Thanksgiving is not normally the time to talk taxes. Yet, here we are. With single party rule coming to Washington, expect to see real tax policy changes ahead. With these changes, you should consider a few steps before the new year begins.
Let’s review the possible – I’d say, very probable – tax law changes for households.
First, expect to see fewer tax brackets. The current 10% and 15% brackets will collapse into a single, new 12% tax bracket. And, in place of the current 25% and 28% brackets, expect a new, wider 25% tax bracket. You are right if you feel these changes appear inconsequential.
The more interesting changes will be for taxpayers in the current 33%, 35% and 39.6% tax brackets. If you fall into this slice of households, you should expect only the lower 33% bracket to survive, among other tax cuts.
Next, instead of keeping track of your various deductible expenses – a practice called, itemizing – you will no longer need to account for things quite so closely. Most people will fall into the camp that uses the “standard” deduction as it is slated to double in size.
If you stay in the camp of taxpayers who will still itemize, it’ll only be because you have a very large mortgage or you donate a lot of money. All other deductible expenses – property taxes, state income taxes, medical expenses and professional fees – will be a concern of the past.
This will make things much simpler, but not necessarily more lucrative to most households – here’s why.
The current plans also call for you to lose all of your personal exemptions. This will work to hike your taxable income. For most, the doubling of your standard deduction will only work to offset this hike. For most households, the final result of these changes will be a wash.
As Shakespeare once said, for most people, these changes will feel like “much ado about nothing. “ The substantial changes will be for high earners.
With the lower tax rate on higher income, a far lower, special tax rate on self-employment and small business income, the elimination of the extra tax on investment income, the possibility of higher earners now getting to claim the larger standard deduction and with a possible elimination of the estate tax, the proposed changes beginning in 2017 are, indeed, consequential for high earners.
As with any changes in tax law, proactive moves can help to lower your tax bill before the start of next year. For many households who will no longer be able to itemize, these moves may include paying your winter property taxes early and making planned charitable donations now. Pausing now to anticipate these possible changes before year-end could very well put money in your pocket.
For more tips on year-end financial planning and beyond, join Jason P. Tank, CFA and local attorney, Greg Luyt, on Wednesday, December 14 at 6:30pm for their joint presentation for the Front Street Foundation’s Money Series held in the McGuire Room at the Traverse Area District Library. Visit FrontStreetFoundation.org or call (231) 714-6459 to register.