By David Schaper, CPA firstname.lastname@example.org
There have long been campaign promises of simplifying the federal tax code, with pledges of ultimately filing personal taxes on a postcard. To be amenable to this, the IRS recently released the draft 1040 tax return for individuals to take into consideration all of the tax changes that are effective for 2018. The size of this 1040 has been dwindled to 2 half-pages and eliminated more than 50 lines compared to the 2017 version.
Does this mean that your taxes have been simplified and will require fewer pages, time, and effort to file? Most likely the answer is no, especially if you are a business owner. Various income and deductions items have been moved to an additional schedule, Schedule 1, which must be attached to the 1040. This schedule includes lines for alimony, business income, capital gains, farm income, real estate, pass-through activity from partnerships and S corporations, health savings account deductions, and IRA deductions, among others. So instead of these tax items being on the front of the 1040, they have simply been shifted to a separate schedule that must be attached to the 1040.
The new 1040 also summarizes other information that must be detailed on a separate schedule, which was previously on the 1040. This information includes a form to detail the various types of tax liabilities, a form to detail various nonrefundable credits and a form to detail other federal tax payments and refundable credits.
The 1040 has become simpler to file for 2018 if you only have wage income, interest income, and do not own a home. Otherwise, it has not become simpler to file as many politicians have promised, they have merely put this information onto other forms that must be included in your tax filing. Combine these separate schedules with new complex tax laws for qualified business income deductions and many other changes and a Reno CPA may still be needed to assist you in your filings.
The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act brought to mainstream attention the use of temporary tax provisions by Congress. As temporary provisions near their expiration dates several options exist for Congress to choose from. Congress may decide to keep the provision temporary by extending the expiration date, make a temporary provision permanent, or simply allow the provision to expire. When a temporary provision has expired, Congress can also extend the provision retroactively; as was the case in 2018 when Congress retroactively extended the majority of 2016 expired provisions with the passing of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018.
As in years past, 2017 saw the expiration of many of these temporary provisions. Twenty eight provisions expired at the end of 2017. Of these, twelve were related to business entities, thirteen to energy credits, and three to individuals.
The three individual provisions that expired will impact a large number of taxpayers.
The first of three expired individual provisions was the tuition and fees deduction. We first saw this provision in the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001. This provision allowed a qualified individual to take an above the line deduction on up to $4,000 of qualified education expenses. This temporary provision has been extended in the past several times and if you were a qualified individual in 2017 and still a student in 2018 this change will impact your tax return.
The second expired individual provision was the mortgage insurance premium deduction. This provision allowed individuals to deduct the entire premium for mortgage insurance on a qualified residence as an itemized deduction on Schedule A. We first saw this provision in 2006 with the Tax Relief and Health Care Act. Like the tuition and fees deduction, this provision has been extended several times in the past. If you had a qualified mortgage in 2017 and 2018 and paid mortgage insurance, this expiration will impact your tax return in 2018.
The final individual temporary tax provision that expired in 2017 was the exclusion in income of the cancellation of mortgage debt on your primary residence. Typically, when a debtor receives debt forgiveness the IRS requires this to be included as income. This temporary provision allowed for qualified mortgage debt forgiveness to be excluded. We first saw this deduction with the passing of The Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act of 2007. If you received mortgage forgiveness on a qualified residence in 2018, you will now likely be required to include this in your taxable income in 2018.
The three expired individual tax provisions described in this post have been used in tax planning and filing for at least a decade. Many of us have used them in the past, and may have been planning on using them in 2018. It is impossible to determine the impact this may have when combined with the increase of the standard deduction in 2018 without being familiar with your individual tax situation. If you are concerned with the impact these changes may have on your 2018 tax return, consult with your trusted tax professional. For more detailed reading on the subject of this post see Congressional Research Service Report R45347.
A few weeks ago, the Internal Revenue Service issued a notice stating they would be preparing regulations and guidance to clarify the treatment of income re-characterized for purposes of working around the new $10,000 cap on the state and local tax (SALT) deduction. So far, several states including New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut have passed legislation designed to enable high-income taxpayers to bypass the cap, with legislation pending elsewhere. In the notice, the IRS emphasized the “substance over form” doctrine, meaning they care about the actual substance of a payment, and not the name or form it may be given.
While the direct guidance remains to be seen, this is clearly bad news for the charitable contributions in lieu of taxes approach that California was looking into to, and will greatly reduce the itemized deductions of CA residents for 2018. The IRS has made clear in this notice that it is concerned with whether a payment is made in satisfaction of a tax liability, and not whether it is re-characterized in some other way. The impact on other workarounds, such as New York’s optional payroll tax swap or Connecticut’s entity-level tax swap, is not immediately clear, though both approaches could be at risk as well.
We should continue to practice skepticism of any SALT deduction cap avoidance schemes until we receive the IRS guidance. Most agree that existing statutes, case law, and regulations are fairly clear on this matter and states have just muddied the waters. Formal IRS guidance will help protect taxpayers, so hopefully they do not rely on state-endorsed strategies, which could result in penalties and increased liability.
The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) has done a stellar job of removing all or part of the “deduction” from the Meals and Entertainment Deduction.
Business related entertainment deductions turned out to be a big loser when the dust settled after the passage of the TCJA in late December 2017. Entertainment expenses were hit particularly hard as the TCJA completely eliminates the deduction for entertainment expenses (including food purchases), for activities such as taking clients or prospective clients to concerts, movies, the theater, sporting events or amusement parks. The Act also eliminates deductions for amounts paid for memberships in any club organized for business, pleasure, recreation or social purposes.
One entertainment expense that did survive the new law is expenses employers incur for recreational, social, or similar activities primarily for the benefit of employees, such as expenses incurred for an annual holiday party or summer outing or picnic.
Businesses are allowed a 50% deduction for amounts paid for meals in conjunction with the active conduct of the taxpayer’s trade or business. However, we must take note of two changes made by the new tax act relating to meals.
First, a definition for “business meal” has been removed, and meals provided to employees traveling on business are still deductible at 50%. However, beginning in 2018 through the end of 2025, the cost of meals provided for the convenience of the employer, such as meals provided to employees who need to be available throughout the mealtime, are only deductible at 50%. Prior to TCJA these types of meals were deductible at 100%. Also, the new tax law expands the definition of meals for the convenience of the employer subject to the 50% limitation to include meals provided in the employer’s on-site dining facility. Further, beginning in 2026, no deduction will be allowed for meals for the convenience of the employer and for the cost, including meals, of operating an on-site dining facility.
While the new law ratchets down on the meals and entertainment deduction that we have become used to over the years, the deduction does survive in some forms. While customers and clients will likely enjoy fewer trips to the ball field or concert venue, employees should continue to look forward to a nice summer picnic and festive holiday party with their coworkers.
The Tax Cut and Jobs Act – How does it affect non-corporate taxpayers with business income?
The Tax Cut and Jobs Act decreased the tax rate for corporations from graduated rates of up to 35% to a flat rate of 21% beginning after December 31, 2017. The Act also added a 20% deduction for non-corporate taxpayer with domestic qualified business income from sole proprietorship, partnership, limited liability company (LLC) and S corporations, effective for tax years after December 31, 2017 and before January 1, 2026.
The 20% deduction is allowed as a deduction reducing taxable income and not allowed in computing adjusted gross income. The deduction is limited to the greater of:
The 20% deduction is also limited to qualified non-personal service businesses income. Qualified non-personal service income is defined as the net amount of domestic qualified items of income, deduction and loss from trade or business other than health, law, consulting, athletics, financial services, brokerage services or any business where the main asset of the business is the reputation or skill of one or more of its employees or owners.
The above limitations do not apply for taxpayers with taxable income below the “threshold amount” ($315,000 for couples filing jointly, $157,000 for other individuals). The 20% deduction is phased in for individuals with taxable income exceeding the threshold amount, over the next $100,000 of taxable income for married individuals filing jointly, $50,000 for other individuals.
Basically, non-corporate taxpayers with taxable income below the $157,000 or $315,000 threshold may generally claim the full 20% deduction. Non-corporate taxpayers with taxable income above the threshold with non-personal service business income may claim the deduction, but may be limited by the wage and capital limit exception or may be completely phased out.
On December 20, the House approved H.R. 1, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, a sweeping tax reform measure. While much still needs to be determined for tax planning opportunities, we can look at the new income tax rates and how they compare to the pre-Act law.
It isn’t until we get to $387,000 where we see the 2018 tax surpass that of the 2017 tax rates. From this point on there is a window of taxpayers (Single filers) who make between $387,000 and $417,000 who, with no other changes, will see their taxes go up for 2018. For the remaining filers, it appears that for the next 8 years you should see a tax rate decrease.
It’s only November but there’s still time to make the filing of your 2017 tax return less taxing in 2018.
Withholding and Estimated Taxes. Make sure enough taxes are withheld to avoid surprises at tax time. Generally taxes are withheld from wages and other income such as pensions, bonuses, commissions and gambling winnings. Taxpayers with interest, dividends, capital gains, rents and royalties will usually make additional tax payments by making estimated tax payments. Self-employed individuals who do not pay tax through withholding will also pay estimated taxes.
Name changes. Taxpayers with name changes due to a marital status change should notify the Social Security Administration. SSA should also be notified if there’s a name change for a dependent. Notifying the SSA with name changes will ensure that the new name on the tax return matches the SSA records to avoid any delay in the processing.
Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers. Taxpayers who use Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers which have expired or are due to expire should apply to renew their ITIN to avoid processing delays next year. A Form W-7 must be completed as well as submission of original or certified copies of identity documents to renew an ITIN.
With the passing of another tax deadline, I thought it would be helpful to go over the consequences of not filing your tax return on time. If you have not filed your 2016 tax return, file it as soon as possible to minimize the penalties that you may owe.
There are three types of payments that could be assessed if you do not pay the tax owed on time. These are late filing penalties, late payment penalties, and interest.
If you owe taxes and don’t file your tax return or extension by the original due date, or if you filed an extension but fail to file your return by the extension due date you will be subject to late filing penalties.
The late filing penalty is 5% of the tax owed for every month your return is late, up to a maximum of 25%. If you fail to file your return for over 60 days after the due date or extended due date, the minimum penalty is the lesser of $205 (for 2016) or 100% of the unpaid tax due.
Late payment penalties could be assessed if you do not pay all of the taxes you owe. These apply if you do not pay all of the taxes owed by the original due date, regardless of whether or not you filed an extension. The late filing penalty is 0.5% of the tax owed for each month the tax remains unpaid, up to a maximum of 25%.
If both penalties apply to you the monthly penalty would be 5%, up to maximum penalty of 25%.
You will also be charged interest on any unpaid taxes starting the day after the return’s due date.
If you correctly expect to get a refund there is no penalty. You have three years to file from the due date or you will no longer be eligible for your refund.
Between Hurricane Harvey, the fast-approaching Hurricane Irma and the various wildfires ravaging the west, unfortunately natural disasters have been all too common this summer.
The last thing on anyone’s mind living in those areas is taxes, but nonetheless, there are various tax aspects of a disaster that people should be aware of. Fortunately, this is one area that the IRS makes rapid decisions to help those in need. Below is a sampling of the latest relief for victims of Hurricane Harvey from the IRS. Those impacted by disasters should check the IRS’s page frequently as other disasters may get similar relief from the IRS in the near future.
Finally, for those who want to help and support those victims of any natural disaster, be cautious of who you make donations to. In order for donations to be tax deductible, they must be made to recognized charitable organizations under the IRS. For instance, Go Fund Me donations are typically not deductible as they go to a person and not a charitable organization. If you are donating online, make sure you are on the legitimate website for the charity. Unfortunately, it is all too common for charity scams to pop up during disasters with fake websites that are very similar to legitimate ones. You should ensure that the organization clearly has their Employee Identification Number (EIN) posted and you can use that and their name to check their exempt status on the IRS website. If you are donating a significant sum, that little bit of homework on your part is well worth it.
In September of 2016, the IRS announced that it would start using private debt collectors to recover certain overdue federal tax debts in the spring of 2017. To implement this new program, the IRS contracted with four private collection agencies: CBE Group, Conserve, Performant, and Pioneer. In carrying out their collection efforts, these four companies are required to respect taxpayer rights and obey the consumer protection regulations established in the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.
How does this new program work?
Considering the continual mail and phone scams that keep emerging, the IRS Commissioner warned taxpayers to be alert for new scams related to this program. When a taxpayer’s account is transferred to a private debt collection agency, the IRS will give the taxpayer written notice of the transfer. In addition, the private collection agency will then send a second, separate letter to the taxpayer verifying this transfer. The private collection agency will not ask for payments to be made on a prepaid debit card or for checks to be made out to the collection agency. All checks should be made payable to the U.S. Treasury. The IRS emphasized that even with private debt collection, taxpayers should not be receiving phone calls from the IRS insisting on immediate payment. The IRS always mails multiple collection notices before making phone calls.
There are several types of accounts that the IRS will not transfer to private collection agencies. Some of these accounts include taxpayers who are deceased, in designated combat zones, victims of identity theft, or in presidentially declared disaster areas and requesting relief from collection. If a taxpayer does not want to work with a private collection agency appointed to his or her account, he or she must notify the private collection agency in writing. Also, the IRS urges taxpayers who are unsure if they have unpaid taxes due from a previous year to check their account balances on www.irs.gov/balancedue.
For more information on private debt collection visit the Private Debt Collection page on the IRS website.