The massive tax reform bill just passed is far from simplification. Once again, we have hundreds of pages of complications that professionals cynically refer to as another “Accountants and Lawyers Relief Act.”
There are large changes for both businesses and individuals. Some taxpayers may benefit while others may not. These changes are now the law. You need to figure out if that will require any changes to your overall financial strategy to live out your obligation to not pay any more than you have to in income taxes.
Among the most relevant pieces of the legislation among the clients that I serve are the reduction of the top income tax brackets, the rise of the estate tax exemption, the passthrough entity deduction, the limitations placed on SALT deductions, and the limitations on deductibility of mortgage interest.
The top federal tax bracket will now cap at 37 percent. This rate will apply to all taxable income in excess of $500,000 for single taxpayers and $600,000 for married taxpayers and surviving spouses.
On the lower end, brackets remain at or below 12 percent for up to $77,400 of taxable income for joint filers. The top rate for trusts will cap at 37 percent and will be applied for all income in excess of $12,500.
Due to that lower threshold, once again planning for the income taxation of your trust may be an important part of your tax planning.
The gift and estate tax exemption will double effective Jan. 1. In effect, the amount you can die with will double under the new law.
But in the bill writer’s complicated methodology, the bill raises the exemption to $10 million in 2011 dollars, adjusted for inflation from that day forward. That should get us to almost an $11 million exemption per decedent.
For families with less than $20 million in assets (which is all but a very small percentage of the population), the emphasis in estate tax reduction strategies may be on your local and state rules. In my home state, the state estate tax exemption remains at $1 million.
The passthrough entity exemption is fairly complicated and I won’t explain it fully. But if you are the owner of a business that sends you a K-1 for tax filings, then you may be eligible to reduce the tax burden on that pass through income by 20 percent.
It seems as if there’s been a lot of uproar among some touting this as a tax reduction strategy for the rich. Without getting political, I disagree with that. This was simply to create parity for small businesses with the reduction in the corporate rate for larger employers.
The last two items do impact most residents in expensive parts of the country. Your deduction for all state and local taxes will be limited to $10,000. That includes real estate and income taxes. And for mortgage interest, you will only be able to deduct interest on loans up to $750,000, reduced from the current $1 million level.