Tag: tax reform

Understanding the Mortgage Interest Deduction after the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act

Understanding the Mortgage Interest Deduction after the Tax Cuts and Jobs ActThe TCJA modified the mortgage interest deduction for homeowners. Here’s what you need to know about the changes.

Home ownership has long been the American dream.  Mortgage loans have made it possible for the majority of American homeowners to afford buying a home. The government has encouraged home-ownership by offering tax breaks linked to mortgages, but recent changes in tax law changes how much a typical homeowner-taxpayer will benefit from the deductions. In 2018, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) changed the rules on how much mortgage interest can be deducted from taxable income.

Mortgage limits

Mortgage interest was one of the biggest deductions that tax law allowed. Unlike interest in borrowing for personal expenses, mortgage interest on a taxpayer’s residence can be deducted as an itemized deduction.

TCJA modified the mortgage interest deduction in several ways. The change that garnered the most attention was the reduction in the amount of interest that you’re allowed to deduct. Going forward, taxpayers will only be able to deduct interest on up to $750,000 of mortgage debt, down from $1 million under prior law.

The old $1 million mortgage limit is grandfathered in for existing mortgages, but if a taxpayer obtains a new mortgage post-TCJA, they will be subject to the lower limit. Taxpayers obtaining new mortgages exceeding $750,000are still eligible for a mortgage deduction, however, it will only be on the portion of interest attributable to the first $750,000 borrowing.

Home equity debt

Under old law, taxpayers could deduct interest on up to $100,000 of home equity debt. This allowed taxpayers to do whatever they wanted with the money, including paying down other types of debt (credit card, student loan, auto loans, etc.) or spending on things unrelated to their residence while still able to deduct the interest.

Tax reform under TCJA partially took away the ability to deduct interest on home equity debt. The interest is still tax deductible if the loan is used to buy, build, or improve your home and doesn’t bring the total outstanding mortgage above the new $750,000 limit. If the home equity debt was used for other purposes, it is no longer deductible. Unlike other changes, existing home equity loans were not grandfathered in.

Refinancing

It is important for taxpayers to understand how refinancing an existing mortgage will work for income tax purposes. When a taxpayer takes a mortgage to buy or build a home, it counts as home acquisition debt and is capped at $750,000. A mortgage for other purposes is treated as a home equity debt and now receives no interest deduction. When a taxpayer refinances a mortgage they originally counted as home acquisition debt, the refinanced mortgage will also count as home acquisition debt as long as it is in the same amount. If there is excess borrowed in the refinancing, the extra portion of cash pulled out will be treated as home equity debt, so that portion of the interest you pay won’t be deductible unless it is used to improve the home.

Key takeaways

  1. Interest payments are deductible on mortgage debt up to $750,000 (formerly $1 million).
  2. Deduction for other home equity debt (HELOCs and second mortgages eliminated (formerly $100,000).

With Simon Filip, the Real Estate Tax Guy, on your side, you can focus on your real estate investments while he and his team take care of your accounting and taxes. Contact him at [email protected] or 201.655.7411 today.

Qualified Opportunity Zones under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act

QO Zones offer incentives for investment in low income communities

Qualified Opportunity Zones under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act

The Qualified Opportunity Zone Program (“QO Program”) enacted as part of The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act is a new incentive designed to promote investment in low-income communities by allowing taxpayers to defer, reduce, and potentially exclude gain recognition on certain investments made in Qualified Opportunity Zones (“QO Zones”).

Qualified Opportunity Funds (“QO Funds”)

Investors wishing to utilize the Opportunity Zone Program must invest their gain in a QO Fund. In order to meet the criteria of a QO Fund, 90% of the assets held by the vehicle on the last day of the fund’s taxable year (and the last day of the first six month period of the fund’s taxable year) must be qualified opportunity zone property (“QOZ Property”) within a QO Zone acquired after December 1, 2017.

The Act requires the Treasury Secretary to establish guidance for the certification process of QO Funds, which will likely be administered by the Department of Treasury’s Community Development Financial Institutions Fund (“CDFI Fund”).

What are QO Zones?

The QO Program requires a QO Fund to make direct or indirect investments in a QO Zone. Qualified Opportunity Zones (QO Zones) are defined as certain low-income communities that are experiencing uneven economic development, resulting in pockets of disinvestment and unemployment.

In New Jersey, Governor Murphy nominated 169 low-income tracts in 20 counties for designations a QO Zones. On April 9th, the U.S. Department of Treasury approved Governor Murphy’s designation of such tracts as QO Zones.

Tax Benefits of Investing in Opportunity Zones

The QO Program offers three tax benefits for investing in low-income communities through a QO Fund:

  1. A temporary deferral of inclusion in taxable income for capital gains reinvested in an Opportunity Fund. The deferred gain must be recognized on the earlier of the dates on which the opportunity zone investment is disposed of or December 31, 2026.
  2. A step-up in basis for capital gains reinvested in an Opportunity Fund. The basis is increased by 10% of the investment in the Opportunity Fund is held by the taxpayer for at least 5 years and an additional 5% is held for at least 7 years, thereby excluding up to 15% of the original gain from taxation.
  3. A permanent exclusion from taxable income of capital gains from the sale or exchange of an investment in an Opportunity Fund if the investment is held at least 10 years. This exclusion only applies to gains accrued after an investment in an Opportunity Fund.

Other Highlights

Some important items to note under the QO Program:

  1. Gains must be reinvested within 180 days in order to qualify for tax deferral under the QO Program.
  2. There is no “like-kind” requirement as part of the program. An investor could sell a mutual fund and reinvest gains into a QO Fund that will develop real estate in one of the selected census tracts.
  3. The program is still being formulated. The next step is for the Treasury Department to promulgate regulations for the establishment of Opportunity Funds, the vehicles which QO Zones investments will be made.

We’ve got your back

Like many other aspects of the new tax law, QO Zones can get complicated. With Simon Filip, the Real Estate Tax Guy, on your side, you can focus on your real estate investments while he and his team take care of your accounting and taxes. Contact him at [email protected] or 201.655.7411 today.

2018 Pension Plan Limitations Not Affected by Tax Cuts and Jobs Act

2018 Pension Plan Limitations Not Affected by Tax Cuts and Jobs Act

The Internal Revenue Service announced that the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 does not affect the tax year 2018 dollar limitations for retirement plans announced in IR 2017-177 and detailed in Notice 2017-64.

The tax law provides dollar limitations on benefits and contributions under qualified retirement plans, and it requires the Treasury Department to annually adjust these limits for cost of living increases. Those adjustments are to be made using procedures that are similar to those used to adjust benefit amounts under the Social Security Act.

As the recently enacted tax legislation made no changes to the section of the tax law limiting benefits and contributions for retirement plans, the qualified retirement plan limitations for tax year 2018 previously announced in the news release and detailed in guidance remain unchanged. This is good news for individuals contributing to their qualified retirement plans.

Cost of living adjustments

The tax law also specifies that contribution limits for IRAs, as well as the income thresholds related to IRAs and the saver’s credit, are to be adjusted for changes in the cost of living using procedures that are used to make cost-of-living adjustments that apply to many of the basic income tax parameters.

Although the new law made changes to how these cost of living adjustments are made, after taking the applicable rounding rules into account, the amounts for 2018 in the news release and the guidance remain unchanged.

We’ve got your back on the new tax code

The new tax code is complex and every taxpayer’s situation is different – so don’t go it alone! Check out the New Tax Law Explained! For Individuals page, then contact KRS managing partner Maria Rollins at [email protected] or 201.655.7411 to discuss your situation.

Repeal of Miscellaneous Itemized Deductions – What Does This Mean for Employee Business Expenses?

Repeal of Miscellaneous Itemized Deductions – What Does This Mean for Employee Business Expenses?Before the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, individuals who itemized their deductions could deduct certain miscellaneous itemized deductions to the extent that those deductions exceed 2% of their adjusted gross income (AGI). These deductions included unreimbursed employee business expenses, such as  unreimbursed transportation, travel, business meals and entertainment, subscriptions to professional journals, union and professional dues, and professional uniforms.

Under the new law, miscellaneous itemized deductions are disallowed after December 31, 2017.

So what does this mean for those employees who incur these costs in performing services for their employer?

They may be out of luck.  Let’s say an employee earns $60,000 in wages and incurs $2,500 in business related expenses such as travel, insurance, and subscriptions. The employee is taxed on the full $60,000 and the $2,500 out of pocket expense is not deductible.

Reimbursement under an accountable plan

Employers who don’t reimburse employees for legitimate business expenses under an accountable plan should consider the effects of this practice. Employers can generally provide employees with the same real compensation and a lower taxable income if they provide some of the compensation in the form of reimbursement of business expenses under an accountable plan. So, if the employee in the example above was paid $2,500 less (making his earnings $57,500), but was separately reimbursed for his $2,500 of business expenses under an accountable plan, he would have a lower taxable income with the same actual compensation because his $2,500 of reimbursement wouldn’t be included in income.

If you incur significant employee business expenses, talk to your employer about establishing an accountable plan. Doing so can save the employee taxes with little impact to the employer.

We’ve got your back

At KRS, we’ve been tracking tax reform legislation closely and are ready to assist you in your tax planning and preparation now that the Tax Cut and Jobs Act is finally signed into law. Don’t lose sleep wondering what impact the new laws will have on you, your family, or your business. Check out the New Tax Law Explained! For Individuals page and then contact me at 201.655.7411 or [email protected].

 

2017 Tax Legislation: What Individual Taxpayers Need to Know

2017 Tax Legislation: What Individual Taxpayers Need to KnowThe new Tax Cuts and Jobs Act amends the Internal Revenue Code (IRC) to reduce tax rates and modify policies, credits, and deductions for individuals and businesses. It is the most sweeping update to the U.S. tax code in more than 30 years, and from what we’re seeing, it impacts everyone’s tax situation a bit differently.

What works for one individual or family may not work for another, although their circumstances may appear to be similar on the surface.

Here are some of the key features of the tax reform legislation that you need to know about as an individual tax payer. (I’ll cover the impact on businesses in a separate post.)

Individual Tax Rates

There are still seven tax brackets, however the rates have dropped in all except the lowest bracket. The new maximum tax rate was reduced from 39.6% to 37%, which applies for those earning over $500,000 annually, if single, or $600,000 if married.

Here is a comparison of the old and new tax rates:

Comparison of new and old tax rates

While these changes are likely good for everyone, I do have some clients who are married, filing jointly and when I recalculated their taxes under the new law, the results were not what we expected. The husband and wife both work, and it turns out they’re only going to save $200 in taxes! So that’s why it’s important to work with your accountant and look at your situation individually.

Alternative Minimum Tax

The alternative minimum tax (AMT) is a supplemental income tax imposed by the United States federal government. AMT is a separate tax calculation that is run after the regular tax calculations are done. The taxpayer pays the higher of the two taxes. Although this was supposed to be a tax to ensure that everyone, including the wealthy, pay some tax, in the past it did hit many middle income wage earners.

Under the new law:

  • The amount exempt from AMT increases from $86,200 to $109,400, if married, and from $55,400 to $70,300 if single.
  • The phase-out of the exemption amount begins at $1,000,000 – instead of $164,100 – if married, and $500,000 – instead of $123,100 – if single.

So we expect we will be seeing fewer middle income wage earners subject to AMT.

Deductions, exemptions, and capital gains

The standard deductions have nearly doubled to $24,000 (married) and $12,000 (single), however there is no longer any personal exemptions allowed at any income level.

Individual deductions for state and local taxes (SALT) for income, sales, and property are limited in aggregate to $10,000 for married and single filers and $5,000 for married, filing separately. What this means in a high real estate tax state like New Jersey, where you’re probably paying more than $10,000 a year in real estate taxes, you’re going to be taking a hit starting in 2018.

Most miscellaneous itemized deductions – for example, tax preparation and investment expenses – that had been subject to the 2% of adjusted gross income (AGI) floor will no longer be allowed.

As far as capital gains, there were no changes to the tax rate. The maximum rate on long-term gains and qualified dividend income (before 3.8% net investment income tax) remains at 20%.

As the reform bill was being negotiated, there had been talk of doing away with the medical expense deduction completely, which would have hurt the elderly. Instead, they reduced the floor to 7.5% of AGI for tax years 2017 and 2018.

Fortunately, there were no changes to how securities are treated. You can continue to specify which stocks you’re selling, which means if have a lot of the same stock, you can pick your highest basis so that you have the lowest amount of capital gain.

The child tax credit increases from $1,000 per qualified child to $2,000, with $1,400 being refundable. Phase-out of the credit begins at $110,000 (single) and $400,000 (married).

You will no longer be penalized if you don’t have health insurance. Starting in 2019, the new legislation eliminates the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate.

Mortgage interest and real estate

Before the tax law changed, you could deduct mortgage interest on mortgages up to $1 million, if you’re married, and $500,000 if you’re single. Interest on a Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC) could be deducted up to $100,000. Under the new law, individuals are allowed an itemized deduction for interest on a principal residence and second residence up to a combined $750,000. Mortgages obtained before 12/16/17 are grandfathered and new purchase money mortgages may be grandfathered if the purchase contract is dated before 12/16/17.

Refinancing of grandfathered mortgages is grandfathered, but not beyond the original mortgage’s term and amount, with some exceptions for balloon mortgages. Interest on HELOCs is no longer deductible.

The rules for capital gain exclusion for a primary residence remain unchanged, which is good for the real estate market. When you sell your primary residence, you get to exclude $500,000 of gain. As the taxpayer, you must own and use the home as your primary residence for two out of the previous five years. This exemption can only be used once every two years.

You will still be able to do a like-kind exchange on real estate, but no longer on personal property. This type of exchange allows for the disposal of an asset and the acquisition of another replacement asset without generating a current tax liability from the gain on the sale of the first asset.

College savings plans, estates and gifts

If you have a Section 529 plan, you can now pay up to $10,000 a year per student for high school education. This had always been limited to college, but now if you are paying public, private or religious high school tuition, you can use some of your 529 here.

Under the new tax law, the estate, gift and generation skipping transfer (GST) tax exemptions are doubled to $11.2 million per US domiciliary.  These exemptions sunset after 2025 and revert back to the law in effect for 2017 with inflation adjustments. There’s a possibility for “clawback” at death if the law is not changed.

Pass-through and charitable deductions

If you own a business that is set up as a partnership, S-corporation, or sole proprietorship, income was passed through to your individual tax returns, where it was taxed as ordinary income. There is now a new 20% deduction for qualified business income from a partnership, S-corp, or sole proprietorship. There are some income limitations to this deduction, so be sure you consult your tax advisor on this one.

We still have deductions for charitable contributions. Under the new law, a contribution made to public charities is deductible, as long as it doesn’t exceed 60% of the taxpayer’s AGI – this is up from 50% of AGI.

We’ve got your back

At KRS, we’ve been tracking tax reform legislation closely and are ready to assist you in your tax planning and preparation now that it is finally signed into law. Don’t lose sleep wondering what impact the new law will have on you and your family. Contact me at 201.655.7411 or [email protected].