2017 year-end tax planning – a year of uncertainty (updated)

(as also seen online at IRIS)

The Republican Congress is in the process of passing the Tax Cut and Jobs Act, a new tax law. President Trump is expected to sign it by Christmas.

The law was created and passed hastily and affects many aspects of the federal tax code, so many details are still not clear. Furthermore, regulations have yet to be issued. Also, while the provisions affecting corporations are permanent, most affecting individuals expire in 2026. Thus, tax planning is complicated.

How do you plan? Very carefully – you need to augment your traditional year-end planning by anticipating the impact of the many changes.

Note: many proposed changes did not make the final law, so be sure you are referring to the final version when making your planning decisions!

Planning steps

First, be practical:

  • Determine what income and deductions you can move from 2017 to 2018 or vice versa.

Second, review the impact:

  • What happens if you shift any of these amounts of income and deductions to the other year?

Finally, watch for the impact of the Alternative Minimum Tax (“AMT”):

  • The exemption for the AMT and the threshold above which that exemption gets phased out both rise next year, so some deductions lost to the AMT in 2017 could have value in 2018. Others simply vanish next year, so you need to plan carefully!


The new law lowers the tax brackets, so income will be generally subject to less tax in 2018.

Conclusion: You probably want to move income to next year if you can.

Exemptions and standard deduction

The new law eliminates personal exemptions and raises standard deductions to $12,000 for single filers and to $24,000 for married couples. These amounts will be indexed for inflation. The increased standard deduction may offset deductions that you lose, as discussed below. If you have children and others who are dependents, those tax credits are increased, which may help as well.

Conclusion: You probably want to move itemized deductions to 2017.

Itemized Deductions and Credits

The deduction for property taxes and for state and local income taxes is capped at $10,000.

Mortgage interest on new home purchases is deductible only for loans of up to $750,000 used to purchase your primary residence. Interest on home equity loans will not be deductible. (It is not clear if converting any part of home equity indebtedness that was used to purchase or improve your primary residence to a mortgage would make that interest deductible, subject to the cap.)

All miscellaneous deductions are eliminated. This includes investment and tax preparation fees, safe deposit box charges and unreimbursed employee expenses.

The casualty loss deduction is also eliminated and the bike to work exclusion ends.

Moving expenses will no longer be allowed (except for military personnel in certain cases).

The deduction of alimony will be eliminated for divorces occurring after 2018.

What survived? The deduction of student loan interest and medical expenses survived. The latter is subject to a 7.5% rather than a 10% floor. And, the new law repeals the reduction applied to itemized deductions for high-income taxpayers, which may help with some deductions.

Here are several items that were considered for limitation or elimination that remain unchanged:

Dependent care accounts, adoption expenses, tuition waivers and employer paid tuition, capital gains on the sale of your personal residence, the teacher deduction, electric car credit, Archer medical accounts and designating shares of stock or mutual funds sold.

Conclusion: you will want to move any of the eliminated deductions that you can prepay into 2017.

Note: a last-minute provision added to the new law makes prepaying 2018 income taxes in 2017 non-deductible.

Pass-through businesses

If you have income from a sole proprietorship, LLC, partnership or S Corporation, you may be able to deduct 20% of that income, subject to certain rules on wages and a phaseout beginning at $157,500 for singles and $315,000 for married taxpayers. These rules are designed to avoid abuse seen when Kansas enacted a similar law.  (Watch for a post on this soon.)

Conclusion: read the fine print (e.g. rules for personal service firms) to see if there are any opportunities you can exploit.

Estate taxes

The credit before estate or gift taxes are due is doubled to $10,000,000, indexed for inflation.

Conclusion: you may want to postpone your year-end gift planning.


Carefully review any income and deductions that you can still shift to see if moving will lessen the total taxes you pay for 2017 and 2018.

Good luck and best wishes for the holidays!

If you have any questions, please contact me.

Tax planning: 2009 tips and traps, and 2010 changes

Tax law changes for 2009 will require you to submit more information to your tax preparer to ensure that you get the most of tax credits and deductions. If the person working on your tax returns does not have all the proper information, you could pay too much or your return could be rejected.

Here is an overview of tax changes to consider when gathering your information:

* Making Work Pay Credit (“MWPC”), is a $400 credit to offset a reduction in withholdings enacted early in 2009. It is phased out for higher income and offset by the Economic Recovery Payment, described below. You could end up owing taxes if the credit does fully offset the reduction in withholdings (affects 2009 and 2010).
* Economic Recovery Payment (“ERP”) is a payment received as part of your social security benefits (for 2009 only), and affects the MWPC so that failing to report it could result in your tax return being rejected. The payment itself is not taxable.
* Government Retiree Credit (“GRC”) is for those not receiving social security, but affects the MWPC (2009 only). The new Schedule M reconciles the MWPC, ERP and GRC so you need all the information.
* First Time Home Buyer’s Credit is a $8,000 credit that applies to first time buyers purchasing between certain dates and requires a paper filing (electronic filings will not get the credit). If you buy the home in 2010, you have the option of amending your 2009 taxes for the credit. Note that this credit gets repaid over time on future tax returns beginning in 2010.
* Tax credit for long term home owners buying a new home, between certain dates, also requires a paper filing to avoid being rejected.
* American Opportunity Tax Credit (an expanded Hope Credit) allows use of the credit for two year more years than the Hope Credit, covering junior and senior years of college when the Hope Credit was not available.
* New Vehicle Purchase sales tax deduction (2009 only) is an additional Schedule A item, so long as your are not taking the general sales tax deduction.
* Energy Credit for solar power, fuel cells and certain energy efficient improvements are Schedule A deductions. There are two types of credit depending on what improvements were made to your home and taking the deductions requires you to have documentation.
* The Cash for Clunkers voucher is not considered income (2009 only).
* A tax refund can be used to buy U.S. Series I bonds.
* There is an AMT patch which helps for 2009, but falls back for 2010.
* There is an increased casualty and theft loss limit that helps for 2009.
* Note that a dependent child’s income is taxed when it exceeds $1,900.
* The Tuition and Fees Deduction applies to 2009.
* Unemployment Compensation has $2,400 excluded from taxable income (2009 only).
* Educator’s Expense enhanced for 2009.

Note that not all states accept the IRS changes, so the information and outcome could be different.

For 2010, some old provisions return and some new changes require action now:

* 2010 conversion to a Roth IRA has no income limit and two years to pay the taxes (please see To convert or not traditional IRA to Roth IRA).
* Certain changes lost for 2010 worth repeating (see What to watch out for in 2010 – investing, taxes and more):
* AMT patch falls back;
* Casualty and theft loss limits fall back;
* Educator and tuition and fees deductions against adjusted gross income are not available;
* Deduction of state and local sales taxes ends;
* Exclusion of $2,400 of unemployment income ends; and
* Exclusion of income from qualified distributions from IRAs to charities ends.
* The estate tax still has not been enacted retroactively, as expected (see Estate Planning – will we have a new tax law in time).

As we said before, tax planning involves a multi-year view to optimize what you end up paying (please see More Strategies – Three Year Planning…., Tax Credits and all Continued, and What to watch out for in 2010 – investing, taxes and more)

Let us know if you have questions or comments. Thanks,


Year-end Tax Planning, Tax Credits, and all Continued

There are two parts to this e-mail – year-end moves for 2009 and planning for long-term capital gains rate changes over the next three years…..

First is a repetition of some year-end ideas to make sure you have addressed all that you should to save taxes, between 2009 and 2010 combined.

One idea to check out is the sales tax deduction for purchase of a large item like a new car, especially with all the sales on cars at year end. These and other ideas are reprinted from Kiplinger’s below, along with links to other articles.

Also, be careful about withholdings – some people had reductions early in 2009 and will end up owing taxes if they do not change the withholding rate now or pay an estimate

Remember to use the 2009 $13,000 gift exclusion before it expires.

Finally, you can adjust your withholdings the other way if you will have the benefit of the first-time home buyer credit or expanded tuition credit.

Second is a strategy on capital gains. As we said, this is a year for planning 2009, 2010 and 2011 taxes. The long-term capital gains rate will remain at 15% in 2010, but then the rate jumps back up to 20%. This argues for selling in 2009 or 2010 to increase the basis, buying back and then having less taxed in 2011 or later at the higher rates.

Reprinted below is a table from Wikipedia along with their description of the US Capital Gains Tax.

There are many issues raised in this Newsletter, so let me know if you have questions or comments.



Review Your Year-End Tax Plans

Making the right moves now can save you plenty.
By Mary Beth Franklin, Senior Editor, Kiplinger’s Personal Finance
November 17, 2009

The end of the year is fast approaching, but you can still take steps to lower your 2009 tax bill. Don’t focus just on this year, though. Look ahead to next year as well. That may help you decide whether you should take advantage of certain tax breaks due to expire at the end of this year, such as a sales-tax deduction when you buy a new car, or delay action so you can reap a tax break still available in 2010, such as claiming a tax credit of up to $1,500 for installing energy-efficient home improvements.

In general, it makes sense to accelerate as many deductible expenses into this year as possible to reduce the income that’s taxed on your 2009 return. But that’s not always the case. If you expect to be in a higher tax bracket next year, for example, you may be better off postponing some deductible expenses until 2010, when they will be worth more.

Those who itemize have plenty of leeway when it comes to shifting deductions. Start with state and local income taxes. Mail your January estimated payment in December and you can claim a deduction for the payment this year, not in 2010. (Warning: this doesn’t work if you’re subject to the alternative minimum tax. State taxes aren’t deducted under the AMT, so there’s no benefit in accelerating the payment.) Or, make your January 2010 home-mortgage payment before the end of this year and you can deduct the interest portion in 2009.

Accelerating charitable contributions planned for next year into this year will boost your itemized deductions. Just make sure your mail the check or charge the donation to your credit card by December 31 so the gift counts for 2009. And if you’re close to exceeding the threshold of 7.5% of adjusted gross income for medical expenses, consider getting and paying for elective procedures in 2009.

Sometimes you have to spend money to cash in on certain tax breaks, such as buying a first home or purchasing a new car. But pay close attention to income eligibility limits to make sure you’re able to capture these and other tax breaks. Some incentives, such as the home-energy tax credit, are not tied to your income.

In the coming weeks, we’ll be rolling out a new tax tip every weekday. You can sign up for outo have the best and latest tax information delivered right to your in-box.

Let us know if you have questions or comments. Thanks,