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02/13/2018

Investors Eye Effects of New Transition Tax

International investingAs corporations determine the impact of the one-time new tax reform-mandated ‘transition tax’ on overseas earnings, it’s important for investors to consider how the tax may impact a public company’s cash flow when valuing its stock.

A Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) provision assesses a one-time ‘transition tax’ on accumulated 2017 untaxed earnings held overseas by considering those earnings repatriated.  Generally, foreign earnings held as cash or cash equivalents are taxed at 15.5 percent.  Remaining earnings are taxed at 8 percent.

Many American corporations have held their foreign-earned profits overseas for years to escape the world’s-highest 35% U.S. corporate tax rate.  As the new tax reform package imposes this one-time tax, the U.S. will relinquish its right to tax foreign profits.  The U.S. will then switch its corporation taxation method to a “territorial tax” system.

Under a territorial tax system businesses must pay income taxes only on the income earned within the subject country’s boundaries.  The tax liability is determined by the subject country’s tax laws, and no other nation’s corporate tax may be charged.  European nations have followed this tax method for decades, and it avoids double taxation.  TCJA supporters say this tax change, coupled with the new flat 21% corporate tax rate, will return jobs and American investment dollars back home.

However, this TCJA tax payment may complicate traditional methods used to analyze a company’s financial statements and attractiveness as an investment.  Corporations may pay the new one-time tax in eight annual installments under a back-loaded schedule, with a maximum 25% tax payment expected in the 8th year.  While this TCJA provision offers corporate taxpayers a potential significant overall tax savings, The Wall Street Journal reports that huge household-name US corporations like Microsoft, McDonald’s and Johnson and Johnson may pay billions to repatriate these earnings they otherwise would not have.  Financial analysts advise investors that this change may impact these companies’ cash flow as a percentage of their earnings – which is an important measure of a stock’s market value.  Investors should consider the impact of the new lower US corporate tax rate on a subject business’s cash flow remembering that at the same time the subject company owes the final and largest one-time tax payment, which may also be partly offset by tax credits, deductions, deferred tax liabilities and more.

Tax reform and consumer confidence have lifted the stock market to record-breaking levels. Now investors and analysts following corporations with foreign profits must re-think how they value companies as they determine what to buy or sell.

If you have any questions or need more information, please contact one of our wealth accumulation experts at McRuer CPAs online, or call 816.741.7882.

02/06/2018

New Business Tax Credit for Family and Medical Leave Approved

Daugher and elderly mom walkingA new federal tax credit is available for 2018 through the end of 2019 for eligible employers  providing their employees paid family and medical leave.  The new tax credit is part of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act that has employers hoping the first version of the business tax credit will become permanent as more employers switch to paid time off (PTO) compensation as an employee benefit.

Full guidance regarding the credit has not yet been released, but a general review indicates eligible employers may claim a tax credit equal to a percentage of wages paid to qualifying employees on leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).  To receive the credit, employers must provide at least two weeks of FMLA leave and pay workers at least 50 percent of their regular earnings.  Both full-time and part-time workers, if employed for at least a year, must be offered paid leave for an employer to be able to claim the tax credit.  Part-time employee qualifying for paid leave must be determined on a prorated basis.

The credit will range from 12.5% to 25% of the cost of each hour of paid leave, depending on how much of a worker's regular earnings the benefit replaces.  The government will cover 12.5% of the benefit's costs if workers receive half of their regular earnings, increasing to 25% if workers receive their entire regular earnings while on leave.  So if the leave payment rate is 100% of the normal rate, then the credit is raised to 25% of the on-leave payment rate.  The maximum leave allowed for any employee during any tax year is 12 weeks.

Employers may only apply the credit toward workers they have employed for at least a year, and who were paid no more than $72,000 for 2017.  The wage ceiling will be inflation adjusted going forward.

As they await more specific guidance, Society for Human Resource (SHRM) members debate whether most company PTO policies qualify for the tax credit, as many do not offer paid ‘family and medical leave’ as a separate provision as the new tax law requires.  Instead, they say most companies designate their PTO benefits for vacation, personal, medical or sick leave; none of which are considered as ‘family and medical leave’ under FMLA.  The human resource professionals say that employers should review their paid-time-off policies to assure they are drafted to qualify them for the tax credit.

SHRM also points out the credit does not apply to paid leave mandated under state or local law.  Further, they suggest that policies may need to include nonretaliation provisions to assure employees won’t be penalized for taking the paid leave.

For more on the effect of the new tax credit on your business, please contact one of our business tax planning experts at McRuer CPAs online or call 816.741.7882.

02/01/2018

Child Tax Credit Doubles Under New Tax Law

Beginning in the 2018 tax year, under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, the tax credit available per qualifying child for taxpayers with children under age 17 will double.

Picture of mom with son in kitchenPreviously (including for 2017 tax returns), the child tax credit was $1,000 per qualifying child, but was subject to rules that made it complicated to figure.  For example, for married couples filing jointly the credit was reduced by $50 for every $1,000 by which their adjusted gross income (AGI) exceeded $110,000.  The threshold was $55,000 for married couples filing separately, and $75,000 for unmarried taxpayers.  To the extent the $1,000-per-child credit exceeded their tax liability, taxpayers received a refund of up to 15% of earned their income above $3,000.  An additional complication; for taxpayers with three or more qualifying children, the excess of the taxpayer's yearly social security taxes over the taxpayer's yearly earned income credit was refundable.  In all cases the refund was limited to $1,000 per qualifying child.

Starting in 2018, the child tax credit increases to $2,000 per qualifying child under 17.

There are six IRS tests that must be met to qualify for the child tax credit:

  1. Age Test:  The child claimed as your dependent must be under age 17 at the end of the tax year.
  2. Relationship Test:  The child must be your daughter, son, foster child or adopted child. The child may also be a grandchild or a descendant of one of your siblings and must meet the 5 other criteria to qualify.
  3. Support Test: The child must not have provided more than half of their own “support,” meaning the money they use for living expenses.
  4. Dependent Test: You must claim the child as your dependent on your federal income tax return.
  5. Citizenship Test: The child must be a U.S. citizen, a U.S. national or a U.S. resident alien.
  6. Resident Test: The child must have lived with you for more than half of the tax year.

Under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, the refundable portion of the credit is increased to a maximum of $1,400 per qualifying child.  In addition, the earned income threshold is decreased to $2,500 (from $3,000 under pre-Act law), which has the potential to result in a larger refund. The $500 credit for dependents other than qualifying children is nonrefundable.

The Act also substantially increases the credit’s "phase-out" thresholds.  Starting in 2018, the total credit amount allowed for a married couple filing jointly is reduced by $50 for every $1,000 (or part of a $1,000) by which their AGI exceeds $400,000.  The threshold is $200,000 for all other taxpayers.  So, if you were previously prohibited from taking the credit because your AGI was too high, you may now be eligible to claim the credit.

In order to claim the credit for a qualifying child, you must include that child's Social Security number (SSN) on your tax return.  Under pre-Act law you could also use an individual taxpayer identification number (ITIN) or adoption taxpayer identification number (ATIN).  If a qualifying child does not have an SSN, you will not be able to claim the $2,000 credit, but you can claim the $500 credit for that child using an ITIN or an ATIN.  The SSN requirement does not apply for non-qualifying-child dependents, but you must provide an ITIN or ATIN for each dependent for whom you are claiming a $500 credit.

Tax reform also allows a new $500 credit (per dependent) for any dependents who are not qualifying children under 17 beginning this year (2018).  There is no age limit for the $500 credit, but the tax tests for dependency must be met.

The changes made by the Act should make these credits more valuable and more widely available to many taxpayers.  If you have children or other qualifying dependents under age 17, and would like to learn if these changes can benefit you, please contact one of our tax preparation experts at McRuer CPAs online or call 816.741.7882.

01/17/2018

Online Sales Tax Debate Advances to Supreme Court

Interent Sales TaxThe U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case that may change the standard for how sales taxes are applied to online purchases.  In the case of South Dakota v. Wayfair Inc., the state will argue that all online sellers should be required to collect state sales taxes from South Dakota customers. It is one of only a few states that imposes taxes on all finished goods and services.  The case could set a precedent affecting all states and the District of Columbia.

Since 1992, a Supreme Court ruling (Quill v. North Dakota) has prevented states from collecting any sales tax from internet-related retail purchases unless the seller had a physical presence in the state where the sale transaction was conducted.  The case finding was based upon the idea that states should not interfere with interstate commerce.

The Tax Foundation’s Joe Bishop-Henchman writes that local businesses and states argue that they are unfairly losing revenues to retailers outside their jurisdiction.  He explains, “Traditional brick-and-mortar retailers that have to collect sales taxes feel they’re at a competitive disadvantage, and states are potentially losing out on billions of dollars in revenue annually.” 

On the other side of the issue, online retailers argue that each state may have different sales tax collection mandates that are often confusing, inefficiency in tracking collections, and expensive to comply with.

In this case, South Dakota is one of nearly two dozen states who are working together under the Streamlined Sales and Use Tax Agreement.  It is a voluntary governing board working to simplify and standardize sales tax rules.  At McRuer CPAs we have been helping clients navigate these issues since the advent of internet sales.  Unfortunately, their resolutions often reflect the one size fits all sales and use tax law requirements adopted years ago for a different time.

Arguments in the South Dakota v. Wayfair Inc. case are now set to be heard in April and may provide clarity on the constitutional limits of state taxing authorities and the scope and reach of the physical presence rule. 

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.

Passports at Risk if Back Taxes Are Owed

American passport 2The IRS has announced it is implementing new procedures that link seriously delinquent tax debt to a taxpayer’s ability to apply for a new passport or request a renewal.  The new rule is part of the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act or FAST.  The FAST Act is a funding bill designed to find more tax revenue to pay for upgrading America’s roads, bridges and more.  The tax debt-related provision requires the Department of Treasury to notify the State Department of individual taxpayers who owe a major tax debt if that taxpayer has not attempted to pay what they owe.

A taxpayer with seriously delinquent tax debts is defined as a person who owes the IRS more than $51,000 in back taxes, including penalties and interest.  Taxpayers in the affected category should have already received a Notice of Federal Tax Lien from the IRS and have missed the deadline to challenge the notice, or enter into a payment agreement.

Under the law, if the State Department receives a notice about a seriously indebted taxpayer, it may only take action regarding the taxpayer’s passport application or deny a passport renewal.  Importantly, the new law does not require the Department of Homeland Security or any other agency to confiscate the taxpayer’s passport, should they be traveling.  Opponents of the new rule fear that it could lead to that action and, in time, the provision could be expanded to include taxpayers with less tax debt.

Affected taxpayers may avoid these passport issues if they take steps to resolve their tax liability either through an approved installment agreement, an accepted offer in compromise, a tax court settlement agreement, or if they are undergoing IRS due process.  Taxpayers with a large back taxes amount, but who are not affected by the new rule include taxpayers who:

  • are undergoing bankruptcy,
  • have proven they have a qualifying financial hardship,
  • live in a federally declared disaster area,
  • qualify as someone who is a victim of tax-related identity theft, or
  • have qualified for an innocent spouse election.

The IRS says it will postpone notifying the State Department about affected taxpayers who are serving in a military combat zone, so the individual’s passport renewal request is not subject to denial until they return to the United States.

Privacy advocates are concerned that the new rule allows too much information sharing between government agencies with different security controls over private individual information.  They fear it increases the risk of identity theft and fraud.  They also predict there may be long delays in passport renewals because of slow and sometimes inaccurate information-sharing practices between government agencies.

More IRS tools to collect back taxes from taxpayers are expected to emerge in the years ahead.  The best protection is for affected taxpayers to work out an agreement to pay as much as they can as soon as they can to avoid greater costs that stretch beyond their pocketbooks.

If you need more information, please contact us at McRuer CPAs.

01/11/2018

2018 Income Tax Withholding Tables Now Confirmed

The IRS has released the updated 2018 federal income tax withholding tables reflecting the recent tax reform.  This is the first of several updates that will be released in the next few weeks.

The updated withholding information, now posted online (click here to view the new tables), shows the new rates for employers to use for computing employee withholding amounts.  Employers are requested to begin using the 2018 withholding tables as soon as possible, but not later than February 15, 2018. They should continue using the 2017 withholding tables until they have fully implemented the new 2018 withholding rules. Calculating pay and taxes

When employees will see the changes in their paychecks will vary depending on how quickly their employers implement the new tables, and how often they are paid — generally weekly, biweekly or monthly.  Most employees will begin seeing paycheck increases in February.

The new withholding tables are designed to work with the Forms W-4 that workers should have already filed with their employers to claim withholding allowances.  Employees do not have to do anything at this time.

Acting IRS Commissioner David Kautter says the IRS will be providing more information in the next several weeks to help employers and individuals understand and review the withholding changes and the other tax reform affecting payrolls and paychecks.  Kautter explains the new tax withholding tables are designed to produce the correct tax withholding amount for taxpayers with simpler tax situations.  He says the revisions are also aimed at avoiding income tax over- and under-withholding as much as possible.  Soon the IRS will release additional updated information for taxpayers with more complicated tax plans.

Meanwhile, the IRS is working on revising its online withholding tax calculator to reflect the new tax law data and expects the calculator will be available by the end of February.  A revised Form W-4  is also being developed.  Both the Form W-4 and the online calculator will estimate the effect of changes such as itemized deductions, child tax credit increases, the new dependent credit and the repeal of dependent exemptions. These tools may be used by employees wishing to update their withholding in response to new tax reform law, to reflect changes in their personal circumstances in 2018, and by workers starting a new job.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us at McRuer CPAs online or call us at 816.741.7882.

01/05/2018

Tax Filing Season Starts January 29 for 2017 Tax Returns

Tax-DayThe IRS has announced that this year’s filing season will officially begin January 29th.  That is the first date that completed tax returns will be accepted by the IRS, though tax preparation may be completed before then so returns may be ready to submit on the first available day for processing.  The date is a bit later than the launch of the 2016 filing season, which began January 23rd.

The agency has been updating its systems since November to accommodate tax law changes for 2017.  Going forward, it's not yet clear how long it will take the IRS to adjust to the newly passed tax reform law that will implement major changes affecting individual and business income and other taxes in 2018.  Those tax reform changes do not affect your individual 2017 tax return.

The deadline to submit your 2017 individual federal and state income tax returns is April 17th this year.  The date is on the 17th of April because April 15th is a Sunday and April 16th is a holiday in the District of Columbia.

The IRS will not begin accepting federal income tax returns until January 29th.  It also reminds taxpayers that, by law, it cannot issue refunds related to claims for the earned income tax credit or the additional child tax credit until mid-February.

If you have any questions or need help with the preparation of your individual or business income tax returns, please contact us at McRuer CPAs online (click here) or by calling 816.741.7882.

01/03/2018

Withholding Guidance for Small Business Coming Soon

Hand and calculatorThe IRS has released a short update to answer questions from small businesses about how soon they should implement changes from the newly approved tax reform bill.

Currently, the IRS says it plans to "issue the withholding guidance some time in January, and employers and payroll service providers will be encouraged to implement the changes in February."  The updated information is supposed to be designed to work with the existing Forms W-4 that employees have already filed.  This is to make certain no additional action by taxpaying employees will be needed regarding the amount of taxes that should be withheld for each individual.

The 2018 withholding guidelines should enable taxpayers to see changes from the tax reform bill reflected in their paychecks as early as February.  Until the new tables are released, employers and payroll service providers are asked to continue to use the 2017 withholding tables and systems.

If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to contact McRuer CPAs online or call us at 816.741.7882. 

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.

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