Both the House and Senate have passed versions of a tax reform bill. If a combined bill is passed and signed into law, it creates a unique window of possible tax savings during the last few weeks of 2017. But only if you prepare to act. Here are some tips.
1. Leverage less-valuable state and property deductions. The new bills reduce and potentially eliminate the ability to take state taxes and property taxes as an itemized deduction.
What to do now. Consider making next year’s initial estimated tax payment before the end of 2017. Do the same thing with property tax payments. As long as you are not subject to the alternative minimum tax (AMT), this is a one-time opportunity to get this tax benefit before it is reduced or eliminated.
2. Some itemized deductions are worth more this year. The tax law changes mean itemized deductions will be worth more to you this year than next.
What to do now. Charitable contributions may be more valuable this year because they may offset income taxed at a much higher rate than it will be next year. The same may be true of mortgage interest and medical expense deductions that may be reduced or eliminated next year.
3. New tax rates and income brackets complicate matters. With different income tax rates and income brackets, it will be very difficult to get your withholdings estimated correctly.
What to do now. Create a quick tax estimate based on your 2017 information before the end of the year. See if it makes sense to change your withholdings.
4. Lower small business taxes next year provide a unique opportunity. The tax rates on most businesses from C corporations to flow-through entities like S corporations and LLCs will be lower beginning next year with the passage of new legislation.
What to do now. Deductions will be worth more to you in the 2017 tax year than next year, when income will be taxed at a lower rate.
- Cash-basis businesses should pay bills this year rather than next.
- Try to shift sales into next year.
- Look at maximizing section 179 depreciation to expense more of your capital purchases against income that will be taxed at a higher rate this year.
Note: Unfortunately, these lower tax rate proposals for small businesses does not apply to most service businesses (like accounting firms or law firms) so this opportunity does not apply for these firms.
If everything goes smoothly, new tax legislation will be signed into law in late December. This timing will give you very little time to act, so now is the time to prepare. The nimble taxpayer may have the opportunity make some tax-efficient moves in the waning days of 2017.
As always, feel free to pass this Tip along to friends, and reach out if you need help with your personal tax and finance situation.
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