You have your 2018 tax return filed, or perhaps on extension, and now it is time to look forward to the changes that will impact your 2019 return when you file it in 2020.
Keeping up with the constantly changing tax laws can help you get the most benefit out of the laws and minimize your taxes. Many tax parameters, such as the standard deduction, contributions to retirement plans, and tax rates, are annually inflation adjusted, while some tax changes are delayed and take effect in future years. On top of all that, we have Congress considering the retroactive extension of some tax provisions that expired after 2017 as well as proposing new tax legislation.
The inflation adjustments shown are not the only items adjusted for inflation. For a full list, see IRS Revenue Procedure 2018-57.
At any rate, here are some changes that might affect your 2019 return:
Penalty for Not Being Insured
he Affordable Care Act required individuals to have health insurance and imposed a “shared responsibility payment” – really a penalty – for those who didn’t comply. The penalty could have been as much as $2,085 for most families. That penalty will no longer apply in 2019 or the foreseeable future.
Medical Deductions Further Restricted
Unreimbursed medical expenses are allowed as an itemized deduction to the extent they exceed a percentage of a taxpayer’s adjusted gross income (AGI). As part the Affordable Care Act, Congress increased that percentage from 7.5% to 10%. That increase was temporarily rescinded in the most recent tax form. However, starting with the 2019 returns and for the foreseeable years, the AGI medical floor will be 10% of AGI.
This is where the “bunching” strategy may benefit your ability to deduct medical expenses. This means paying as much of your medical expenses as possible in a single year so that the total will exceed the AGI floor and your overall itemized deductions will exceed the standard deduction.
New Alimony Rules
For divorces and separation agreements entered into after 2018, the alimony paid is not deductible, and the alimony received is not taxable. In addition, the alimony recipient can no longer make an IRA contribution based on the alimony received.
It is important to understand that this treatment of alimony only applies to alimony payments paid under agreements entered into after 2018 or under prior agreements modified after 2018 that include this new provision. For agreements entered into before 2019 that haven’t been modified, the old rules continue to apply: the alimony paid is deductible, and the alimony received is included in income. Also, an IRA deduction can be made based upon the taxable alimony received.
The standard deduction, which is inflation adjusted annually, is used by taxpayers who do not have enough deductions to itemize. For 2019, the standard deductions have increased as follows:
Individuals who are blind and/or age 65 or over are allowed standard deduction add-ons. These add-ons are for the taxpayer and spouse but not for dependents. The add-on amounts are $1,300 for those filing jointly (unchanged from 2018) and $1,650 for all others (up from $1,600 in 2018).
Increased Retirement Contributions
All IRA and retirement contributions are subject to inflation adjustment, meaning the allowable amounts may be increased each year. This gives you the opportunity to increase your retirement savings in 2019.
Health Savings Accounts (HSAs)
Although meant to be a way for individuals covered by a high-deductible health plan to save money for future medical expenses, these plans can also be used as a supplemental retirement plan. Contributions are deductible, earnings accumulate tax-free, and if distributions are used for qualified medical expenses, they are tax-free. However, when used as a supplemental retirement plan, the distributions would be taxable. The following are the contribution limits for 2019:
Although the solar credit remains at 30% for 2019, as a reminder, the credit rate will drop to 26% in 2020. This means that for each $1,000 spent on qualified solar property, the credit will be $40 less in 2020 than if the expense were paid and the credit was claimed in 2019. However, this is a non-refundable credit, meaning it can only offset your tax liability, but the unused credit can carry over to a future tax year as long as the credit is allowed; it is currently scheduled to end after 2021. So, be cautious of overzealous salespeople trying to talk you into an expenditure for which you may not get the full credit.
Plug-In Electric Vehicle Credit
Although the credit amounts have not changed, the credit begins to phase-out for each manufacturer after it produces its 200,000th qualifying vehicle. For example, the very popular Tesla vehicle did qualify for the full credit in 2018. However, Tesla has entered the phase-out stage, and for 2019, the credit is only $3,750 for purchases in the first 6 months of the year, then drops to $1,875 for vehicles bought through the rest of 2019, and is zero for post-2019 purchases. If you are contemplating buying a plug-in electric vehicle, check the IRS website for the current credit by manufacturer.
Federal Tax Brackets
The tax brackets were inflation adjusted (by approximately 2% over the 2018 brackets), meaning more of your income is taxed at a lower bracket in 2019 than it was in 2018. As an example, here are the brackets for 2019 for taxpayers using the single filing status:
These are the brackets for married taxpayers filing jointly:
For other filing statuses, see Revenue Procedure 2018-57.
Note: These are step functions, so for example, the first $9,700 of taxable income is taxed at 10%, the next $29,775 ($39,475 − $9,700) is taxed at 12%, and so forth.
For further information or to request a 2019 tax planning appointment, please give us a call or schedule a complimentary consultation.
The information presented is of a general nature and should not be acted upon without further details and/or professional guidance. For assistance in identifying and utilizing all the tax deductions to which you are entitled, please contact us, your CPA or tax preparer.
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