Countdown: Important Moves to Make Ahead of Proposed Tax Changes

Some Popular Tax Deductions Could Disappear When the Clock Strikes Midnight on Dec. 31st
Audio: 
Jill Schlesinger, CFP Board Senior Ambassador

(Washington D.C., Wednesday, December 6, 2017)As Americans begin their end-of-the-year financial planning, the main message in 2017 is clear, according to Senior CFP Board Ambassador Jill Schlesinger, CFP®. Use ‘em, meaning tax deductions, because you might be about to lose ‘em.

About a third of all Americans itemize deductions. Among the deductions slated to disappear under the Trump Administration are the deduction for state and local taxes, deductions for medical and dental expenses, and a host of smaller deductions, including those for job-hunting expenses and alimony. The situation is still in flux; Congress’s aim is to make final decisions on the changes by Christmas. 

1. This could be the last year that you will be able to deduct all state and local taxes (SALT), medical and dental deductions (must exceed 10 percent of AGI for those under age 65, 7.5 percent for those above); and miscellaneous deductions, like the write-off of tax-prep fees, job-hunting and business car expenses, and professional dues, if they totaled more than two percent of AGI. Try to bunch expenses before the end of the year, so that you can take as many deductions as possible.

2. Deductions for property taxes over $10,000 may disappear and the mortgage interest deduction may be limited to debt under $500,000 when the dust settles. Homeowners can consider pre-paying taxes or making January’s mortgage payment in December.

3. A tax change that could go into effect next year forces investors to sell stocks on a first-in, first-out basis. That makes it harder for investors to sell losers in taxable accounts to offset gains. If you want to take advantage this year, you can sell losing stocks this year according to some specific rules. If you have more losses than gains, you can deduct up to $3,000 against ordinary income; and if you have more than $3,000, you can carry over that amount to future years. If you’re going to sell something and replace it within 30 days, the new asset can’t be “substantially identical,” which is known as the wash sale rule. Avoid it by waiting 31 days and repurchase what you sold, or replace it with something that’s close, but not the same as the one you sold.

4. Another possible tax change lowers the tax on income flowing through some kinds of small businesses and solo enterprises. If you are self-employed, consider waiting until January to invoice for some work. The change also means contributions you make to a small business retirement plan this year are even more valuable than usual. If you open a qualified retirement account by Dec. 31, you have until the day you file your taxes next year, including extensions, to make this year's contribution. One plan to consider is the solo or one-participant 401(k) plan, which allows total contributions of up to $54,000 for 2017.

A CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional can help Americans plan their year-end financial strategies in an unusually tumultuous year.

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