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To our Clients and Friends,

Just as the daylight hours are getting shorter, so is the time for fine tuning any last-minute strategies to lower your 2018 tax bill.

Unlike recent years, in which the tax rules have been fairly stable, 2018 brings extensive changes as a result of a large tax overhaul that passed Congress last December. These changes will affect how your 2018 taxes will be calculated. Here's a quick recap of the new rules, followed by some thoughts on steps we can take to reduce your bill.


New Tax Rules for 2018

A centerpiece of last year's legislation is the reduction in income tax rates. While the new law keeps the same number of tax brackets for individuals as there were in 2017, many tax rates are two to three percentage points lower than prior years. The top rate is reduced from 39.6 percent to 37 percent and kicks in at higher taxable income levels - $600,000 of taxable income for joint filers, $300,000 for married taxpayers filing separately, and $500,000 for all other individual taxpayers.

The 2018 tax rates are 10%, 12%, 22%, 24%, 32%, 35%, and 37%, compared with the 2017 tax rates of 10%, 15%, 25%, 28%, 33%, 35%, and 39.6%. However, while applicable tax rates at any given level of income have generally gone down by two to three points, some individuals will see an increase in taxes due to the tax brackets at which the rates apply. For example, the tax rate for single taxpayers with taxable income between $200,000 and $400,000 goes from 33 percent to 35 percent (head of household filers face a similar jump, but at a slightly different break point). However, high-income taxpayers are also subject to a 3.8 percent net investment income tax and/or the 0.9 percent Medicare surtax. There were no changes made to these taxes in last year's tax overhaul. In addition, the maximum tax rates on net capital gain and qualified dividends are the same in 2018 as they were in 2017.

For 2018 individual tax returns, two of the most significant changes are the repeal of the personal exemption deductions and the increase in the standard deduction amounts. The standard deduction amounts are almost twice what they were in 2017: $24,000 for joint filers and surviving spouses, $18,000 for heads of household, and $12,000 for single individuals and those who are married but filing separately. Additional amounts for the elderly and blind are also available. Because the standard deduction is generally claimed only when it exceeds available itemized deductions, the increase in the standard deduction will not benefit you if you itemize deductions. The repeal of the personal exemption deductions, by contrast, will affect you whether you itemize or not.

To compensate for the repealed exemptions for dependents, the new law increased the child tax credit from the 2017 amount of $1,000 (which was fully refundable) to $2,000 ($1,400 is refundable). The modified adjusted gross income threshold where the credit phases out has been increased to $400,000 for joint filers and $200,000 for all others (up from $230,000 and $115,000, respectively). The maximum age for a child eligible for the credit remains 16 (at the end of the tax year). In addition, a $500 nonrefundable tax credit for dependent children over age 16 and all other dependents is also available beginning in 2018. Most families with non-child dependents will lose some ground here, as the $500 credit will generally be less valuable than the $4,150 exemption deduction it replaces.


Sincerely,

Team Tax Guru


Tax Year 2018-19