s Credit. If you contribute to an IRA you may also qualify for the Saver’s Credit. It can reduce your taxes up to $2,000 if you file a joint return. Use Form 8880, Credit for Qualified Retirement Savings Contributions, to claim the credit. You can file Form 1040A or 1040 to claim the Saver’s Credit.
  • New myRA. If your employer does not offer a retirement plan, you may want to consider myRA. It is a new retirement savings plan offered by the U.S. Department of the Treasury. It’s safe and affordable. You can also direct deposit your entire refund or a portion of it into an existing myRA – Retirement Account.

Information from IRA Tax Tip 2016-39 was used in this blog post.

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