2018 Tax Law Changes: What You Need to Know

2018 Tax Law Reform: What You Need to Know


When the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (2018 Tax Reform) went into effect in early 2018, many were skeptical: The top individual rate went from 39.6% to 37%, and most individual tax bracket rates lowered, which seems like a great thing. The average working family saw savings this year to the tune of about $1,000, and you may have noticed a little extra change in your pockets. In this season of gratitude, you may be counting your blessings for that.

But as we all know, when it comes to our taxes, there are rarely cuts in one place without increases elsewhere, and for some, the changes may not be so welcome. As you start planning to file your 2018 returns, you’ll need to know what major differences are headed your way.

Here, we’ve broken down the biggest changes you can expect to see in your 2018 taxes:

Simplification is the name of the 2018 tax game. The primary goal of the new tax package was to simplify a tax code that many lawmakers felt was too complicated. In fact, for those who have filed a simple form 1040, things got even simpler. Watch for the postcard form 1040. You’ll be done even sooner than before.

The general trends went as follows:

  • Corporations saw huge tax cuts from 35% to 21%.
  • The standard deduction replaces itemized deductions.
  • An overall reduction in tax revenue may affect services.
  • Nonprofits may suffer with the loss of itemized deductions as incentive.
  • Families with young children saw fewer taxes while those with older children see more.

The standard deduction was virtually doubled. The standard deduction, which is the amount the IRS lets you deduct from your taxable income without question, significantly increased this year. The deduction for single taxpayers went from $6,350 to $12,000; for those married and filing jointly, the deduction increased from $12,700 to $24,000; and for heads of household, the deduction went from $9,350 to $18,000. So if you’ve always itemized deductions, if your deductions usually came to less than these new standard deduction amounts, you may see a lessening of your tax burden this year, as well as a simplification, since there’s no longer any point, for most middle-class taxpayers, in itemizing.

Miscellaneous expenses can no longer be claimed as itemized deductions. Until 2018, certain expenses could be deducted from your taxes: tax preparation (your accountant fees), work-related expenses (such as the costs of a home office, a job search, your business licenses, mileage and gas, and more), and the fees you pay your financial advisor or broker for managing your money and investing. Those are gone, suspended until 2025. So, too, are moving expense deductions.

Again, the standard deduction replaces these deductions—which may or may not be a good thing. For example, if you’re a single taxpayer, you’ve itemized in the past, and, with your miscellaneous expenses, the total amount you were able to deduct last year came to $10,000, you’ll benefit from not having to itemize this year and claiming a $12,700 standard deduction instead. But on the other hand, if your itemized deductions, including miscellaneous expenses, got you $15,000 last year, the difference between that and this year’s $12,700 will be noticeable and perhaps painful.

Personal and dependent exemptions are gone. In the past, taxpayers could reduce their adjusted gross incomes by up to $4,050 per personal exemption, for themselves, their spouses, and each of their dependents. Those exemptions are no longer allowed. Again, the standard deduction increase was intended to offset this, but if you’ve benefitted from these exemptions in the past, you may see an increased tax burden if the total might otherwise have taken you over the standard deduction threshold.

The child tax credit increased. Last year, the tax credit per qualifying child was $1,000, but this year that amount is $2,000. Up to $1,400 of it can be received in your tax refund, and the rule includes a $500 nonrefundable credit for each dependent besides a qualifying child (for example, a foster child or a disabled relative). Up until 2018, the credit was phased out by $50 for each $1,000 the taxpayer earned beyond certain thresholds—$75,000 for singles and heads of household, $110,000 for married couples filing jointly, and $55,000 for married couples filing singly. That phaseout has been adjusted in the new tax code to start at over $200,000 for singles and $400,000 for married couples. In other words, even those with six-figure incomes may not see any reduction in their child tax credits.

Other changes include expansions of the allowable 529 distributions for education, adjustments to the allowable deductions for mortgage income or medical expenses, and many more.

For those who own rental properties, own small businesses, or conduct frequent investment activities, you’ll still want to work with a CPA to ensure those documents.

The bottom line? Much about the tax code has changed, and it’s likely to affect you. We’re here to explain these changes to you in language you understand. Contact us today with your tax questions. We’re ready to help.