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  • Writer's pictureDavid H. Kinder, RFC®, ChFC®, CLU®

The New 2018 Tax Law Changes

Updated: Jan 18, 2023

Okay, it's here. (Well, I found what I was looking for.) A summary of the tax law changes for 2018. There are a few that stand out to me that particularly affect homeowners in California. All these points come from this CNN Money link here: 5. The standard deduction has essentially been doubled.

Republicans want fewer people to itemize their taxes. To achieve this, they've nearly doubled the standard deduction. For single filers, the standard deduction has increased from $6,350 to $12,000; for married couples filing jointly, it's increased from $12,700 to $24,000.

And that's because...

6. The personal exemption is gone.

Previously, you could claim a $4,050 personal exemption for yourself, your spouse and each of your dependents, which lowered your taxable income. No longer. For some families, the elimination of the personal exemption will reduce or negate the tax relief they get from other parts of the reform package.

I consider it a "wash".

7. The state and local tax deduction now has a cap.

The state and local tax deduction, or SALT, remains in place for those who itemize their taxes -- but now there's a $10,000 cap. Previously, filers could deduct an unlimited amount for state and local property taxes, plus income or sales taxes.

This certainly affects California and other high income/high state tax states. 8. The child tax credit has been expanded.

The child tax credit has doubled to $2,000 for children under 17. It's also now available, in full, to more people. The entire credit can be claimed by single parents who make up to $200,000, and married couples who make up to $400,000.

This means MORE money in your pocket to help offset the costs of raising children - something the government WANTS us to do and incentivizes families through the tax code to do so.

And THIS one is the BIG one:

11. And the mortgage interest deduction has been lowered.

Current homeowners are in the clear. But from now on, anyone buying a new home will only be able to deduct the first $750,000 of their mortgage debt. That's down from $1 million. This is likely to affect people looking for homes in more expensive coastal regions.

This one is new. While I'm not a big fan of 529 plans because of its restrictions, at least you now have another "IRS Regulator Approved" way to use the funds:

18. 529 savings accounts can be used in new ways.

In the past, funds invested in 529 savings accounts wasn't taxed -- but it could only be used for college expenses. Now, up to $10,000 can be distributed annually to cover the cost of sending a child to a "public, private or religious elementary or secondary school." This change is a win for Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.

I'm certainly not an expert in divorce planning, but if you're affected, this will certainly increase one's tax liability and should look for other ways to help offset this, where ever possible.

20. But say goodbye to the tax deduction for alimony payments.

Alimony payments, which are codified in divorce agreements and go to the ex-spouse who earns less money, are no longer deductible for the person who writes the checks. This provision will apply to couples who sign divorce or separation paperwork after December 31, 2018.

Make sure your homeowner's insurance coverage is complete and that you have documentation of your possessions, because:

23. ... The disaster deduction ...

Losses sustained due to a fire, storm, shipwreck or theft that aren't covered by insurance used to be deductible, assuming they exceeded 10% of adjusted gross income. But now through 2025, people can only claim that deduction if they've been affected by an official national disaster. That would make someone whose house was destroyed by a California wildfire potentially eligible for some relief, while disqualifying the victim of a random house fire.

And THIS is where we see that the Federal Government wants to "win points today and kick the can down the line":

26. Adjustments for inflation will be slower.

The new legislation uses "chained CPI" to measure inflation. It's a slower measure than what was used before. Over time, that will raise more money for the federal government, but deductions, credits and exemptions will be worth less.

More on this one below.

And I'm a fan of this for Constitutional reasons:

27. Oh, and the individual mandate on health insurance has been scrapped.

Republicans failed to repeal Obamacare earlier this year, but they managed to get rid of one of the health law's key provisions with tax reform. The elimination of the individual mandate, which penalizes people who do not have health care, goes into effect in 2019. The Congressional Budget Office has predicted that as a result, 13 million fewer people will have insurance coverage by 2027, and premiums will go up by about 10% most years.

And yeah, we knew this part wouldn't happen, but it sure made great headlines during the 2016 Presidential Campaign:

28. You won't be able to file your tax return on a postcard.

Trump said H&R Block would go out of business after tax reform because filing taxes would become so simple. Not quite. While doubling the standard deduction will ease the process for some individuals, there's still a web of deductions and credits to work through. And for small businesses, filing could become even more complicated.

All in all, it's a modified version of the same stuff. There isn't a huge difference. Some will see their taxes go up a bit, and others will go down. In my opinion, this tax law simply redefined who the "middle class" is and is not. While my Riverside, California neighbors will largely be unaffected, those I know in Orange County in higher-end homes who WERE able to deduct their mortgage tax interest, won't be able to if they buy a new similar home at a similar price.

Okay, let's talk about the impact of inflation on the tax brackets (or lack of inflation adjustment). Most people don't know that Social Security Retirement Benefits are taxable at certain brackets. Those limits have not been adjusted since 1993! I think we've had some inflation since then... which means that more and more people's Social Security Retirement Benefits will be included in their taxable income in retirement!

Search for "1993 Changes in the Law":

This still isn't tax advice, but I think it's a decent outline of those items that affect the majority of people.

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