What impact will new legislation have on our taxes for 2018?
The Pennsylvania Institute of CPAs recommends that we taxpayers take the following defensive steps: Defer income this year and give to charity; sell off losing investments or depreciated securities; and pay 2017 state and local tax liabilities in full by Dec. 31. That way, 100 percent of those taxes are deductible on federal tax returns for this year.
For example, if we pay only 90 percent of that 2017 tax owed, the remaining 10 percent paid in 2018 might not be deductible next year.
The House version allows deduction of property taxes up to $10,000; the Senate has called for eliminating all deductions for state and local taxes. The Senate will likely add a capped amount similar to the House bill, and an allowance likely will be made for income tax in the cap, Tom Carpenter, managing director with Wexler Walker, said Thursday at the CFA Institute's annual High Net Worth and Family Wealth Conference. Carpenter expects a tax bill to pass.
One amendment, sponsored by Sens. Marco Rubio and Mike Lee, proposed making a child-care tax credit of $2,000 fully refundable. Their amendment would be paid for by increasing the corporate tax rate to 22 percent. But House Republicans "have already signaled that 22 percent is a non-starter, and most Senate Republicans will vote against it," Carpenter said.
For tax reform to become law, House and Senate versions will have to be reconciled in committee. If you like what the Senate has planned, or hate it, contact your senators to express how you feel: To reach them, call Pennsylvania U.S. Sen. Bob Casey at 202-224-6324 and Sen. Pat Toomey at 202-224-4254. Reach New Jersey U.S. Sen. Cory Booker at 202-224-3224 and Sen. Bob Menendez at 202-224-4744.
PICPA.org, the Pennsylvania Institute of CPAs website, offers sample letters you can download to send to your lawmakers.
The PICPA also pointed us to a handy calculator — courtesy of MarketWatch — that allows anyone to figure out next year's tax bill, even taking itemized deductions into consideration.
Though the calculator isn't perfect — it doesn't include all provisions of the tax proposals — it does offer a decent comparison. Here's the link: https://www.marketwatch.com/story/the-new-trump-tax-calculator-what-do-you-owe-2017-10-26.
What about a new tax on investors? Buried in the details is a quiet levy on stock portfolios known as "FIFO," or first-in-first-out. We heard about it courtesy of Parametric Portfolios investment shop, which published a comprehensive paper on FIFO (https://www.parametricportfolio.com/tax-reform-bill).
FIFO takes away some of investors' flexibility — instead of having the option of choosing the most favorable tax lot to sell, investors will need to sell the oldest tax lot of shares first. Mutual-fund companies are excluded from this new tax; only individual investors are affected. It's one unintended consequence of the tax bill, and it makes investing that much more complicated. Dumb idea!
Small businesses are also on the fence about the various reform proposals. Though large corporations will still be able to deduct state and local taxes on profits, owners of small pass-through businesses will not.
Moreover, in the House plan, 86 percent of small businesses get just a tiny fraction of the tax cut promised to corporations. To pay for these, the plan eliminates or caps deductions that small-business owners use, such as those for tax preparation, state and local taxes, and mortgage interest.
Small businesses organized as pass-through entities "will continue to sink time and money into complying with a byzantine and bewildering tax code, further tilting the playing field in favor of large corporations that can afford armies of accountants to search out every loophole and advantage," the group Businesses for Responsible Tax Reform said in a statement.
Ron Weiner, a tax accountant with Drucker Scaccetti in Center City, said the tax bill "won't give any meaningful benefits to the vast majority of individual taxpayers, will increase taxes for the middle class, mostly benefit the nation's wealthiest taxpayers, worsen economic inequality without significantly improving the economy, lead to huge spending cuts for Medicare and other programs that support tens of millions of Americans, and leave no room in the budget for funding the major infrastructure improvements."