The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act has been passed by both the House and Senate and is expected to be signed into law by the President in the near future. The law will make fundamental changes in the way you, your family and your business calculate your federal income tax bill, and the amount of federal tax you will pay. Since most of the changes will go into effect next year, there’s still a narrow window of time before year-end to soften or avoid the impact of crackdowns and to best position yourself for the tax breaks that may be heading your way. Here’s a quick rundown of last-minute moves you should think about making.
Planning Opportunities for Tax Year 2017
The general plan of action to take advantage of lower tax rates next year is to defer income into next year. Here are some planning ideas to consider:
- If you are about to convert a regular IRA to a Roth IRA, postpone your move until next year. That way you’ll defer income from the conversion until next year and have it taxed at lower rates.
- Earlier this year, you may have already converted a regular IRA to a Roth IRA but now you question the wisdom of that move, as the tax on the conversion will be subject to a lower tax rate next year. You can unwind the conversion to the Roth IRA by doing a recharacterization-making a trustee-to-trustee transfer from the Roth to a regular IRA. This way, the original conversion to a Roth IRA will be cancelled out. But you must complete the recharacterization before year-end. Starting with next year, under the tax law, you won’t be able to use a recharacterization to unwind a regular-IRA-to-Roth-IRA conversion.
- If you run a business that renders services and operates on the cash basis, the income you earn isn’t taxed until your clients or patients pay. So if you hold off on billings until next year-or until so late in the year that no payment will likely be received this year-you will likely succeed in deferring income until next year.
Beginning next year, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act suspends or reduces many popular tax deductions in exchange for a larger standard deduction. Here’s what you can do about this right now:
- Individuals will only be able to claim an itemized deduction of up to $10,000 ($5,000 for a married taxpayer filing a separate return) for the total of (1) state and local property taxes; and (2) state and local income taxes. To avoid this limitation, if you are not currently subject to Alternative Minimum Tax, pay the last installment of estimated state and local taxes for 2017 no later than Dec. 31, 2017 (rather than the January 2018 due date.)
- The itemized deduction for charitable contributions will remain intact for future years. But because most other itemized deductions will be eliminated in exchange for a larger standard deduction, charitable contributions after 2017 may not yield a tax benefit for many because they won’t be able to itemize deductions. If you think you will fall in this category, consider accelerating some charitable giving into 2017.
- The new law temporarily boosts itemized deductions for medical expenses. For 2017 and 2018 these expenses can be claimed as itemized deductions to the extent they exceed a floor equal to 7.5% of your adjusted gross income (AGI). Before the new law, the floor was 10% of AGI, except for 2017 it was 7.5% of AGI for age-65-or-older taxpayers. If you won’t be able to itemize deductions after this year, but will be able to do so this year, consider accelerating “discretionary” medical expenses into this year. For example, before the end of the year, get new glasses or contacts, or see if you can squeeze in expensive dental work such as an implant.
- The new law substantially increases the alternative minimum tax (AMT) exemption amount, beginning next year. There may be steps you can take now to take advantage of that increase. For example, the exercise of an incentive stock option (ISO) can result in AMT complications. So, if you hold any ISOs, it may be wise to postpone exercising them until next year.
- Like-kind exchanges are a popular way to avoid current tax on the appreciation of an asset, but after Dec. 31, 2017, such swaps will be possible only if they involve real estate that isn’t held primarily for sale. So if you are considering a like-kind swap of other types of property, do so before year-end. The new law says the old, far more liberal like-kind exchange rules will continue to apply to exchanges of personal property if you either dispose of the relinquished property or acquire the replacement property on or before Dec. 31, 2017.
- Under current rules, alimony payments generally are an above-the line deduction for the payor and included in the income of the payee. Under the new law, alimony payments aren’t deductible by the payor or includible in the income of the payee, generally effective for any divorce decree or separation agreement executed after 2017. So if you’re in the middle of a divorce or separation agreement, and you’ll wind up on the paying end, it would be worth your while to wrap things up before year end. On the other hand, if you’ll wind up on the receiving end, it would be worth your while to wrap things up next year.
- The new law suspends the deduction for moving expenses after 2017 (except for certain members of the Armed Forces), and also suspends the tax-free reimbursement of employment-related moving expenses. So if you’re in the midst of a job-related move, try to incur your deductible moving expenses before year-end, or if the move is connected with a new job and you’re getting reimbursed by your new employer, press for a reimbursement to be made to you before year-end.
Guidance for Clients of Hungerford Nichols
If you have questions on how the bill impacts your business, individual situation or would like to discuss planning opportunities, we provide the following options:
1) Your Hungerford Nichols Tax Advisor will be available to discuss 2018 planning opportunities with you during your 2017 tax return delivery meeting.
2) Schedule a meeting with us for tax planning opportunities that apply to your situation. We will offer options to estimate what your return would look like under the 2018 tax law.
3) As always, we are available to answer any additional questions you may have. Call or email us to schedule a meeting.
We will continue to keep you posted as additional information is available. We are planning a seminar in late January covering the new tax law changes. More details will follow. If you would like more details about these changes and how they may affect you and/or your business, please do not hesitate to contact Hungerford Nichols at (616) 949-3200.
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