Tax Reform Alerts

Congress has passed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, the largest attempt at tax reform in over 30 years. While most individuals and businesses won’t see changes this year, it’s not too early to start preparing for 2018. Our Tax Reform Alerts will keep you up to date as the new regulations unfold throughout the year, so you can be well informed and ready for the new regulations.
Check back here often to keep up with daily tax reform news and advice on how to make the most of your taxes this year. 

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February 22, 2018 – Interest on Home Equity Loans Often Still Deductible Under New Law

WASHINGTON – The Internal Revenue Service today advised taxpayers that in many cases they can continue to deduct interest paid on home equity loans.

Responding to many questions received from taxpayers and tax professionals, the IRS said that despite newly-enacted restrictions on home mortgages, taxpayers can often still deduct interest on a home equity loan, home equity line of credit (HELOC) or second mortgage, regardless of how the loan is labelled. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, enacted Dec. 22, suspends from 2018 until 2026 the deduction for interest paid on home equity loans and lines of credit, unless they are used to buy, build or substantially improve the taxpayer’s home that secures the loan.

Under the new law, for example, interest on a home equity loan used to build an addition to an existing home is typically deductible, while interest on the same loan used to pay personal living expenses, such as credit card debts, is not. As under prior law, the loan must be secured by the taxpayer’s main home or second home (known as a qualified residence), not exceed the cost of the home and meet other requirements.

New dollar limit on total qualified residence loan balance

For anyone considering taking out a mortgage, the new law imposes a lower dollar limit on mortgages qualifying for the home mortgage interest deduction. Beginning in 2018, taxpayers may only deduct interest on $750,000 of qualified residence loans. The limit is $375,000 for a married taxpayer filing a separate return. These are down from the prior limits of $1 million, or $500,000 for a married taxpayer filing a separate return.  The limits apply to the combined amount of loans used to buy, build or substantially improve the taxpayer’s main home and second home.

The following examples illustrate these points.

Example 1:  In January 2018, a taxpayer takes out a $500,000 mortgage to purchase a main home with a fair market value of $800,000.  In February 2018, the taxpayer takes out a $250,000 home equity loan to put an addition on the main home. Both loans are secured by the main home and the total does not exceed the cost of the home. Because the total amount of both loans does not exceed $750,000, all of the interest paid on the loans is deductible. However, if the taxpayer used the home equity loan proceeds for personal expenses, such as paying off student loans and credit cards, then the interest on the home equity loan would not be deductible.

Example 2:  In January 2018, a taxpayer takes out a $500,000 mortgage to purchase a main home.  The loan is secured by the main home. In February 2018, the taxpayer takes out a $250,000 loan to purchase a vacation home. The loan is secured by the vacation home.  Because the total amount of both mortgages does not exceed $750,000, all of the interest paid on both mortgages is deductible. However, if the taxpayer took out a $250,000 home equity loan on the main home to purchase the vacation home, then the interest on the home equity loan would not be deductible.

Example 3:  In January 2018, a taxpayer takes out a $500,000 mortgage to purchase a main home.  The loan is secured by the main home. In February 2018, the taxpayer takes out a $500,000 loan to purchase a vacation home. The loan is secured by the vacation home.  Because the total amount of both mortgages exceeds $750,000, not all of the interest paid on the mortgages is deductible. A percentage of the total interest paid is deductible (see Publication 936).

For more information about the new tax law, visit the Tax Reform page on IRS.gov.

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January 11, 2018 – New Income Tax Withholding Tables Could Mean More Money in Your Paycheck

WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service recently released updates to income-tax withholding tables for 2018, reflecting changes made by the tax reform legislation enacted at the end of 2017. This is the first in a series of steps that IRS will take to help improve the accuracy of withholding following major changes made by the new tax law.

The updated withholding information shows the new rates for employers to use during 2018. Employers should begin using the 2018 withholding tables as soon as possible, but not later than Feb. 15, 2018. They should continue to use the 2017 withholding tables until implementing the 2018 withholding tables.

Many employees will begin to see increases in their paychecks to reflect the new law in February. The time it will take for employees to see the changes in their paychecks will vary depending on how quickly the new tables are implemented by their employers and how often they are paid — generally weekly, biweekly or monthly.

The new withholding tables are designed to work with the Forms W-4 that workers have already filed with their employers to claim withholding allowances. This will minimize burden on taxpayers and employers. Employees do not have to do anything at this time.

The new law makes a number of changes for 2018 that affect individual taxpayers. The new tables reflect the increase in the standard deduction, repeal of personal exemptions and changes in tax rates and brackets. The revisions are also aimed at avoiding over- and under-withholding taxes as much as possible.

The IRS is also working on revising the Form W-4. Form W-4 and a revised calculator will reflect additional changes in the new law, such as changes in available itemized deductions, increases in the child tax credit, the new dependent credit and repeal of dependent exemptions.

A copy of the new withholding table is available at IRS.gov Notice 1036.

For more information, read  Withholding Tables Frequently Asked Questions

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December 29, 2017 – Prepay Property Taxes?

One of the things the new Tax Cuts and Jobs Act will do is reduce deductions for state and local taxes to $10,000 in 2018. While the law specifically says you can’t prepay income taxes for the new year, it left an opening to prepay property taxes. But… the IRS wants you to know it’s only available in certain situations.

According to the IRS on Wednesday, “The IRS has received a number of questions from the tax community concerning the deductibility of prepaid real property taxes. In general, whether a taxpayer is allowed a deduction for the prepayment of state or local real property taxes in 2017 depends on whether the taxpayer makes the payment in 2017 and the real property taxes are assessed prior to 2018.”

They go on to say, “Prepayment of anticipated real property taxes that have not been assessed prior to 2018 are not deductible in 2017.  State or local law determines whether and when a property tax is assessed, which is generally when the taxpayer becomes liable for the property tax imposed.”

If you are thinking about prepaying your property taxes in the next couple of days, make sure you are aware of how your taxes have been assessed and what your local or state laws allow.