Everyone seems to think that the new “postcard” return will make income tax preparation easier! Not true. The recurring theme in all of our continuing education classes this year has been the 20% increase in time we can expect to properly complete your return. Here are some of the major changes that have occurred.
Fewer People Will Get Refunds
The new Federal withholding tables were designed to lower your total tax bill for the year by giving you a bigger paycheck throughout the year. Unfortunately, they were not designed to give you a refund at year end, and for those of you that did not heed our warnings to change your withholding, your refund will be very small (if any) because you already received it in bits and pieces through larger paychecks throughout the year. One of our simple recommendations for 2019 is that all married individuals fill out a W-4 reflecting “single and zero” withholding.
Itemized Deductions Reduced Dramatically
The ability to itemize deductions has been dramatically decreased because the new law provides a much, much larger standard deduction. (You are allowed to deduct the greater of the two).
However, we still need to accumulate th
e information on your medical, tax, mortgage interest, charity and other deductions in order to apply the new rules, and to complete your state tax returns.
Home Equity & 2nd Mortgages
A major change has occurred on home equity lines and 2nd mortgages, most of which are now not deductible. In order to get your largest deduction, we will need to know much more information on these amounts than in the past such as amounts borrowed and use.
Other Tax Changes
Employee work related business expenses are no longer deductible on the Federal return, but we may still need
the information for your state return, and if you incur a lot of these types of expenses, you need to discuss the use of an accountable plan with your employer.
Most home-related energy efficiency credits are now expired, but an incredible 30% Federal credit still exists for
solar, wind and geothermal costs; and a $7,500 Federal credit for buying a fully electric car still applies through the end of 2018.
If you are retired, over age 70 ½, and have an IRA you must utilize the direct IRA to charity transfer tool to make charitable contributions. This simple trick can save you hundreds of dollars in income tax.
Start a Health Savings Account Now
With over 50% of working Americans now covered by health savings insurance policies, it is of absolute importance that you start a health savings account, even with $50, and discuss some excellent tax-savings ideas with us for these tax-beneficial plans. And yes, you were still required to maintain health insurance for every member of your family for 2018 or face a potential penalty.
Future Tax Planning Is Key
Every year we are told “I pay too much in taxes” or “I want some of the tax loopholes that rich people get”. We can answer both statements with one answer. Rich people get no more tax deductions or “loopholes” than anyone else, they just take advantage of what is there to keep their taxes at a low legal level. The single greatest tax “loophole” that they use, which few average people use to its limit is the
ability to defer nearly $20,000 into a 401-K if your employer has one. If your employer has a 401-K and you are not putting the maximum deferral in it, there is no reason to even think about other tax planning ideas.
In the current tax era of greatly increased requirements to itemize deductions, a tax “bunching” strategy is absolutely mandatory. The “bunching strategy” recognizes that the best tax deductions are obtained by putting deductions in one year rather than spreading them amongst several years. For example, in years where your charitable contributions
are very low, hold off until the next year to catch up, then also pay the full amount of the next year’s contributions in the “catch up” year in order to double your chances of itemizing. Similarly, few Americans receive medical deductions anymore, but if you incur a large expense for say, the deductible on surgery, then try to do all of your other medical items in the same year, such as dental and vision exams, check-ups, etc.
Check into your employer’s handbook to see what employer provided fringe benefits are available. Taxpayer’s are often surprised at the available benefits, or at our explanation of what some benefits really mean.
Contact Emerald Financial Partners today! We are happy to meet with you throughout the year for tax planning, retirement and similar income tax related
issues, and sincerely appreciate your continued business each year.