From THOMSON REUTERS TAX & ACCOUNTING NEWS
Federal Taxes Weekly Alert, 11/23/2016
Year-end moves for those who believe President-elect Trump will cut their taxes next year
In his first televised interview, President-elect Trump declared that a “major tax bill lowering taxes in this country” would be one of his top three priorities. Those middle and upper income taxpayers who are betting he can deliver on this promise, and put his tax reduction plan in place for 2017, should revisit their year-end tax moves to make the most of what might be windfall savings next year.
Defer income to 2017. The Trump tax plan would feature three tax brackets instead of current law's seven, and a top tax rate of 33% instead of current law's 39.6%. The upshot of these and other tax-reduction changes, if retained in the final tax plan, would be reduced taxes for middle and upper income taxpayers, with the biggest tax savings realized by the wealthiest taxpayers.
The standard year-end tax-savings wisdom always has been to defer income, where possible, into the coming year. This standard approach would make even more sense for middle and upper income taxpayers if the Trump tax plan prevails over others in Congress, and goes into effect for tax year 2017.
Here are some of the ways to defer income until 2017:
If the sale can't be postponed, it may be possible to structure the deal as an installment sale. By making a sale this year with part or all of the proceeds payable next year or later, a non-dealer seller to whom the installment method applies becomes taxable in any year on only that proportion of his profit which the payments he receives that year bear to the total sale price. If the 3.8% surtax is repealed for tax years beginning after 2016, the profit on the post-2016 installment payments would escape the surtax. Note that the Trump tax plan would keep current law's maximum tax rate of 20% of capital gains.
On the deduction side. Itemized deductions produce no tax savings for a year in which a taxpayer claims the standard deduction, and many more taxpayers would claim the standard deduction under President-elect Trump's tax plan. It calls for a dramatically increased standard deduction: $30,000 for joint filers (up from $12,600 for 2016) and $15,000 for singles (up from $6,300). If the boosted standard deduction makes it into law for 2017, many taxpayers who itemize under current law and wouldn't be able to under the Trump plan would be better off accelerating next year's itemized deductions into this year, when they will generate a tax savings. And, even if the standard deduction proposal is watered down, itemized deductions still will be more valuable to a taxpayer this year than next if he expects to be in a lower marginal tax bracket in 2017.
For example, those whose medical expenses exceed the 10% of AGI floor (7.5% of AGI for those age 65 or older) could accelerate into this year discretionary or elective medical procedures or expenses, such as dental implants or expensive eyewear. Individuals could boost charitable contributions (e.g., making two years worth of contributions this year to a favorite cause), pay state income tax and local property tax a bit early (keeping in mind that such taxes are not deductible for alternative minimum tax purposes), or making a year-end mortgage payment.
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