5 Tax Planning Tips to Help You Benefit from Tax Reform

by Susan C. Allen, CPA, CITP, CGMA, AICPA Senior Manager, Tax Practice & Ethics – June 5, 2018
5 Tax Planning Tips to Help You Benefit from Tax Reform

One thing is for sure, life is constantly changing. We must stay flexible and make the most out of the situation. The same is true for taxes. With the recent passing of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, many taxpayers will see changes to their tax situation. Now is the time to plan for those changes and embrace the opportunities.

Here are five tax planning tips to explore today.

1. Consider adjusting your withholding and estimated tax payments (if you haven’t already) and making tax-savings deferrals. 

No one likes surprises when it comes to their tax bill. With the many 2018 tax law changes, it’s important to revisit how you are withholding taxes from your paycheck. If you’re withholding too much, you’ll get a bigger refund at the end of the year when you file your taxes, but you could have had that money sooner. If you will owe more taxes this year, increasing your withholding and/or paying estimated tax payments can mitigate a large tax bill when you file your return. Plus, there are interest and penalties that you could be assessed if you don’t pay enough taxes throughout the year.

The IRS has revised its 2018 withholding tables based on the new tax laws, and taxpayers should consider updating their Form W-4, Employee’s Withholding Allowance Certificate, with their employer. The IRS also provides a withholding calculator to help you determine the effect of the 2018 tax changes (though you will likely still need professional guidance).

Also, explore other tax savings deferral opportunities that are provided by your employer, such as increasing the amount you are deferring to a 401(k) and putting more money in a health savings account or flexible spending account.

2. Consider “bunching” certain expenses so you’re able to maximize tax benefits. 

The standard deduction is now double what it used to be, and millions of taxpayers will no longer itemize their expenses. This means certain taxpayers will no longer receive a tax benefit from deductions they used to regularly claim. However, with some careful planning, you can still see benefits from some of your old deduction friends. For example, if you are a charitable person, consider bunching your donations into one tax year so that you reap the tax benefits of those gifts.

3. For small business owners, understand the new deduction for qualified business income (QBI). 

There is a new deduction that allows owners of sole proprietorships, S corporations and partnerships to deduct up to 20% of their business income. The intent of this new deduction is to help these business owners keep pace with the large tax cuts associated with C corporations (C corporations now pay a flat 21% tax rate, a big cut from the prior-law graduated rates of 15%, 25%, 34% and 35%).

There are many complexities associated with this new deduction, including limitations, income phase-outs, questions about what is considered “income” for purposes of the deduction — to name a few.

Given these changes, you may want to rethink how your business is structured. Careful analysis is needed to determine if you’re financially better off being a sole proprietorship, flow-through entity or a C corporation.

4. Consider paying down your home mortgage and home equity loans. 

Because of the increased standard deduction, some taxpayers will no longer receive a tax benefit from the mortgage interest paid on their home. Plus, under the new rules, you can’t deduct interest paid on your home equity loan or line of credit if the money was used for purposes other than buying or improving your home. Now is a great time to look at your balance sheet. Review your assets and liabilities, pay attention to the interest rates you’re paying (net of any tax savings), and start paying off debt.Taxes are always a huge consideration, but overall financial stability and debt management should be your focus.

5. Talk to your Certified Public Accountant (CPA). 

It’s advisable to talk to your CPA to help you navigate the constantly changing and complex tax laws. CPAs must comply with extensive education and experience requirements, making them the best tax professional for you to consult about these changes. To find a CPA near you, visit the NJCPA's Find-A-CPA directory.

This article was reprinted with permission from the AICPA.