Congress passed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act in December of 2017 which is aimed at cutting taxes for corporations and all Americans. While the bulk of the legislation went into effect January 2018, most taxpayers will not see much of a difference in their taxes until 2019, when they file their 2018 taxes. However, there are several important changes seniors need to be aware of now that could affect not only their tax bill, but other items such as their health care premiums. Legislation as complicated as a new tax code can be difficult to dissect, and certainly requires the help of a tax professional. Please feel free to contact our office with any questions you may have while reading through the points below:
Before explaining the changes, let's examine several facets important to seniors that will remain the same. The new tax bill keeps the extra standard deduction for those 65 and older, which is $1,250 for individuals, $1,550 for heads of households, and $2,500 for couples who are both age 65 or older. Further, the new plan does not affect the way Social Security or investment income is taxed. Also, the new plan keeps the popular medical expense deduction. This deduction is for people with incomes below $75,000 which allows them to deduct medical expenses that exceed 7.5 percent of their income for the 2017 and 2018 tax year. In 2019, this will increase to bills that exceed 10 percent of their income. Congress was considering eliminating the medical expense deduction, but did not. This is important because seniors who have high nursing home, assisted living, or home health care costs, often liquidate assets to pay for their care. Often, these assets have appreciated, so extra taxable income is incurred. Since the medical expense deduction can include long-term care costs, including the costs of home care and facilities, it can help offset the taxable income incurred when highly appreciated assets are sold to pay for care.
Perhaps the most talked about change in the new tax plan is the repeal of the individual mandate contained in the Affordable Care Act. According to the bipartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO), by 2027, this may increase the number of Americans without health insurance by 13 million. The CBO also states that because there will be a smaller pool of insured, it expects insurance premiums in the individual market to increase by 10 percent over the next 10 years. Citizens age 50 to 64 can expect a premium increase of up to $1,500 in 2019.
The tax bill reduces taxes across the board, contributing to a projected reduction of $1.5 trillion in revenue to the government over the next decade. This deficit would trigger cuts to “pay-as-you-go” programs such as Medicare and Medicaid. Medicare is expected to have its budget reduced by $25 billion in 2018.
Other notable provisions that will affect senior taxpayers include the new tax brackets which range from 10 percent for the lowest earners to 37 percent for those with the highest incomes. Taxpayers can deduct state and local taxes, which may include income, sales, and property taxes. The state and local tax deductions are capped at $10,000. Alimony payments will no longer be deductible. Anyone who inherits an estate can now exempt $10 million compared to the previous $5.6 million. The charitable giving deduction will increase under the new plan until this provision expires in 2026. The mortgage interest deduction is also being updated. Now, the deduction on mortgage interest is capped to loans of $750,000 for new home purchases and interest accrued on home equity loans is no longer deductible.
Under the new Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, the majority of seniors may see their tax bills decrease. However, it is still prudent that seniors be aware of the changes that may affect them such as their health care premiums or deductions on medical expenses. If you would like to meet with a professional who will be able to assess your personal situation and provide you with guidance on how this will affect you, please don't hesitate to give our office a call.