January 1, 2018 not only brings a new year, it brings a new federal Tax Code. The just-passed Tax Cuts and Jobs Act makes sweeping changes to the nation’s tax laws. Many of these changes take effect January 1. Everyone – especially individuals and business owners – needs to review their tax strategies for the new law. The changes are huge. However, many changes are temporary, especially for individuals.

 

Individuals

Individuals who work for wages will see the impact of the new law on their paychecks. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act sets forth seven individual tax rates: 10, 12, 22, 24, 32, 35, and 37 percent. Before 2018, these rates were 10, 15, 25, 28, 33, 35, and 39.6 percent. Because the tax rates have changed for 2018, federal income tax withholding also must change.

The IRS has promised to publish new withholding tables as soon as possible. Most likely, the IRS will post the new withholding tables this month. After the IRS posts the new withholding tables, employers will likely have a transition period. Based on past changes to the tax laws, workers can generally expect to see the impact of the new law on their pay checks in February. Our office will keep you posted of developments.

The IRS also is expected to revise Form W-4. The new law repeals the deduction for personal exemptions after 2017.

 

Business entities 

Perhaps nowhere else does the new law turn traditional tax planning on its head more than choice of business entity. Business owners need to immediately start thinking about how they want to structure their business in 2018 and beyond.

For corporations, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act lowers the corporate tax rate to 21 percent effective January 1, 2018. This change is permanent.

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act also changes the tax treatment of pass-through businesses. These are partnerships, S corporations and others, which have been extremely popular choice of business entity in recent years. Very broadly, and the rules here are complex, the new law allows deductions for qualified business income of pass-throughs up to a certain percentage. This change is temporary and is scheduled to expire after 2025.

Business owners need to reevaluate their choice of entity. The corporate form may be more attractive for some business owners. The pass-through form may be less attractive. Adding complexity to the mix is the new law’s rules for certain businesses, such as law firms, and other professions. Please contact our office and we can discuss in detail these important changes.

 

Deductions and credits

Individuals who itemized deductions in past years may find that may no longer be the case under the new law. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act temporarily increases the standard deduction (up to $24,000 for married couples filing a joint return and $12,000 for single individuals). The new law also places limits on the deduction for state and local taxes. Individuals may deduct state and local income, sales, property taxes up to $10,000. Gone are the days of an unlimited deduction for state and local taxes. This change is effective for 2018 and is scheduled to expire after 2025. Other popular deductions also are changed, including the medical expense deduction and the moving expense deduction.

Although the new law repeals the deduction for personal exemptions, it does enhance the child tax credit. The child tax credit increases from $1,000 to $2,000. The refundable portion also increases. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act also creates a $500 credit for non-child dependents. These enhancements are temporary, scheduled to expire after 2025.

 

Alternative Minimum Tax

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act does not repeal the alternative minimum tax (AMT) for individuals. Early on, AMT repeal seemed almost certain. However, Congress needed to keep the AMT because it raises significant revenues. The new law does increase the AMT exemption amounts.

 

What’s not in the new law?

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act does not change the tax rates for capital gains and dividends. Also left unchanged are the many reporting and disclosure requirements under the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA).

The new law also does not repeal the Affordable Care Act’s taxes. The net investment income (NII) tax and the additional Medicare tax are left unchanged. This is also true for the ACA’s medical device tax, health insurance provider fee and excise tax on high-dollar health insurance plans. The new law also does not repeal the ACA’s shared responsibility payment for employers (it does effectively repeal the individual shared responsibility requirement).

 

IRS Guidance

Keep in mind that the new law leaves a lot of the details to the Treasury Department and the IRS to flesh-out. Guidance from the IRS may take some time. As discussed, payroll guidance seems to be the first item on the agency’s agenda. Guidance for the new tax treatment of pass-throughs also is likely to be high on its agenda. Our office will keep you posted of developments.