3 big TCJA changes affecting 2018 individual tax returns and beyond

2018 income tax return

When you file your 2018 income tax return, you’ll likely find that some big tax law changes affect you — besides the much-discussed tax rate cuts and reduced itemized deductions. For 2018 through 2025, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) makes significant changes to personal exemptions, standard deductions and the child credit. The degree to which these changes will affect you depends on whether you have dependents and, if so, how many. It also depends on whether you typically itemize deductions.

1. No more personal exemptions

For 2017, taxpayers could claim a personal exemption of $4,050 each for themselves, their spouses and any dependents. For families with children and/or other dependents, such as elderly parents, these exemptions could really add up.

For 2018 through 2025, the TCJA suspends personal exemptions. This will substantially increase taxable income for large families. However, enhancements to the standard deduction and child credit, combined with lower tax rates and other changes, might mitigate this increase.

2. Nearly doubled standard deduction

Taxpayers can choose to itemize certain deductions or take the standard deduction based on their filing status. Itemizing deductions when the total will be larger than the standard deduction saves tax, but it makes filing more complicated.

For 2017, the standard deductions were $6,350 for singles and separate filers, $9,350 for head of household filers, and $12,700 for married couples filing jointly.

The TCJA nearly doubles the standard deductions for 2018 to $12,000 for singles and separate filers, $18,000 for heads of households, and $24,000 for joint filers. For 2019, they’re $12,200, $18,350 and $24,400, respectively. (These amounts will continue to be adjusted for inflation annually through 2025.)

For some taxpayers, the increased standard deduction could compensate for the elimination of the exemptions, and perhaps provide some additional tax savings. But for those with many dependents or who itemize deductions, these changes might result in a higher tax bill — depending in part on the extent to which they can benefit from enhancements to the child credit.

3. Enhanced child credit

Credits can be more powerful than exemptions and deductions because they reduce taxes dollar-for-dollar, rather than just reducing the amount of income subject to tax. For 2018 through 2025, the TCJA doubles the child credit to $2,000 per child under age 17.

The TCJA also makes the child credit available to more families. For 2018 through 2025, the credit doesn’t begin to phase out until adjusted gross income exceeds $400,000 for joint filers or $200,000 for all other filers, compared with the 2017 phaseout thresholds of $110,000 and $75,000, respectively.

The TCJA also includes, for 2018 through 2025, a $500 credit for qualifying dependents other than qualifying children.

Maximize your tax savings

These are just some of the TCJA changes that may affect you when you file your 2018 tax return and for the next several years. We can help ensure you claim all of the breaks available to you on your 2018 return and implement TCJA-smart tax-saving strategies for 2019.

About the author

Brady is the owner of Ramsay & Associates. He specializes in financial statement preparation and personal, fiduciary and corporate tax and accounting.

His professional experience includes seven years' experience for local and national CPA firms before joining Ramsay & Associates in 2006.

He has a Bachelor of Accounting degree from the University of Minnesota Duluth. He is a Certified Public Accountant, a member of the Minnesota Society of CPA's, an Eagle Scout, as well as an active volunteer in the community.

Small business owners: A SEP may give you one last 2017 tax and retirement saving opportunity

Simplified Employee Pension (SEP)

Are you a high-income small-business owner who doesn’t currently have a tax-advantaged retirement plan set up for yourself? A Simplified Employee Pension (SEP) may be just what you need, and now may be a great time to establish one. A SEP has high contribution limits and is simple to set up. Best of all, there’s still time to establish a SEP for 2017 and make contributions to it that you can deduct on your 2017 income tax return.

2018 deadlines for 2017

A SEP can be set up as late as the due date (including extensions) of your income tax return for the tax year for which the SEP is to first apply. That means you can establish a SEP for 2017 in 2018 as long as you do it before your 2017 return filing deadline. You have until the same deadline to make 2017 contributions and still claim a potentially hefty deduction on your 2017 return.
Generally, other types of retirement plans would have to have been established by December 31, 2017, in order for 2017 contributions to be made (though many of these plans do allow 2017 contributions to be made in 2018).

High contribution limits

Contributions to SEPs are discretionary. You can decide how much to contribute each year. But be aware that, if your business has employees other than yourself: 1) Contributions must be made for all eligible employees using the same percentage of compensation as for yourself, and 2) employee accounts are immediately 100% vested. The contributions go into SEP-IRAs established for each eligible employee.
For 2017, the maximum contribution that can be made to a SEP-IRA is 25% of compensation (or 20% of self-employed income net of the self-employment tax deduction) of up to $270,000, subject to a contribution cap of $54,000. (The 2018 limits are $275,000 and $55,000, respectively.)

Simple to set up

A SEP is established by completing and signing the very simple Form 5305-SEP (“Simplified Employee Pension — Individual Retirement Accounts Contribution Agreement”). Form 5305-SEP is not filed with the IRS, but it should be maintained as part of the business’s permanent tax records. A copy of Form 5305-SEP must be given to each employee covered by the SEP, along with a disclosure statement.
Additional rules and limits do apply to SEPs, but they’re generally much less onerous than those for other retirement plans. Contact us to learn more about SEPs and how they might reduce your tax bill for 2017 and beyond.

About the author

Brady is the owner of Ramsay & Associates. He specializes in financial statement preparation and personal, fiduciary and corporate tax and accounting.

His professional experience includes seven years' experience for local and national CPA firms before joining Ramsay & Associates in 2006.

He has a Bachelor of Accounting degree from the University of Minnesota Duluth. He is a Certified Public Accountant, a member of the Minnesota Society of CPA's, an Eagle Scout, as well as an active volunteer in the community.

Can you deduct home office expenses?

home office deduction

Working from home has become commonplace. But just because you have a home office space doesn’t mean you can deduct expenses associated with it. And for 2018, even fewer taxpayers will be eligible for a home office deduction.Working from home has become commonplace. But just because you have a home office space doesn’t mean you can deduct expenses associated with it. And for 2018, even fewer taxpayers will be eligible for a home office deduction.

Changes under the TCJA

For employees, home office expenses are a miscellaneous itemized deduction. For 2017, this means you’ll enjoy a tax benefit only if these expenses plus your other miscellaneous itemized expenses (such as unreimbursed work-related travel, certain professional fees and investment expenses) exceed 2% of your adjusted gross income.

For 2018 through 2025, this means that, if you’re an employee, you won’t be able to deduct any home office expenses. Why? The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) suspends miscellaneous itemized deductions subject to the 2% floor for this period.If, however, you’re self-employed, you can deduct eligible home office expenses against your self-employment income. Therefore, the deduction will still be available to you for 2018 through 2025.

Other eligibility requirements

If you’re an employee, your use of your home office must be for your employer’s convenience, not just your own. If you’re self-employed, generally your home office must be your principal place of business, though there are exceptions.

Whether you’re an employee or self-employed, the space must be used regularly (not just occasionally) and exclusively for business purposes. If, for example, your home office is also a guest bedroom or your children do their homework there, you can’t deduct the expenses associated with that space.

2 deduction options

If you’re eligible, the home office deduction can be a valuable tax break. You have two options for the deduction.

  1. Deduct a portion of your mortgage interest, property taxes, insurance, utilities and certain other expenses, as well as the depreciation allocable to the office space. This requires calculating, allocating and substantiating actual expenses.
  2. Take the “safe harbor” deduction. Only one simple calculation is necessary: $5 × the number of square feet of the office space. The safe harbor deduction is capped at $1,500 per year, based on a maximum of 300 square feet.

More rules and limits

Be aware that we’ve covered only a few of the rules and limits here. If you think you may be eligible for the home office deduction on your 2017 return or would like to know if there’s anything additional you need to do to be eligible on your 2018 return, contact us.

About the author

Brady is the owner of Ramsay & Associates. He specializes in financial statement preparation and personal, fiduciary and corporate tax and accounting.

His professional experience includes seven years' experience for local and national CPA firms before joining Ramsay & Associates in 2006.

He has a Bachelor of Accounting degree from the University of Minnesota Duluth. He is a Certified Public Accountant, a member of the Minnesota Society of CPA's, an Eagle Scout, as well as an active volunteer in the community.

Tax-Related Identity Theft: What You Need to Know

Identity theft continues to be a growing problem, with instances of tax-related identity theft increasing every year. This can be a frustrating, time-consuming issue for taxpayers. Here are some things you need to know about tax-related identity theft.

Tax-Related Identity Theft - Ramsay & Associates
What is Tax-Related Identity Theft?

Tax-related identify theft occurs when a social security number is stolen and used to file a tax return for a fraudulent refund. Many victims of tax-related identity theft are unaware that it has occurred until they file a return and discover that one has already been filed under their social security number. In other cases, taxpayers may receive a letter from the IRS stating that they have identified a suspicious return.

For 2017, the IRS, state agencies, and the tax industry enacted new safeguards and actions to combat tax-related identity theft.

Warning Signs

It is important to know the warning signs of possible tax-related identity theft. This is especially important if the IRS or your tax professional contact you regarding:

  • Use of your social security number for more than one return
  • Additional tax owed or a refund offset, as well as collection actions taken against you, for a year that you did not file a tax return
  • IRS records that indicate wages received or other income from an unknown employer

If You Become a Victim

The Federal Trade Commission recommends these steps if you become a victim of identity theft:

  • File a complaint with the FTC at www.identitytheft.gov
  • Contact one of the three major credit bureaus to place a “fraud alert” on your credit record
  • In addition, contact your financial institutions and close any financial or credit accounts opened without your permission or tampered with by identity thieves

If you know or suspect that you are a victim of tax-related identity theft, the IRS recommends that you:

  • Respond immediately to any IRS notices by calling the number provided
  • Complete IRS Form 14039, Identity Theft Affidavit
  • File your tax return and pay any taxes that you owe; you may also need to mail paper tax returns

Ways to Protect Yourself

  • Always use security software with firewall and anti-virus protections in addition to using strong passwords
  • Learn to recognize and avoid phishing or suspicious emails, threatening phone calls or text messages from thieves posing as legitimate organizations, such as credit card companies, financial institutions, and the IRS
  • Do not follow links or download attachments from suspicious or unknown email addresses
  • Protect your personal data by securing your tax records, social security number, and credit card and banking information
  • Do not carry your social security card with you
  • Finally, remember that the IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers to obtain personal or financial information

Find more information from the IRS Taxpayer Guide to Identity Theft.

Minnesota Department of Revenue

With an increase in scams and stolen personal information, the Minnesota Department of Revenue has stated that it is taking the time necessary to ensure that the correct refund goes to the correct person. The department reviews every return to verify information provided, and therefore, the length of time to process that return may vary from year to year.

Learn more from the Minnesota Department of Revenue. For Wisconsin, visit the website of the State of Wisconsin Department of Revenue.

 

Tax-related identity theft may also occur when thieves use a stolen Employee Identification Number from a business to create fraudulent W-2s. The accounting and tax professionals at Ramsay & Associates can assist taxpayers with individual and business tax-related identity theft – both with taking preventive actions and correcting any issues after identity theft occurs. Contact us for more information or to schedule an appointment.

About the author

Brady is the owner of Ramsay & Associates. He specializes in financial statement preparation and personal, fiduciary and corporate tax and accounting.

His professional experience includes seven years' experience for local and national CPA firms before joining Ramsay & Associates in 2006.

He has a Bachelor of Accounting degree from the University of Minnesota Duluth. He is a Certified Public Accountant, a member of the Minnesota Society of CPA's, an Eagle Scout, as well as an active volunteer in the community.

2016 Income Tax Returns Information

2016 Income Tax Returns - Ramsay & AssociatesThe calendar has turned to 2017. It’s time to start preparing for 2016 income tax returns if you haven’t already done so. We’ve put together some helpful information and dates to keep in mind as you prepare your return.

Tax Season Begins

Monday, January 23, 2017 is the official start of tax season, when the IRS will begin accepting electronic returns. Of the 153 million tax returns expected to be filed this year, the IRS estimates that four of five will be prepared electronically, using tax preparation software. The IRS will begin processing paper returns that day as well.

Tax Documents Mailing Deadlines

Tuesday, January 31, 2017 is the mailing deadline for most important tax documents, including Forms W-2 and 1099 and bank interest or retirement account distribution documents. The mailing deadline for Forms 1099-B (sales of stocks, bonds, or mutual funds), 1099-S (real estate transactions) and 1099-MISC is Wednesday, February 15, 2017.

Tax Return Deadline

Tuesday, April 18, 2017 is the deadline to submit your 2016 tax return or file an extension. The traditional tax deadline of April 15 falls on a Saturday this year. Typically, the deadline would be extended to the first Monday following the 15th; however, Monday, April 17 is Emancipation Day, a legal holiday in Washington, D.C., and federal offices will be closed.

Extended Tax Deadline

Monday, October 16, 2017 is the extended tax deadline for individual returns. Anyone can file for a six-month extension, which gives you additional time to file your return, but does not give you additional time to pay if you owe a balance. Form 4868, the application for an extension, has a submission deadline of April 17.

Refunds

According to the IRS, the fastest and safest way to file and receive a refund is to choose e-file and direct deposit. Typically, the IRS process nine out of 10 refunds in fewer than 21 days. In 2017, however, a new law goes into effect requiring the IRS to hold refunds until at least February 15 on tax returns claiming the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) or the Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC). The IRS cautions taxpayers that these refunds most likely will not arrive in bank accounts until the week of February 27.

The IRS offers two helpful tools for taxpayers to check the status of their refund: Where’s My Refund? via irs.gov, and the IRS2Go phone app.

Ramsay & Associates offers both personal and business tax preparation and planning services. We pride ourselves on our attention to detail and expert knowledge. Please contact us if you would like more information or to schedule an appointment. Call us at 651.429.9111.

About the author

Brady is the owner of Ramsay & Associates. He specializes in financial statement preparation and personal, fiduciary and corporate tax and accounting.

His professional experience includes seven years' experience for local and national CPA firms before joining Ramsay & Associates in 2006.

He has a Bachelor of Accounting degree from the University of Minnesota Duluth. He is a Certified Public Accountant, a member of the Minnesota Society of CPA's, an Eagle Scout, as well as an active volunteer in the community.