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01/17/2018

8 Ways Tax Reform Affects You in 2018

Tax-ChangesAs we launch into the 2017 tax filing season we are receiving as many questions about the new Tax Cuts and Jobs Act and how it affects 2018 individual and business income taxes as we are about the best planning to file 2017 returns.  To that end, here we are highlighting the 8 most significant ways tax reform may affect you in 2018.  We will continue presenting additional information in the weeks ahead to help you best navigate your income tax planning.

Here are the eight tax change topics we receive the most questions about from both individual and business taxpayers:

  1. Individual income tax rates
  2. Personal exemptions
  3. Standard versus itemized deductions
  4. Child tax credits
  5. Mortgage interest
  6. Deducting state and local property taxes
  7. Estate tax
  8. Corporate income tax rate

Here is a short assessment of how tax reform has affected the eight tax topics compared to 2017 tax law.  These are generalized overviews of the tax law changes, so please keep in mind how they may apply your individual and/or business tax strategy may be different.

Individual income tax rates:  There were seven 2017 tax brackets: 10%, 15%, 25%, 28%, 33%, 35%, and 39.6%.  Though President Donald Trump had hoped for three tax brackets, the final 2018 tax reform law was passed with seven tax brackets:  10%, 12%, 22%, 24%, 32%, 35%, and 37%.  Businesses have received the new employee income tax withholding tables and the IRS is working on updating its online calculator for businesses and employees to estimate their income tax liability and how these changes affect their annual tax bill.

Personal exemptions:  The prior law allowed most taxpayers a $4,050 exemption for each household member.  Under the 2018 tax law, personal exemptions are eliminated.

Standard deduction:  The prior tax law allowed a standard deduction of up to $6,350 for single taxpayers and married couples filing separately, $12,700 for married couples filing jointly, and $9,350 for heads of households.  The new law increase the standard deduction to $12,000 for single taxpayers, $24,000 for married couples filing jointly, and $18,000 for heads of households.

Child tax credits:  The 2017 tax law allowed a $1,000 tax credit for each qualifying child under age 17.  Now that credit is increased to $2,000 per qualifying child, and up to $1,400 is refundable.  A $500 credit has been added temporarily for other qualifying dependents.

Mortgage interest:  The mortgage interest deduction formerly allowed homeowners to deduct interest on mortgages up to $1 million and home equity borrowing up to $100,000.  Under the new law, the borrowing threshold is $750,000 for mortgage borrowing after December 14, 2017.  Mortgages closed prior to that date still qualify for the $1 million limit.  Beginning in 2026 the $1 million limit will return, while the home equity borrowing interest deduction has been eliminated until 2026.

State and local property taxes:  Under the old law Taxpayers itemizing their deductions could deduct state and local real and personal property taxes, and either state and local income taxes or state and local sales taxes.  Under the new law, state and local taxes remain deductible but the combination of all state and local taxes are now capped at $10,000.

Estate tax:   Under the former rules, a 40% tax was levied on qualifying estates of more than $5.49 million per person, or nearly $11 million per married couple transferred upon their death.  The 2018 law increases the overall estate tax exemption to nearly $11 million per taxpayer.

Corporate tax rate:  Previously the tax rate charged on corporate income varied between 15% to 35% depending on the amount of annual taxable income for a flat rate of 35% on all corporate income beyond a certain income amount.  The new tax law simplifies the rate by reducing the maximum corporate income tax rate on all corporate income to 21%.

Though many taxpayers were disappointed that the tax code was not more significantly simplified, the Tax Cut and Jobs Act is the most significant tax reform this country has experienced in more than 30 years.

While these tax changes do NOT affect your current 2017 tax return, they will affect your 2018 tax plan.  Connecting with one of our experienced tax planning professionals will help you make the adjustments that may be needed in your overall tax strategy.  Contact us to learn more about how to make certain you pay only what you owe, no matter how tax reform may affect your bottom line.

12/19/2017

What the Tax Reform Bill Means For Individuals

Although the exact details are not yet confirmed, we expect a number of changes in the new tax reform bill will affect individuals of all incomes.   The Journal of Accountancy, a leading resource on legislative matters affecting accounting regulations, has issued the following summary of the tax bill's expected reforms.  As a service to you, we are providing this summary in its entirety for your review.  Please contact us to set up a tax planning session to review strategies that you may now need to include in your individual tax plan.

What the Tax Reform Bill Means For Individuals

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, H.R. 1, agreed to by a congressional conference committee on Friday and expected to be voted on by both houses of Congress during the week of Dec. 18, contains a large number of provisions that would affect individual taxpayers. However, to keep the cost of the bill within Senate budget rules, all of the changes affecting individuals would expire after 2025. At that time, if no future Congress acts to extend H.R. 1’s provision, the individual tax provisions would sunset, and the tax law would revert to its current state.

Here is a look at many of the provisions in the bill affecting individuals.

Tax rates

For tax years 2018 through 2025, the following rates would apply to individual taxpayers:

Single taxpayers

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%


Heads of households

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 taxpayers filing joint returns and surviving spouses

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 taxpayers 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%


Special brackets would apply for certain children with unearned income.

Standard deduction: The bill would increase the standard deduction through 2025 for individual taxpayers to $24,000 for married taxpayers filing jointly, $18,000 for heads of households, and $12,000 for all other individuals. The additional standard deduction for elderly and blind taxpayers is not changed by the bill.

Personal exemptions: The bill would repeal all personal exemptions through 2025. The withholding rules will be modified to reflect the fact that individuals can no longer claim personal exemptions.

Passthrough income deduction

For tax years after 2017 and before 2026, individuals would be allowed to deduct 20% of “qualified business income” from a partnership, S corporation, or sole proprietorships, as well as 20% of qualified real estate investment trust (REIT) dividends, qualified cooperative dividends, and qualified publicly traded partnership income. (Special rules would apply to specified agricultural or horticultural cooperatives.)

A limitation on the deduction would be phased in based on W-2 wages above a threshold amount of taxable income. The deduction would also be disallowed for specified service trades or businesses with income above a threshold.

For these purposes, “qualified business income” would mean the net amount of qualified items of income, gain, deduction, and loss with respect to the qualified trade or business of the taxpayer. These items must be effectively connected with the conduct of a trade or business within the United States. They do not include specified investment-related income, deductions, or losses.

“Qualified business income” would not include an S corporation shareholder’s reasonable compensation, guaranteed payments, or—to the extent provided in regulations—payments to a partner who is acting in a capacity other than his or her capacity as a partner.

“Specified service trades or businesses” include any trade or business in the fields of accounting, health, law, consulting, athletics, financial services, brokerage services, or any business where the principal asset of the business is the reputation or skill of one or more of its employees.

The exclusion from the definition of a qualified business for specified service trades or businesses phases in for a taxpayer with taxable income in excess of $157,500 or $315,000 in the case of a joint return.

For each qualified trade or business, the taxpayer is allowed to deduct 20% of the qualified business income with respect to such trade or business. Generally, the deduction is limited to 50% of the W-2 wages paid with respect to the business. Alternatively, capital-intensive businesses may yield a higher benefit under a rule that takes into consideration 25% of wages paid plus a portion of the business’s basis in its tangible assets. However, if the taxpayer’s income is below the threshold amount, the deductible amount for each qualified trade or business is equal to 20% of the qualified business income with respect to each respective trade or business.

Child tax credit

The bill would increase the amount of the child tax credit to $2,000 per qualifying child. The maximum refundable amount of the credit would be $1,400. The bill would also create a new nonrefundable $500 credit for qualifying dependents who are not qualifying children. The threshold at which the credit begins to phase out would be increased to $400,000 for married taxpayers filing a joint return and $200,000 for other taxpayers.

Other credits

The House version of the bill would have repealed several credits that are retained in the final version of the bill. These include:

  • The Sec. 22 credit for the elderly and permanently disabled;
  • The Sec. 30D credit for plug-in electric drive motor vehicles; and
  • The Sec. 25 credit for interest on certain home mortgages.

The House bill’s proposed modifications to the American opportunity tax credit and lifetime learning credit also did not make it into the final bill.

Education provisions

The bill would modify Sec. 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 a per-account basis. Certain homeschool expenses would also qualify as eligible expenses for purposes of the Sec. 529 rules.

The bill would modify the exclusion of student loan discharges from gross income, by including within the exclusion certain discharges on account of death or disability.

The House bill’s provisions repealing the student loan interest deduction and the deduction for qualified tuition and related expenses were not retained in the final bill.

The House bill’s proposed repeal of the exclusion for interest on Series EE savings bond used for qualified higher education expenses and repeal of the exclusion for educational assistance programs also do not appear in the final bill.

Itemized deductions

The bill would repeal the overall limitation on itemized deductions, through 2025.

Mortgage interest: The home mortgage interest deduction would be modified to reduce the limit on acquisition indebtedness to $750,000 (from the current-law $1 million).

A taxpayer who has entered into a binding written contract before Dec. 15, 2017, to close on the purchase of a principal residence before Jan. 1, 2018, and who purchases that residence before April 1, 2018, will be considered to have incurred acquisition indebtedness prior to Dec. 15, 2017, under this provision, meaning that they will be allowed the current-law $1 million limit.

Home equity loans. The home equity loan interest deduction would be repealed through 2025.

State and local taxes: Under the final bill, individuals would be allowed to deduct up to $10,000 ($5,000 for married taxpayers filing separately) in state and local income or property taxes.

The conference report on the bill specifies that taxpayers cannot take a deduction in 2017 for prepaid 2018 state income taxes.

Casualty losses: Under the bill, taxpayers can only take a deduction for casualty losses if the loss is attributable to a presidentially declared disaster.

Gambling losses: The bill would clarify that the term “losses from wagering transactions” in Sec. 165(d) includes any otherwise allowable deduction incurred in carrying on a wagering transaction. This is intended, according to the conference report, to clarify that the limitation of losses from wagering transactions applies not only to the actual costs of wagers, but also to other expenses incurred by the taxpayer in connection with his or her gambling activity.

Charitable contributions: The bill would increase the income-based percentage limit for charitable contributions of cash to public charities to 60%. It would also deny a charitable deduction for payments made for college athletic event seating rights. Finally, it would repeal the statutory provision that provides an exception to the contemporaneous written acknowledgment requirement for certain contributions that are reported on the donee organization’s return—a current-law provision that has never been put in effect because regulations have not been issued.

Miscellaneous itemized deductions: All miscellaneous itemized deductions subject to the 2% floor under current law would be repealed through 2025 by the bill.

Medical expenses: The bill would reduce the threshold for deduction of medical expenses to 7.5% of adjusted gross income for 2017 and 2018.

Other provisions

Alimony: For any divorce or separation agreement executed after Dec. 31, 2018, the bill would provide that alimony and separate maintenance payments are not deductible by the payor spouse. It would also repeal the provisions that provide that such payments are includible in income by the payee spouse.

Moving expenses: The moving expense deduction would be repealed through 2025, except for members of the armed forces on active duty who move pursuant to a military order and incident to a permanent change of station.

Archer MSAs: The House bill would have eliminated the deduction for contributions to Archer MSAs; the final bill does not include this provision.

Educator’s classroom expenses: The final bill does not change the current-law allowance of an above-the-line $250 deduction for educators’ expenses incurred for professional development or to purchase classroom materials.

Exclusion for bicycle commuting reimbursements: The bill would repeal through 2025 the exclusion from gross income or wages of qualified bicycle commuting expenses.

Sale of a principal residence: The bill would not change the current rules regarding exclusion of gain from the sale of a principal residence.

Moving expense reimbursements: The bill would repeal through 2025 the exclusion from gross income and wages for qualified moving expense reimbursements, except in the case of a member of the armed forces on active duty who moves pursuant to a military order.

IRA recharacterizations

The bill would exclude conversion contributions to Roth IRAs from the rule that allows IRA contributions to one type of IRA to be recharacterized as a contribution to the other type of IRA. This would prevent taxpayers from using recharacterization to unwind a Roth conversion.

Estate, gift, and generation-skipping transfer taxes

The bill would double the estate and gift tax exemption for estates of decedents dying and gifts made after Dec. 31, 2017, and before Jan. 1, 2026. The basic exclusion amount provided in Sec. 2010(c)(3) would increase from $5 million to $10 million and would be indexed for inflation occurring after 2011.

Alternative minimum tax

While the House version of the bill would have repealed the alternative minimum tax (AMT) for individuals, the final bill keeps the tax, but increases the exemption.

For tax years beginning after Dec. 31, 2017, and beginning before Jan. 1, 2026, the AMT exemption amount would increase to $109,400 for married taxpayers filing a joint return (half this amount for married taxpayers filing a separate return) and $70,300 for all other taxpayers (other than estates and trusts). The phaseout thresholds would be increased to $1 million for married taxpayers filing a joint return and $500,000 for all other taxpayers (other than estates and trusts). The exemption and threshold amounts would indexed for inflation.

Individual mandate

The bill would reduce to zero the amount of the penalty under Sec. 5000A, imposed on taxpayers who do not obtain insurance that provides at least minimum essential coverage, effective after 2018.

Alistair M. Nevius (Alistair.Nevius@aicpa-cima.com) is the JofA’s editor-in-chief, tax.

If you have questions about how the tax law changes will affect your business and what your next steps should be, please contact us online or call 816.741.7882 to set up an appointment to discuss details with one of our tax planning experts at McRuer CPAs.

11/16/2017

McRuer CPAs 2017 Year-End Tax Guide

The 2017 calendar year is wrapping up quickly. While many of us have our eyes on the holiday season, this is the time to review your personal and business financial goals. Think of it as a  “checkup” to make certain you make the most effective, tax-savvy financial moves to end this year fiscally healthy.

"Timely financial planning is one of the best gifts you can give yourself as it will affect you and/or your business for years to come."

Even with significant tax reform expected for the 2018 tax season, we are still working under the federal and state tax laws that are on the books for 2017 taxes. We have compiled a quick tax tip guide to review some of the financial topics that we have determined to be the most important and relevant tax issues for most taxpayers for year-end review.

Click now to download the 2017 McRuer CPAs Year-End Tax Tips Guide.

Each individual and business is unique, so consider discussing your options with a professional in time to make any tax-saving moves that may help your particular needs. Please contact us if you have any questions or would like to schedule a year-end tax planning session with a McRuer CPAs Tax Planning Team Member.  If you are already a McRuer CPAs client, the year-end planning session is free.  Call us at: 816.741.7882.

03/17/2017

Saver's Credit Option Offers Rewards

Hand holding moneyThere’s a little known tax credit for people who have low to moderate income and are putting money aside to save for retirement.  The Saver’s Credit is available to eligible taxpayers to use in conjunction with the tax deduction they may already have qualified for by contributing to an IRA.

If your adjusted gross income is below $30,750 as an individual, $46,125 as a head of household or $61,500 as a married couple in 2016, you might be eligible for tax credit.  It can be worth between 10 and 50 percent of the amount you contribute to an IRA up to $2,000 for individuals and $4,000 for couples.  You would receive the tax credit on top of the benefits of a tax-free or tax-deferred retirement fund contribution.

The Saver’s Credit applies to contributions made to a traditional or Roth IRA, a 401(K) plan, a SIMPLE IRA, a SARSEP, your 403(b) plan, 501(c)(18) plan or a governmental 457(b) plan.  Voluntary after-tax employee contributions to a qualified retirement and 403(b) plans may also be eligible for the tax credit.

Find out more by clicking here for detailed information.

Splitting Your Tax Refund

Many taxpayers are choosing to split their tax refunds. Splitting refunds is easy and is done electronically through direct deposit allowing the Department of Treasury to deposit your refund dollars in any proportion you want. You may split funds for deposits in up to three different accounts with U.S. financial institutions.

Splitting wood with axe 1A taxpayer may also choose to have a portion of a refund deposited into an Individual Retirement Account or make a deposit into an account with a pre-paid debit card. A refund should only be deposited into an account or accounts that are in the taxpayer’s own name or spouse’s name, if it’s a joint account.

By splitting your refund, you benefit from the convenience of opting to have some of the money deposited into your checking account for immediate use and some deposited to an interest-bearing savings for future use.  In addition, you receive the safety and speed of direct deposit, allowing access to your refund faster than if you opt to receive a paper check. (See more about the direct deposit option in our blog “Going Digital with Direct Deposits”.)

You also may use part or all of your refund to buy U.S. Series I Savings Bonds for yourself or someone else.  The splitting of refunds is a rapidly growing choice among taxpayers as more digital resources become available and security concerns increase about paper trails and identity theft.

03/16/2017

IRA Moves That Save Tax Dollars

There’s still time to reduce your 2016 tax bill as you take steps to maximize the benefits of saving money for retirement.  There are different strategies that can save money or defer taxes through contributing to IRAs and retirement funds each tax year.  For the 2016 tax year, you have until April 18th to make a move. However, if you do make a qualifying IRA contribution between January 1 and April 18, make certain you specifically instruct your financial institution to apply the deposit to the 2016 tax year.  Otherwise, the deposit may automatically be considered a 2017 deposit.

Taxes and moneyUsing a Tax Refund for Tax Savings  Here’s another tip regarding your tax refund and saving for retirement: consider depositing all or part of your tax refund directly into an IRA.  It saves a step by directly depositing the money, it can speed up the timing of the contribution and ensures the deposit is made as you intend.  With a direct deposit, you can even choose to use your 2016 refund to pay for the amount of your 2016 IRA contribution as long as the tax return can be processed and the refund paid before the April 18th deadline. You would designate on Form 8888 “Allocation of Refund” how much of your refund should be deposited directly into your IRA and that it should be designated as your 2016 contribution.

How Much You Can Save  A working taxpayer can defer paying income tax on a contribution of pre-tax dollars up to $5,500 to a Traditional IRA and may split contributions to more than one IRA.  Income tax won’t be due on the money until it is withdrawn from the account.  Contributions to a Roth IRA are after-tax dollars and do not qualify for a tax deduction, though qualified distributions may be withdrawn tax-free at retirement. Contributions to both Traditional and Roth IRAs are limited depending upon modified adjusted gross income.

The actual amount of the tax deduction on a Traditional IRA depends upon the taxpayer’s income tax rate.  For example, a worker in the 25% tax bracket may save $1,375 in income taxes by making the maximum IRA contribution.  Workers in the 35% tax bracket may save $1,925 for the same contribution amount.

If you are age 50 and above, you may contribute an additional $1,000 to an IRA up to a total tax-deductible contribution of no more than $6,500. For example, the tax deduction can range from $975 for individuals in the 25% income tax bracket to $2,275 for those who are in a 35% tax bracket.

Married couples can double their tax deduction if they make the maximum contribution to an IRA in each spouse’s name.  Even if one of the spouses doesn’t work, a contribution can be made for that spouse subject to the spousal IRA limit. The combined contributions must be no more than $11,000 if both are under age 50, $12,000 if one spouse is 50 or older and $13,000 if both are at least 50 years old.

Who Qualifies For Tax Deduction  A taxpayer must earn income in order to save in an IRA. If a worker has no retirement plan at work, the tax deduction for Traditional IRA contributions is allowed in full regardless of income.  If a person or spouse has a retirement plan at work, the tax deduction and the contributions may be limited.  Amounts for both the allowable deduction and contributions phase out at higher income levels calculated as modified adjusted gross income.

People aged 70 ½ and older may no longer claim a tax deduction for their contributions to Traditional IRAs. Upon reaching that age, the fund’s owner must start taking required minimum distributions (RMDs).  Any deductible contributions and earning withdrawn from a Traditional IRA are taxable. Early withdrawals by a person under the age of 59 ½ may be subject to a 10% penalty.  Contributions made to a Roth IRA can be made after age 70 ½ and the amount in the account can be left there as long as the person lives. Qualified distributions are generally not taxable, but early withdrawals are subject to a 10% penalty.

Click here for a description of the difference between Traditional and Roth IRAs.

11/30/2016

Trump's Take on Taxes

President-Elect Donald Trump’s tax plan promises to take a hatchet to the current tax code affecting individuals and businesses alike.  Experts and analysts have varied views about what his administration will do and how soon, but they agree that the Republican control of both the House and Senate will enable faster action and more radical moves.

Trump speakingComprehensive tax plans which would reduce tax rates for individuals and businesses while eliminating many deductions and tax breaks have been in the works, but politics prevented their introduction.  Because most of this legislation has already been written, pulling together the plans into a Trump-approved tax bill for debate could happen at lightning speed.

Considering ordinary income taxes only, the current tax code charges individuals complicated graduated tax rates from 10% to 39.6%.  Trump’s proposal includes only three individual income tax brackets: 12%, 25% and 33%.  Itemized deductions would be capped or no longer allowed and personal exemptions would be eliminated.

Under the Trump tax plan business taxes would be slashed and corporations would pay 15% instead of 35% on earnings.  A more simplified tax structure would eliminate most business deductions including interest on debt.  Depreciation of assets would also be calculated differently through a more limited and simplified tax code.

Trump plans to eliminate estate taxes which currently charge 40% tax on assets above $5.45 million.  His plan would still allow an income tax on the appreciation inherent in the assets for larger estates that would be paid when the assets are sold by the beneficiary.

America’s new President is set to be sworn in January 20th.  In the footsteps of two former Presidents, John F. Kennedy and Herbert Hoover, as billionaire real estate mogul Trump has opted to forego the annual Presidential salary of $400,000.  He is quickly putting together a team of lawmakers who will fulfill his campaign promises to slash taxes and repeal major provisions of the Affordable Care Act (see more below in “2017 Tax Rates (If Nothing Changes)”) among his first days in office.

This is a good time to review and understand your options. Contact us now to confirm your year-end tax planning session and we’ll help you determine the best tax strategy during changing times.

03/07/2016

Money Fights and Millennials

A new survey of Millennial couples says choices about finances are among the top reasons they argue. There are 80 million Millennials in the U.S. alone, and they are expected to be spending up to $200 billion annually by 2017. This is the reason business, political and social experts are keeping a close eye on their habits and lifestyle choices.

Millennials are the generation generally born in the mid 1980s and up to the early 2000s.  In a joint effort, the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) and the Ad Council surveyed couples who were between 25 to 34 years of age, employed, and married or living with a partner.  The results revealed 88% say financial decisions cause tension. Of that number, 31% say they argue about money weekly, and 20% say they argue about finances daily.

Couple fight over moneyExperts define Millennials as racially diverse, sociable (especially active on social networks), community-minded, health conscious and more liberal politically. They are apt to spend money on higher-priced goods if the products or services are connected to a “good cause” or a “healthy standard.” The problem, the survey shows, is that while Millennials seem to enjoy discussing and supporting important issues with their dollars, they fail to share their feelings and habits about money with the person they are closest to and who would be the most affected. When asked, less than 50% said they had discussed finances in detail with their loved one before marriage.

Many Millennials today enter into long-term relationships already burdened with high monthly expenses connected to credit card bills and higher education loans. Even though the survey results showed nearly half of the couples paid an equal share of household expenses, the couples said their partner had different financial habits and debt issues that made saving difficult.

The National CPA Financial Literacy Commission warns Millennials that greater spending power comes with a greater responsibility to understand a potential partner’s financial values and beliefs. A news release emphasizes, “We encourage couples to have a serious conversation about their financial hopes and dreams and the steps they need to take to get there.”

The AICPA features a “Feed the Pig” website that provides tips for Millennial couples to help them think beyond the honeymoon phase to daily money matters. If you are thinking about getting married or want to confirm financial choices to build a better financial future as a couple, contact us at McRuer CPAs.

01/15/2016

Tax Extenders & The Deficit Dilemma

Though Congress has received some applause for reviving a set of more than 50 tax breaks, called “tax extenders,” there is as much dismay-driven head shaking over the fact that the bipartisan agreement and the now signed budget bill dig the federal deficit hole even deeper.

The new tax law, entitled the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes (PATH) Act of 2015, and the newly signed funding bill provide $1.1 trillion to cover spending for most government agencies to the end of fiscal year 2016, perhaps coincidentally past the upcoming presidential election. The defense sector, NASA, the Food and Drug Administration and the National Institutes of Health received a bit of a boost with most other agency funding remaining flat. ENews 2016 pic tax-credit3

IRS funding restrictions remain, so it’s expected that taxpayers will continue experiencing communication and customer service problems and an increase in computer-generated correspondence audits throughout 2016 and 2017. The new National Taxpayer Advocate Annual Report to Congress blasts the IRS for planning to “substantially reduce telephone and face-to-face interaction with taxpayers,” turning that job over to tax return preparers and tax software companies.

Meanwhile, the good news for taxpayers is that the PATH Act makes permanent several charitable tax provisions, indicating that lawmakers support using tax incentives to encourage charitable giving. For example, those 70 ½ or older may contribute up to $100,000 from an IRA directly to a charity with the contribution qualifying for their required minimum distribution (also known as Qualified Charitable Distribution (QCD) rules).

Other permanently renewed tax provisions include the American Opportunity Tax Credit for college expenses and the deduction for state and local sales taxes. The schoolteacher expense deduction has been enhanced and made permanent, as has the child tax credit.

The mortgage insurance premiums and qualified residence interest deductions have been extended for another year. Taxpayers who suffered losses from selling their home for less than the outstanding mortgage will also be able to avoid the tax consequences from debt cancellation under the Mortgage Debt Relief Act for another year.

Companies that utilize bonus depreciation like those involved in the telecommunications industry or who invest in capital-intensive projects will continue enjoying this helpful tax provision for a few more years. The tax law also makes permanent the research and development tax credit, which encourages important business R&D like that in the pharmaceutical and defense sectors.

The solar investment tax credit (ITC) and the wind production tax credit (PTC) are being phased out but will remain active through 2019 and 2021 respectively. The energy industry overall has received both tax incentives and funding resources, adding a boost of confidence to alternative energy producers.

Tax increases levied on individuals and businesses to pay for the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) continue to be unpopular, and some were not enacted. Now it’s possible the two most controversial taxes may be repealed. These are the proposed tax on medical devices and the 40% excise “Cadillac” taxes on higher-priced employer-sponsored health plans that compete with government-sponsored plans.

The 2015 year-end budget battle, which starts our new tax year without delays, was a fistfight compared to the combative, destructive delay-causing 2014 debate. Yet, even as lawmakers are cooling to budget debates, the looming budget deficit has not disappeared and continues to grow. Our 2016 budget will add to the deficit, rather than reduce it. The Congressional Budget Office reports that overall US Treasury debt has grown to 74% of GDP that “could have serious negative consequences for the nation, including restraining economic growth in the long term ... and eventually increasing the risk of financial crisis.”

Overall, the bipartisan tax bill was passed with the understanding that Congress is committed to comprehensive tax reform that will simplify the tax code, eliminate temporary provisions and lower tax rates by broadening the tax base. Lawmakers who supported the PATH Act stated in a news release, “Americans deserve a simpler, fairer and flatter tax code that’s built for growth, and this bill will help make that possible.” The 2016 election year will likely determine how far that ship will sail.

If you have any questions about how the current tax law affects your individual and/or business tax obligation, please contact us now at McRuer CPAs for a tax planning session.

12/18/2015

2015 Tax Extenders Summary

After months of uncertainty and speculation, it appears Congress has finally sufficiently collaborated to propose the “Tax Extenders” legislation in which a large number of expired tax provisions will be extended, some permanently.  Some tax credits that would be made permanent include the Child Tax Credit, the American Opportunity Tax Credit and the Earned Income Tax Credit

Of particular interest, it appears Section 179 will be permanently fixed at $500,000 of qualified assets for years in which taxpayers place in service up to $2,000,000 of assets.  For amounts above $2,000,000, the Section 179 deduction is reduced dollar for dollar until $2,500,000, at which time no asset additions are eligible.  Bonus depreciation is temporarily extended at 50% for 2015, 2016 and 2017, then stepped down to 40% in 2018 and 30% in 2019, after which time it is scheduled to be completely phased out.

To find out more information about the specifics of the legislation, here are some online resources:

If you have any questions about how these tax extenders may affect you or your business bottom line, please contact us at McRuer CPAs by calling 816.741.7882 or click here to connect with us online.

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