11 New Tax Law Changes That Can Affect You

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Now that I have filed my tax returns for the year 2017, I have had the time to really examine some of the new tax law changes signed last December by the president. Many of the big items have been written about quite a bit like the lower income tax brackets and the projected overall tax savings for almost all taxpayers (particularly for the wealthiest people). But are you aware of some of the other provisions and changes in the new law? Provisions that just might affect you on a grand scale that you may not have heard about at all!

The new tax law changes may not affect the 2017 taxes you're filing now, but they could affect what you do in 2018 and the deductions you take next year. It's important to know in advance to be able to minimize your tax burden.

If there is any good rule of thumb about taxes and your money it’s this: Always plan your tax strategies ahead in order to maximize your income and minimize your taxes.

In 2014, about 30% of all Americans itemized their tax deductions. With all of the hype that is being bandied about when it comes to reducing your taxes and increasing your standard deductions, there are numerous changes to other long-standing deductions and the jury is still out as to exactly how much low- and middle-income earners will really benefit by the new law.

Now is a really good time to think about things that might just be very important to you when you file 2018’s income tax returns in early 2019. Here are some of those important changes in tax deductions that are now in the law and it may have you thinking twice about the “rosy” prospects of the new income tax law.

11 New Tax Law Changes

1. The home equity loan interest deduction has been wiped out

A home equity loan is one in which your property serves as collateral on the amount you borrow. It used to be that the interest paid on home equity loans was deductible for loans worth up to $100,000, but going forward, home equity loan interest won’t be deductible at all. This is potentially a huge blow to homeowners, particularly those with existing loans who were counting on that tax break. That’s because loans signed prior to 2018 are not being grandfathered into the old system; rather, they’re treated the same as new loans. This means that the easily available equity that you probably have available in your home right now will not be as attractive to borrow against if you ever really need it.

2. The moving expense deduction for a new job is now eliminated

It used to be that if you relocated for job purposes, you could deduct expenses associated with that move. The only catch was that your new job needed to be at least 50 miles away from the distance between your old home and old job, and you worked at least 39 out of the 52 weeks after you moved.

If you met those criteria, you could deduct the cost of everything from hiring movers to paying for storage units. But now, this tax break has been eliminated!

What that means for you is that if you’re planning a work-related move, you may want to negotiate with your employer to cover at least a portion of your expenses. If not, plan on some huge costs for accepting a job not in your commuting range that may take years to pay off.

3. Unreimbursed job expenses deduction goes “bye-bye”

It used to be that when you incurred job-related costs that your employer didn’t, you could deduct those expenses provided they were directly related to your work and they, along with other miscellaneous deductions, totaled more than 2% of your adjusted gross income (AGI). That’s no longer true beginning this year.

For example, many fields require you to maintain a professional license or certification at your own expense, while other jobs require you to purchase certain equipment that you pay for yourself. Going forward, however, such unreimbursed job expenses are no longer deductible, so if you’re facing a host of them, you will have to try appealing to your employer to help share in that burden.

4. Investment fee deduction is history

Prior to 2018, you had the option to deduct fees paid to a financial advisor provided that they, along with other eligible miscellaneous expenses of yours, exceeded 2% of your AGI. But as is the case with unreimbursed job expenses, the option to deduct investment fees no longer exists. The fees will now be 100% yours and if the fees you’re used to paying relate specifically to commissions, you’re now out of luck.

Those commissions can still be applied to the cost basis of your investments and if you sell them at a profit, they can be used to reduce your capital gains. But any advisory fees you were charged won’t help you at all from a tax perspective.

And just a note about advisory fees…even just a 1% increase can have a significant impact on your retirement savings or other investments. You might want to try investing in index funds at a low-fee provider like Vanguard.

5. The alimony deduction is going away…for some

The old tax laws allowed alimony payments as tax-deductible for the ex-spouses responsible for making them. They also were counted as income for those who received the payments. That’s now changing and alimony payments will no longer be deductible or counted as income.

However, if you’re already paying or receiving alimony as part of a divorce agreement, this change won’t impact you. But anyone who signs a divorce agreement after December 31, 2018 will be subject to these new rules.

6. Casualty and theft loss deductions are knocked out

If your property sustained damage due to a flood or fire or you had a piece of valuable artwork stolen, it used to be that you could claim an income tax deduction for any such personal losses. The only provision was that the loss must exceed 10% of your AGI. But beginning this year, you can no longer claim this deduction unless it’s associated with a federally declared disaster area such as would be the case in an area hit by a major hurricane or flood like the hurricanes we saw in 2017.

7. Deduction for fees you pay for your tax return preparation disappears

Thinking of hiring a tax professional this year? If you need the help, by all means you have to go for it—but know that you won’t snag a tax break in the process. That’s because tax preparation fees fall under the same miscellaneous fees deduction we have just talked about—a deduction that got chopped going into 2018.

Of course you can always file your tax returns on your own using a program like TaxAct to help.

8. Business entertainment expense tax deductions are erased

There are several aspects of the new tax laws that are designed to benefit businesses, but entertainment expenses are one place they might lose out.

It used to be that if you took a client out for business purposes, whether to an event or a restaurant, you could deduct 50% of the cost on your taxes. Going forward, however, the option to deduct expenses related to business meals and entertainment will no longer exist. Meal expenses that you incur when you are traveling yourself for business travel can still be deducted at the 50% rate.

9. State and Local Sales Tax deductions get limited

Though the SALT (state and local tax) deduction has not disappeared completely, it looks very different in 2018 compared to years prior. That’s because the deduction used to be unlimited, thus allowing filers in states with high income and property taxes to shave quite a bit of money off their IRS bills. Effective this year, however, the SALT deduction is capped at $10,000, and while that’s certainly better than nothing, it does put a sizeable number of taxpayers at a big disadvantage.

10. Mortgage interest deductions are reduced

The new law now will cap your income tax deduction for your mortgage to the first $750,000 of debt and not the previous $1,000,000 maximum on your first or second home. It also caps your state mortgage interest deduction now to a maximum of $10,000 per year.

11. Roth IRA conversions are repealed

While it doesn’t quite affect tax deductions if you have a Roth IRA (you still pay taxes when you create one), the old law that allowed you to convert a Roth IRA into a traditional (tax deferred) IRA is now repealed.

It hasn’t been easy digging into the new tax law and the many changes it has made to what were traditional and long-standing rules. These changes in total may help your personal tax picture, but for some it may not. In fact, many of these deductions are ones that I have always used to reduce my tax burden, and in most cases these deductions were considered basic and safe.

It’s even more important now than ever before to try to calculate what your proper withholding should be so that you do not find yourself in the position of having under-withheld or over-withheld monies from your paychecks. You don’t want to lend our government an interest free loan that they will gladly refund to you after a year, nor do you want to find yourself paying unplanned taxes and penalties for being short on your payments.

Of course, the dramatic increase in the standard deduction (up to $24,000 is possible depending on your filing status) can mean that you have nothing to worry about here. But only time will tell when the day of reckoning arrives in April 2019!

Where are you on your 2017 tax filing right now? Have you thought about the new tax law changes and how they might affect you next year? What have you done or can you do to make 2018’s tax filing work to your advantage?

Disease Called Debt

About Gary Weiner @ Super Saving Tips

Over the last 45 years I've worked in retail (department stores and supermarkets) and financial planning. In addition, I am a shopper, born and bred, who enjoys the challenges of finding the best items for the best prices. When I'm not busy saving money or writing here at Super Saving Tips, I enjoy baseball, music, and classic movies. I am retired and live in New Jersey with my wife.
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  1. Ugh! This sucks! I’m getting ready to move across the country in a few months, and I was going to take the moving expenses deduction! Thanks for the update – this is really helpful!

  2. Wow, Gary! Yeoman work on publicizing the details of our new tax law. I have a lot of mixed feelings. On the one hand, I hate all the deductions and loopholes that are baked into our tax laws and would love to see them eliminated. On the other hand, however, I know a lot of people have arranged their lives based on these long-standing deductions and loopholes and it’s not fair to remove these long-standing deductions so abruptly. To remove them fairly, you got to give the users time. For instance, I think we should get rid of the mortgage interest and the SALT deductions. But do it over 10 years. In Year 1, you can claim 90% of mortgage interest and SALT. In Year 2, you can clam 80%. And so on and so on until the loopholes disappear. Anyway, that’s my pathetic two cents. The new tax law benefits me, but what benefits me isn’t necessarily good for the country. Good luck, my friend.
    Mr. Groovy recently posted…7 Tips for Choosing a RealtorMy Profile

    • I myself am used to taking the mortgage interest deduction and SALT deduction and living here in NJ, you can understand why (we have some of the highest real estate taxes and housing costs in the country). The “tax reduction and reform” on the surface are certainly appealing as a sound byte, but it will remain to be seen as to how it will affect average people who depend on the tax deductions. I appreciate your comments, Mr. Groovy, and I think that your opinion is supported by a lot of people.

  3. Can you convert a traditional into a Roth?
    Femme recently posted…20 Smart Ways to Eat Healthy on a Tight BudgetMy Profile

    • Yes, you can still convert a Traditional IRA to a Roth IRA under the new tax reform bill. Conversion and re-characterization are roughly synonyms, and both involve changing back and forth to each other.

      What has been removed is what is known as “re-characterization” of a Roth IRA to a Traditional one. It removed the ability to re-characterize any Roth IRA conversions done in 2018 and onward. However, you can still re-characterize your 2017 Roth IRA conversions up until October 15, 2018.

      If you want to convert a Traditional IRA to a Roth IRA for 2018, and have that income included for 2018, the conversion must take place by December 31, 2018.

      Under the old law you could essentially undo a conversion transaction with a re-characterization if the conversion subjected you to unfavorable tax consequences. With that re-characterization, you could undo the transaction and not owe the income taxes on the conversion. Beginning in 2018’s tax year, you can no longer do that.

  4. This is great information! I’m surprised so many of your points apply to our tax situation—tax changes don’t usually make much of a difference to us. I appreciate you spelling out the new issues; now I’m motivated to get this year’s taxes done so I can compare to 2018 rules.

    • Glad I was able to give you some useful information, Carissa. It’s very wise to start thinking about the next year and how the changes will affect you. I think a lot of people will be doing the same thing and it can only help you. Thanks for your comment.

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