Atlanta Financial Newsroom

The New Tax Bill: Tallying the Results

The New Tax Bill: Tallying the Results
Chris Blackmon, CFP®, CPA
May 13, 2019

“How did the new tax bill affect me?” was the question on everyone’s minds this tax season, and for good reason. Even though this was touted as the greatest simplification of the tax code in my lifetime, I didn’t notice any reduction in time spent preparing returns. Those of you who reviewed your returns in detail noticed that the schedules look drastically different although contain all the same information. The short answer for many is that it didn’t materially change your overall tax liability. The outliers fell into one of a few buckets:

– Those that paid more in taxes: These were generally married couples or individuals with W2 wages in excess of $250,000. Because the new tax law limited the amount of state income and property tax deduction to $10,000 combined, for those with higher incomes and living in a home or area with significant property taxes in excess of $10,000, the loss of ductions led to a higher overall tax.

– Those that paid less in taxes: These were generally business owners who benefited from the 20% passthrough deduction; couples with children whose income previously adjusted them out of the child tax credit but are now were able to benefit from the $2,000 child tax credit; or those that had comparable income and deductions to prior year, but benefited from the lower marginal rates.

My takeaways and planning tips coming out of tax season are:

– Whether self-employed or working and receiving a W2, reach out to your CPA or tax professional during the year and have them review the amount of tax being withheld or your estimated tax percentage to ensure you know where you stand and won’t be surprised next year at tax time. It has become apparent through news stories that companies made mistakes when adjusting withholding and many employees had less withholding than needed.

– Many retirees will take the standard deduction of $26,600 as most of our clients do not have mortgage interest to deduct and do not pay enough in property tax or state income tax (due to the Georgia retirement income exclusion or Alabama pension income exclusion) to deduct the full $10,000.

Therefore, charitable giving should be done directly from your IRA. This will reduce your overall AGI and could help with taxability of Social Security and/or Capital Gains and will allow for you to still receive the tax benefit from giving to charity. If you are charitably inclined, contact your advisor to discuss whether a Qualified Charitable Distribution makes sense for you, and how we can assist with the details of making these kinds of contributions.

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9 Year-End Tax Tips

This year marks our second year living with the sweeping tax law changes passed at the end of 2017, known as the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.  How did you fare under the new tax law, or do you know?

Many tax payers had pleasant surprises when they filed their 2018 returns, with smaller tax bills and/or larger refunds than usual.  But some tax payers felt like they didn’t benefit from the tax cuts at all.  As we met with clients in 2019, we found that for some of those clients the total tax paid was in fact higher, but due to higher income levels (from a strong economy and stock market), while tax rates actually did decline from pre-2018 levels. Unfortunately, for a significant minority of our clients, both rates and taxes paid were higher due to limitations on mortgage interest deductions, the elimination of personal exemptions and the cap on state and local tax deductions (the so called “SALT” deductions). 

Regardless of which camp you found yourself in after filing your 2018 taxes, there is still time to minimize what you will owe for 2019 with smart planning.  We have listed 9 tips to consider between now and year-end.

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Billfolds and Babies

A baby changes the game in so many ways. I think back to the first time I heard my little boy say “peeeez, Daddy.” I would have handed that little guy nearly anything he wanted with little remorse just because of how cute it was. It makes me think about how as parents, we naturally want to not just meet, but exceed the wants and needs of our children; however, accomplishing that can be quite a challenge. With so much time focused on getting ready mentally, spiritually, and physically for a new baby, it is also fact that soon-to-be parents can especially end up feeling a bit unprepared financially because it is so tough to judge how expensive life as a growing family will be.

Knowing personally and professionally that the fiscal changes associated with parenthood are a gracious plenty, I’ve laid out a few things below that will hopefully make the experience of welcoming a new baby less of a learn-on-the-fly education.

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4 Estate Planning Tips When You Have Young Children

1. Write a Will
For most young parents, writing a will is less about distributing assets and more about naming a guardian for their children. The guardian named in your Will is the person that would take care of your children if you and the other parent were unable to do so. This situation is very unlikely, but worth addressing just in case.

If your children ever needed a guardian, the local Probate Court would appoint the person designated in your Will, absent a serious problem with that person. You can name different guardians for different children if you wish. If you do not have a Will with a Guardianship Designation, or if you haven’t made your wishes in the Will clear, the Probate Court would have to select a guardian for your children without any guidance from you. The most common choice is a family member. But what if you really wouldn’t want a certain family member to raise your children? Or what if you preferred that a close friend step in as guardian? The Court would have no way of knowing your wishes.

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How Much Will Your Social Security Increase in 2020?

You may have heard that the Social Security Administration officially announced that Social Security recipients will receive a 1.6% cost-of-living (COLA) adjustment for 2020. Those increased payments will start in January 2020.  The purpose of the COLA is to help the purchasing power of Social Security benefits keep pace with inflation.  Congress first enacted the COLA provision as part of the 1972 Social Security Amendments, with automatic annual COLAs began in 1975.  Before that, benefits were increased only when Congress enacted special legislation. 

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