Personal exemptions are eliminated for tax years 2018 through 2025.
The standard deduction for married couples filing a joint return in 2019 is $24,400. For singles and married individuals filing separately, it is $12,200, and for heads of household, the deduction is $18,350.
The additional standard deduction for blind people and senior citizens in 2019 is $1,300 for married individuals and $1,650 for singles and heads of household.
Income Tax Rates
In 2019 the top tax rate of 37 percent affects individuals whose income exceeds $510,300 ($612,350 for married taxpayers filing a joint return). Marginal tax rates for 2019 are as follows: 10%, 12%, 22%, 24%, 32%, 35%, and 37%. As a reminder, while the tax rate structure remained similar to prior years under tax reform (i.e., with seven tax brackets), the tax-bracket thresholds increased significantly for each filing status.
Estate and Gift Taxes
In 2019 there is an exemption of $11.40 million per individual for estate, gift, and generation-skipping taxes, with a top tax rate of 40 percent. The annual exclusion for gifts is $15,000.
Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT)
For 2019, exemption amounts increased to $71,700 for single and head of household filers, $111,700 for married people filing jointly and for qualifying widows or widowers, and $55,850 for married taxpayers filing separately.
Pease and PEP (Personal Exemption Phaseout)
Both Pease (limitations on itemized deductions) and PEP (personal exemption phase-out) have been eliminated under TCJA.
Flexible Spending Account (FSA)
A Flexible Spending Account (FSA) is limited to $2,700 per year in 2019 (up from $2,650 in 2018) and applies only to salary reduction contributions under a health FSA. The term “taxable year” as it applies to FSAs refers to the plan year of the cafeteria plan, which is typically the period during which salary reduction elections are made.
Long-Term Capital Gains
In 2019 tax rates on capital gains and dividends remain the same as 2018 rates (0%, 15%, and a top rate of 20%); however, taxpayers should be reminded that threshold amounts don’t correspond to the tax bracket rate structure as they have in the past. For example, taxpayers whose income is below $39,375 for single filers and $78,750 for married filing jointly pay 0% capital gains tax. For individuals whose income is at or above $434,550 ($488,850 married filing jointly), the rate for both capital gains and dividends is capped at 20 percent.
Miscellaneous deductions that exceed 2 percent of AGI (adjusted gross income) are eliminated for tax years 2018 through 2025. As such, you can no longer deduct on Schedule A expenses related to tax preparation, moving (except for members of the Armed Forces on active duty who move because of a military order), job hunting, or unreimbursed employee expenses such as tools, supplies, required uniforms, travel, and mileage. Business owners are not affected and can still deduct business-related expenses on Schedule C.
Child and Dependent Care Credit
The Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit was permanently extended for taxable years starting in 2013 and remained under tax reform. As such, if you pay someone to take care of your dependent (defined as being under the age of 13 at the end of the tax year or incapable of self-care) in order to work or look for work, you may qualify for a credit of up to $1,050 or 35 percent of $3,000 of eligible expenses.
For two or more qualifying dependents, you can claim up to 35 percent of $6,000 (or $2,100) of eligible expenses. For higher-income earners, the credit percentage is reduced, but not below 20 percent, regardless of the amount of adjusted gross income.
Child Tax Credit and Credit for Other Dependents
For tax years 2018 through 2025, the Child Tax Credit increases to $2,000 per child. The refundable portion of the credit increases from $1,000 to $1,400 - 15 percent of earned income above $2,500, up to a maximum of $1,400 - so that even if taxpayers do not owe any tax, they can still claim the credit. Please note, however, that the refundable portion of the credit (also known as the additional child tax credit) applies higher-income when the taxpayer isn’t able to fully use the $2,000 nonrefundable credit to offset their tax liability.
Under TCJA, a new tax credit - Credit for Other Dependents - is also available for dependents who do not qualify for the Child Tax Credit. The $500 credit is nonrefundable and covers children older than age 17 as well as parents or other qualifying relatives supported by a taxpayer.
Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC)
For tax year 2019, the maximum earned income tax credit (EITC) for low and moderate-income workers and working families increased to $6,557 (up from $6,431 in 2018). The maximum income limit for the EITC increased to $55,952 (up from $54,884 in 2018) for married filing jointly. The credit varies by family size, filing status, and other factors, with the maximum credit going to joint filers with three or more qualifying children.
American Opportunity Tax Credit
For 2019, the maximum American Opportunity Tax Credit that can be used to offset certain higher education expenses is $2,500 per student, although it is phased out beginning at $160,000 adjusted gross income for joint filers and $80,000 for other filers.
Lifetime Learning Credit
A credit of up to $2,000 is available for an unlimited number of years for certain costs of post-secondary or graduate courses or courses to acquire or improve your job skills. For 2019, the modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) threshold at which the Lifetime Learning Credit begins to phase out is $114,000 for joint filers and $57,000 for singles and heads of household. The credit cannot be claimed if your MAGI is $67,000 or more ($134,000 for joint returns)
Employer-Provided Educational Assistance
As an employee in 2019, you can exclude up to $5,250 of qualifying postsecondary and graduate education expenses that are reimbursed by your employer.
Student Loan Interest
In 2019, you can deduct up to $2,500 in student-loan interest as long as your modified adjusted gross income is less than $65,000 (single) or $135,000 (married filing jointly). The deduction is phased out at higher income levels.
Retirement Savings Contributions Credit (Saver’s Credit)
In 2019, the adjusted gross income limit for the saver’s credit for low and moderate-income workers is $64,000 for married couples filing jointly, $48,000 for heads of household, and $32,000 for married individuals filing separately and for singles. The maximum credit amount is $2,000 ($4,000 if married filing jointly). Also of note is that starting in 2018, the Saver’s Credit can be taken for your contributions to an ABLE (Achieving a Better Life Experience) account if you’re the designated beneficiary. However, keep in mind that your eligible contributions may be reduced by any recent distributions you received from your ABLE account.
If you have any questions about these and other tax provisions that could affect your tax situation, don’t hesitate to call.
Standard Mileage Rates
The standard mileage rate in 2019 is 58 cents per business mile driven.
Health Care Tax Credit for Small Businesses
Small business employers who pay at least half the premiums for single health insurance coverage for their employees may be eligible for the Small Business Health Care Tax Credit as long as they employ fewer than the equivalent of 25 full-time workers and average annual wages do not exceed $50,000 (adjusted annually for inflation). In 2019 this amount is $54,200.
In 2019 (as in 2014-2018), the tax credit is worth up to 50 percent of your contribution toward employees’ premium costs (up to 35 percent for tax-exempt employers.
Section 179 Expensing and Depreciation
Under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, the Section 179 expense deduction increases to a maximum deduction of $1.02 million of the first $2.55 million of qualifying equipment placed in service during the current tax year. The deduction was indexed to inflation for tax years after 2018 and enhanced to include improvements to nonresidential qualified real property such as roofs, fire protection, and alarm systems and security systems, and heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning systems.
Businesses are allowed to immediately deduct 100% of the cost of eligible property placed in service after September 27, 2017, and before January 1, 2023, after which it will be phased downward over a four-year period: 80% in 2023, 60% in 2024, 40% in 2025, and 20% in 2026. The standard business depreciation amount is 26 cents per mile (up from 25 cents per mile in 2018).
Please call if you have any questions about Section 179 expensing and the bonus depreciation.
Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC)
Extended through 2019, the Work Opportunity Tax Credit remained under tax reform and can be used by employers who hire long-term unemployed individuals (unemployed for 27 weeks or more). It is generally equal to 40 percent of the first $6,000 of wages paid to a new hire. Please call if you have any questions about the Work Opportunity Tax Credit.
SIMPLE IRA Plan Contributions
Contribution limits for SIMPLE IRA plans increased to $13,000 for persons under age 50 and $16,000 for persons age 50 or older in 2019. The maximum compensation used to determine contributions is $280,000.
Please contact the office if you would like more information about these and other tax deductions and credits to which you are entitled.
There are two ways to verify whether a charity is qualified:
Lobbying. A 501(c)(3) organization may engage in some lobbying, but too much lobbying activity risks the loss of its tax-exempt status. As such, you cannot claim a charitable deduction (or business expense) for amounts paid to an organization if both of the following apply:
Cash payments to an organization, charitable or otherwise, may be deductible as business expenses if the payments are not charitable contributions or gifts and are directly related to your business. Likewise, if the payments are charitable contributions or gifts, you cannot deduct them as business expenses.
Partnerships. Partnerships do not pay income taxes. Rather, the income and expenses (including deductions for charitable contributions) are passed on to the partners on each partner’s individual Schedule K-1. If the partnership makes a charitable contribution, then each partner takes a percentage share of the deduction on his or her personal tax return. For example, if the partnership has four equal partners and donates a total of $2,000 to a qualified charitable organization in 2019, each partner can claim a $500 charitable deduction on his or her 2019 tax return.
A donation of cash or property reduces the value of the partnership. For example, if a partnership donates office equipment to a qualified charity, the office equipment is no longer owned by the partnership, and the total value of the partnership is reduced. Therefore, each partner’s share of the total value of the partnership is reduced accordingly.
C-Corporations. Unlike sole proprietors, partnerships, and S-corporations, C-Corporations are separate entities from their owners. As such, a corporation can make charitable contributions and take deductions for those contributions.
Here’s another example: As a board member, your duties may include hosting fundraising events. While the time you spend as a board member is not deductible, expenses related to hosting the fundraiser such as stationery for invitations and telephone costs related to the event are deductible.
Generally, you can deduct up to 50 percent of adjusted gross income. Non-cash donations of more than $500 require completion of Form 8283, which is attached to your tax return. In addition, contributions are only deductible in the tax year in which they’re made.
Ask for - and make sure you receive - a letter from any organizations stating that said organization received a contribution from your business. You should also keep canceled checks, bank and credit card statements, and payroll deduction records as proof or your donation. Furthermore, the IRS requires proof of payment and an acknowledgment letter for donations of $250 or more.
Questions about charitable donations? Help is just a phone call away.
Medical expenses that are reimbursable by insurance or other sources and do not qualify for the medical expense deduction on a federal income tax return are not eligible.
Insurance premiums for taxpayers younger than age 65 are generally not considered qualified medical expenses unless the premiums are for health care continuation coverage (such as coverage under COBRA), health care coverage while receiving unemployment compensation under federal or state law.
An HSA can be opened through your bank or another financial institution. Contributions to an HSA must be made in cash. Contributions of stock or property are not allowed. As an employee may be able to elect to have money set aside and deposited directly into an HSA account; however, if this option is not offered by your employer, then you must wait until filing a tax return to claim the HSA contributions as a deduction.
A high-deductible plan can be combined with a health savings account, allowing you to pay for certain medical expenses with tax-free money that you have set aside. By using the pre-tax funds in your HSA to pay for qualified medical expenses before you reach your deductible and other out-of-pocket costs such as copayments, you reduce your overall health care costs.
Calendar year 2019. For calendar year 2019, a qualifying HDHP must have a deductible of at least $1,350 for self-only coverage or $2,700 for family coverage. Annual out-of-pocket expenses (e.g., deductibles, copayments, and coinsurance) of the beneficiary are limited to $6,750 for self-only coverage and $13,500 for family coverage. This limit doesn’t apply to deductibles and expenses for out-of-network services if the plan uses a network of providers. Instead, only deductibles and out-of-pocket expenses for services within the network should be used to figure whether the limit applies.
Last month rule. Under the last-month rule, you are considered to be an eligible individual for the entire year if you are an eligible individual on the first day of the last month of your tax year (December 1 for most taxpayers).
You can make contributions to your HSA for 2019 until April 15, 2020. Your employer can make contributions to your HSA between January 1, 2020, and April 15, 2020, that are allocated to 2019. The contribution will be reported on your 2020 Form W-2.
Also updated, are tax rules relating to substantiating the amount of an employee’s ordinary and necessary travel expenses reimbursed by an employer using the optional standard mileage rates. As such, taxpayers are not required to use the standard mileage rate, but may instead use actual allowable expenses as long as they maintain adequate records that substantiate these expenses.
In addition, a number of modifications and clarifications are also in effect, including - but not limited to - the following for tax years 2018-2025 (the “suspension period”):
The TCJA also suspended the deduction for moving expenses during these same tax years. However, this suspension does not apply to a member of the Armed Forces on active duty who moves pursuant to a military order and incident to a permanent change of station.
Don’t hesitate to contact the office with any questions regarding the updated rules for deductible business, charitable, medical, and moving expenses.
Known as required minimum distributions (RMDs), typically these distributions must be made by the end of the tax year. The required distribution rules apply to owners of traditional, Simplified Employee Pension (SEP) and Savings Incentive Match Plans for Employees (SIMPLE) IRAs but not Roth IRAs while the original owner is alive. They also apply to participants in various workplace retirement plans, including 401(k), 403(b) and 457(b) plans.
An IRA trustee must either report the amount of the RMD to the IRA owner or offer to calculate it for the owner. Often, the trustee shows the RMD amount on Form 5498 in Box 12b. For a 2019 RMD, this amount is shown on the 2018 Form 5498, IRA Contribution Information, which is normally issued to the owner during January 2019.
A special rule allows first-year recipients of these payments, those who reached age 70 1/2 during 2019, to wait until as late as April 1, 2020, to receive their first RMDs. What this means is that taxpayers born after June 30, 1948, and before July 1, 1949, are eligible. The advantage of this special rule is that although payments made to these taxpayers in early 2020 (up to April 1, 2020) and can be counted toward their 2019 RMD, they are taxable in 2020.
The special April 1 deadline only applies to the RMD for the first year, however. For all subsequent years, the RMD must be made by December 31. For example, a taxpayer who turned 70 1/2 in 2018 (born after June 30, 1947, and before July 1, 1948) and received the first RMD (for 2018) on April 1, 2019, must still receive a second RMD (for 2019) by December 31, 2019.
The RMD for 2019 is based on the taxpayer’s life expectancy on December 31, 2019, and their account balance on December 31, 2018. The trustee reports the year-end account value to the IRA owner on Form 5498 in Box 5. For most taxpayers, the RMD is based on Table III (Uniform Lifetime Table) in IRS Publication 590-B. For example, for a taxpayer who turned 72 in 2019, the required distribution would be based on a life expectancy of 25.6 years. A separate table, Table II, applies to a taxpayer whose spouse is more than ten years younger and is the taxpayer’s only beneficiary. If you need assistance with this, don’t hesitate to call.
Though the RMD rules are mandatory for all owners of traditional, SEP and SIMPLE IRAs and participants in workplace retirement plans, some people in workplace plans can wait longer to receive their RMDs. Usually, if their plan allows it, employees who are still working can wait until April 1 of the year after they retire to start receiving these distributions. There may, however, be a tax on excess accumulations. Employees of public schools and certain tax-exempt organizations with 403(b) plan accruals before 1987 should check with their employer, plan administrator or provider to see how to treat these accruals.
If you have any questions about RMDs, please don’t hesitate to call.
Treasury regulations require that employment tax deposits be made electronically and it is the employer’s responsibility to ensure their third-party payer uses the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS).
Employers who use payroll service providers can also verify that payments are made by using EFTPS online. To enroll online go to EFTPS.gov. You can also call EFTPS Customer Service at 800-555-4477 to request an enrollment form.
Employers should not change their address of record to that of the payroll service provider as it may limit the employer’s ability to be informed of tax matters.
When third parties do this, it may generate an EFTPS Inquiry PIN for the employer. Once activated, this PIN allows employers to monitor and ensure the third party is making all required tax payments. Employers who have not been issued Inquiry PINs and who do not have their own EFTPS enrollment should register on the EFTPS system to get their own PIN and use this PIN to periodically verify payments. A red flag should go up the first time a service provider misses or makes a late payment.
Once they opt-in for email notifications, they’ll receive notifications about payments they submit including those made by their payroll service provider. Email notification messages show when payments are scheduled, canceled, or returned, as well as reminders of scheduled payments.
Employers who believe that a bill or notice received is a result of a problem with their payroll service provider should contact the IRS as soon as possible by calling or writing to the IRS office that sent the bill, calling 800-829-4933 or making an appointment to visit a local IRS office.
1. The one-year extension gives eligible farmers and ranchers until the end of the tax year after the first drought-free year to replace the sold livestock.
2. The farmer or rancher must be in an applicable region. An applicable region is a county-designated as eligible for federal assistance, as well as counties contiguous to that county.
3. The farmer’s county, parish, city or district included in the applicable region must be listed as suffering exceptional, extreme or severe drought conditions by the National Drought Mitigation Center. All or part of 32 states, plus Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands and the Commonwealths of Puerto Rico and the Northern Mariana Islands, are listed.
4. The relief applies to farmers who were affected by drought that happened between September 1, 2018, and August 31, 2019.
5. This relief generally applies to capital gains realized by eligible farmers and ranchers on sales of livestock held for draft, dairy or breeding purposes. Sales of other livestock, such as those raised for slaughter or held for sporting purposes, or poultry are not eligible.
6. To qualify, the sales must be solely due to drought, flooding or other severe weather causing the region to be designated as eligible for federal assistance.
7. Farmers generally must replace the livestock within a four-year period, instead of the usual two-year period. As a result, qualified farmers and ranchers whose drought-sale replacement period was scheduled to expire at the end of this tax year, Dec. 31, 2019, in most cases, now have until the end of their next tax year. Furthermore, because the normal drought sale replacement period is four years, this extension immediately impacts drought sales that occurred during 2015. But because of previous drought-related extensions affecting some of these areas, the replacement periods for some drought sales before 2015 are also affected.
For additional details or more information on reporting drought sales and other farm-related tax issues, please call the office.
401(k), 403(b), 457 plans, and Thrift Savings Plan. Contribution limits for employees who participate in 401(k), 403(b), most 457 plans, and the federal government’s Thrift Savings Plan increase from $19,000 to $19,500. The catch-up contribution limit for employees aged 50 and over increases from $6,000 to $6,500.
SIMPLE retirement accounts. Contribution limits for SIMPLE retirement accounts for self-employed persons increase in 2020 as well - from $13,000 to $13,500.
Traditional IRAs. The limit on annual contributions to an IRA remains at $6,000. The additional catch-up contribution limit for individuals aged 50 and over is not subject to an annual cost-of-living adjustment and remains $1,000.
Taxpayers can deduct contributions to a traditional IRA if they meet certain conditions; however, if during the year either the taxpayer or their spouse was covered by a retirement plan at work, the deduction may be reduced, or phased out, until it is eliminated, depending on filing status and income. If a retirement plan at work covers neither the taxpayer nor their spouse, the phase-out amounts of the deduction do not apply.
The phase-out ranges for 2020 are as follows:
Saver’s Credit. The income limit for the Saver’s Credit (also known as the Retirement Savings Contributions Credit) for low- and moderate-income workers is $65,000 for married couples filing jointly, up from $64,000; $48,750 for heads of household, up from $48,000; and $32,500 for singles and married individuals filing separately, up from $32,000.
If you have any questions about retirement plan contributions, don’t hesitate to call.
Employers Social Security, Medicare, and withheld income tax - If the monthly deposit rule applies, deposit the tax for payments in November.
Employers Nonpayroll withholding - If the monthly deposit rule applies, deposit the tax for payments in November.
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