A Message From Our Team

Dear Clients and Friends,

As our firm continues to monitor the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) situation, we wanted to take a few minutes to reach out to our clients, friends, and community. As you are aware, we are in the heart of the busiest time of year for our industry. Scheffel Boyle remains fully operational in our seven offices – Alton, Edwardsville, Belleville, Highland, Jerseyville, Columbia, and Carrollton, IL. We are and will continue to be dedicated to serving and advising you. We are focused on high quality service and the health and safety of our clients, team members, business partners, vendors, and their families.

We are currently reviewing and updating internal policies, particularly regarding in-person meetings and office visitors. At this time, we have taken the following measures to ensure service continuity remains strong, but also that important safety precautions are taken:

  1. Encouraging meetings over the phone with clients rather than face-to-face
  2. Promoting an easy, secure upload of client documents through our online portal, ShareFile. Please contact your Scheffel Boyle team member for details on how to use this feature.
  3. Limiting non-essential employee travel and client contact
  4. Strict return from illness policies and exposure policy with quarantine period
  5. Sanitizers distributed throughout offices
  6. Frequent disinfecting wipe-downs of common areas in all offices

Our leadership is closely monitoring Federal, State, local government, and IRS updates regarding both this issue and our usual deadlines during busy season. We are also taking actions to have as little disruption as possible to our professional work, while keeping safety top-of-mind. The CDC recommends the following routine preventative actions to help prevent the spread of virus, including everyday habits which we are stressing to all our team:

  1. Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing. If soap and water aren’t available, use an alcohol-based sanitizer that is at least 60% alcohol.
  2. Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  3. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
  4. Stay home when you are sick or have been exposed to someone with the virus.
  5. Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  6. Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using disinfectant wipes.
  7. Avoid contact with anyone who has recently been outside the United States

Our policies and the measures we take internally during this crisis are fluid and will remain adaptive as the situation evolves. We will communicate with our clients if our current situation, policies, or procedures were to change.

Please reach out to our team with any questions or concerns you may have during this time. We remain dedicated to serving you and doing things for the health and safety of our team, clients, community, and friends.

 

Sincerely,

The Scheffel Boyle Team

The 2019 Gift Tax Return Deadline is Almost Here

Most people have April 15th burned in their minds as the deadline for filing their federal income tax returns. What you may forget is that the gift tax return deadline is on the very same date. So, if you made large gifts to family members or heirs last year, it’s important to determine whether you’re required to file.


Filing Requirements

Generally, you must file a gift tax return for 2019 if, during the tax year, you made gifts that exceeded the $15,000-per-recipient gift tax annual exclusion (other than to your U.S. citizen spouse) or that you wish to split with your spouse to take advantage of your combined $30,000 annual exclusion.

You also need to file if you made gifts to a Section 529 college savings plan and wish to accelerate up to five years’ worth of annual exclusions ($75,000) into 2019. Other reasons to file include making gifts:

  • That exceeded the $155,000 annual exclusion for gifts to a noncitizen spouse, or
  • Of future interests (such as remainder interests in a trust) regardless of the amount, or
  • Of jointly held or community property.

Keep in mind that you’ll owe gift tax only to the extent an exclusion doesn’t apply and you’ve used up your lifetime gift and estate tax exemption ($11.4 million for 2019). As you can see, some transfers require a return even if you don’t owe tax.

No Return Required

No gift tax return is required if your gifts for the year consist solely of gifts that are tax-free because they qualify as annual exclusion gifts, present interest gifts to a U.S. citizen spouse, educational or medical expenses paid directly to a school or health care provider, or political or charitable contributions.

But if you transferred hard-to-value property, such as artwork or interests in a family-owned business, consider filing a gift tax return even if you’re not required to. Adequate disclosure of the transfer in a return triggers the statute of limitations, generally preventing the IRS from challenging your valuation more than three years after you file.

Be Ready

If you owe gift tax, the payment deadline is indeed April 15 — regardless of whether you file for an extension (in which case you have until October 15 to file). If you’re unsure whether you must (or should) file a 2019 gift tax return, contact us.

Raising Financially Responsible Kids

If you help your kids understand money when they’re young, they’re more likely to develop sound financial habits when they’re adults. Of course, you’ll want to tailor the information to your child’s age. Here are some tips:

Toddlerhood and preschool. Talk about how most people work to earn money to buy things like food and toys. Bring your kids along on shopping trips and discuss how much various items cost. Point out that buying a more expensive item means less money for other things.

Early elementary school. Explain the difference between needs and wants. Provide a small “piggy bank.” It might help if it’s a clear container so kids can see their cash grow. Consider offering a small reward when the stash reaches a specific level.

Later elementary and middle school. Decide how you’ll handle allowances. Some parents choose to remit an allowance only if certain chores are completed. Others provide it no matter what and discipline the child in other ways. Whatever your approach, teach your child to budget and have him or her set aside part of the allowance to introduce the concept of savings.

Middle school. Gradually increase your child’s allowance. Suggest earning extra money through babysitting or other jobs.

High school. If possible, encourage your child to get a part-time job. Reinforce the importance of savings — whether for further education or some other goal. Discuss how to use credit wisely and how interest compounds over time.

Maintaining an open dialogue about finances and modeling sound money management can help you raise financially responsible kids. We’d be happy to provide additional ideas.

Is the Family and Medical Leave Act Credit Right for Your Business?

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) created a new tax credit for certain employers that provide paid family and medical leave. Originally, it was available only for the 2018 and 2019 tax years.

However, in December, a new law extended the credit through 2020 for eligible employers that have a written policy providing at least two weeks of such leave annually to all qualifying employees, both full- and part-time, and meet certain other requirements.

The Credit’s Value

An eligible employer can claim a credit equal to 12.5% of wages paid to qualifying employees who are on family and medical leave, if the leave payments are at least 50% of the normal wages paid to them. For each 1% increase over 50%, the credit rate increases by 0.25%, up to a maximum credit rate of 25%.

An eligible employee is one who’s worked for your company for at least one year, with compensation for the preceding year not exceeding 60% of the threshold for highly compensated employees for that year. For the 2019 tax year, the threshold for highly compensated employees is $125,000 (up from $120,000 for 2018). That means a qualifying employee’s 2019 compensation can’t exceed $72,000 (60% × $120,000).

Employers that claim the Family and Medical Leave Act credit must reduce their deductions for wages and salaries by the amount of the credit.

Qualifying Leave

Under the rules, family and medical leave is defined as time off taken by a qualified employee for only certain reasons. These include the birth, adoption or fostering of a child (and to care for the child). Care for a spouse, child or parent with a serious health condition qualifies, too, as does leave taken by an employee because of a serious health condition.

Also qualifying is any need because of an employee’s spouse, child or parent being on covered active duty in the Armed Forces (or being notified of an impending call or order to covered active duty). Care for a spouse, child, parent or next of kin who’s a covered veteran or member of the Armed Forces is eligible as well.

Employer-provided vacation, personal, medical or sick leave (other than leave defined above) is ineligible.

Important Date

Generally, to claim the credit for your company’s first tax year that begins after December 31, 2017, your written family and medical leave policy must be in place before the paid leave for which the credit will be claimed is taken.

However, under a favorable transition rule for the first tax year beginning after December 31, 2017, your company’s written leave policy (or an amendment to an existing policy) is considered to be in place as of the effective date of the policy (or amendment) rather than the later adoption date.

Attractive But Pricey

The new credit could be an attractive perk, but it can also be pricey because you must offer it to all qualifying full-time employees. Contact us for more info.

Gig Workers, Know Your Tax Responsibility

Let’s say you drive for a ride-sharing app, deliver groceries ordered online, or perform freelance home repairs. If you do one of these jobs or a variety of others, you’re a gig worker — part of a growing segment of the economy.

In fact, a 2019 IRS report found that the share of the workforce with income from alternative, nonemployee work arrangements grew by 1.9 percentage points from 2000 to 2016. (That’s a big increase.) And, over 50% of this rise occurred during the period 2013 to 2016, almost entirely because of gigs set up online.

A Different Way 

No matter what the job or app, all gig workers have one thing in common: taxes. But the way you’ll pay taxes differs from the way you would as an employee.

To start, you’re typically considered self-employed. As a result, and because an employer isn’t withholding money from your paycheck to cover your tax obligations, you’re responsible for making federal income tax payments. Depending on where you live, you also may have to pay state income tax.

Quarterly Tax Payments

The U.S. tax system is considered “pay as you go.” Self-employed individuals typically pay both federal income tax and self-employment taxes four times during the year: generally on April 15, June 15, and September 15 of the current year, and January 15 of the following year.

If you don’t pay enough over these four installments to cover the required amount for the year, you may be subject to penalties. To minimize the risk of penalties, you must generally pay either 90% of the tax you’ll owe for the current year or the same amount you paid the previous year.

The 1099

You may have encountered the term “the 1099 economy” or been called a “1099 worker.” This is because, as a self-employed person, you won’t get a W-2 from an employer. You may, however, receive a Form 1099-MISC from any client or customer that paid you at least $600 throughout the year. The client sends the same form to the IRS, so it pays to monitor the 1099s you receive and verify that the amounts match your records.

If a client (say, a ride-sharing app) uses a third-party payment system, you might receive a Form 1099-K. Even if you didn’t earn enough from a client to receive a 1099, or you’re not sent a 1099-K, you’re still responsible for reporting the income you were paid. Keep in mind that typically you’re taxed on income when received, not when you send a request for payment.

Good Record Keeping

As a gig worker, you need to keep accurate, timely records of your revenue and expenses so you pay the taxes you owe — but no more. We can help you set up a good record keeping system, file your taxes and stay updated on new developments in the gig economy.

 

Sidebar: Expense Deductions

By definition, gig workers are self-employed. So, your taxes are based on the profits left after you deduct business-related expenses from your revenue. Expenses can include payment processing fees, your investment in office equipment and specific costs required to provide your service. Remember, if you use a portion of your home for work space, you may be able to deduct the pro rata share of some home-related expenses.

The SECURE Act and What it Could Mean For You

On December 20, 2019, President Trump signed the SECURE Act into law, which makes changes to certain retirement plans. The SECURE Act has received a lot of publicity due to the provisions affecting inherited individual retirement accounts (IRAs). However, that’s not the only notable change of interest to individuals.


Modification of Required Minimum Distribution (RMD) Rules for Beneficiaries of Inherited IRAs or Qualified Plans

Upon the death of a traditional IRA owner or qualified plan participant, RMDs could be paid over the life expectancy of the designated individual beneficiary. Often referred to as a “stretch payment,” payment of RMDs over the life expectancy of a much younger beneficiary (such as a taxpayer’s child or grandchild), resulted in smaller annual distributions, thereby providing the opportunity for the continued deferral of tax on the retirement account assets while they continued to appreciate.

Prior to the SECURE Act, if a traditional IRA owner or qualified plan participant died without naming an individual as a designated beneficiary and the IRA owner or qualified plan participant had not yet reached the required beginning date, the taxpayer’s remaining interest in the retirement plan was required to be distributed no later than the end of the fifth calendar year following the death of the taxpayer (the five-year rule).

The SECURE Act does away with the favorable tax deferral of stretch payments. Instead, non-spouse beneficiaries of traditional IRAs or qualified plans of taxpayers who die after December 31, 2019, must now deplete the plan’s assets on or before the end of the 10th calendar year following the death of the taxpayer. Further, this 10-year rule also applies to plans that previously would have been subject to the aforementioned five-year rule.

Eligible designated beneficiaries are not subject to the new 10-year rule. Eligible designated beneficiaries include the surviving spouse, minor children, certain chronically ill or disabled beneficiaries, and individual beneficiaries who are not more than 10 years younger than the deceased IRA owner or qualified plan participant. Eligible designated beneficiaries may continue to receive RMDs over their life expectancy, provided however, that the account balance must be distributed within 10 years of the death of the eligible designated beneficiary or, in the case of an eligible beneficiary who was a minor child, within 10 years of such child reaching the age of majority.

Insights

  • The age of majority varies across the states. There is currently no regulatory guidance from the IRS on the age of majority for purposes of applying this provision of the SECURE Act.
  • Taxpayers may want to review the named designated beneficiaries of their IRAs and retirement plans. Where this change in the SECURE Act may now produce an unintended result, taxpayers may want to revisit their estate plans and consider alternative planning opportunities such as taking advantage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) lower income tax rates and converting traditional IRAs to Roth IRAs, which generally are not subject to the RMD requirements during the IRA owner’s lifetime. Inherited Roth IRAs are subject to RMD requirements.
  • The House Ways and Means Committee estimates that this change will raise $15.7 billion of the total estimated $16.3 billion the SECURE Act is expected to generate over the next 10 years.


RMD Age Increased to Age 72

Prior to the SECURE Act, taxpayers were generally required to begin receiving RMDs from their traditional IRAs and certain qualified retirement plans beginning on April 1 of the year following the year they reached age 70 ½. *The SECURE Act increased this RMD age to age 72 for all distributions required to be made after December 31, 2019. That is, individuals who attain age 70 ½ after December 31, 2019, will not be required to take mandatory distributions until April 1 of the year following the year in which they attain age 72.

*Taxpayers may defer withdrawals from a qualified plan until retirement from the company sponsoring the plan, provided the taxpayer is not a 5% or greater owner of the company.

 

Insights

  • Generally, there is no RMD requirement for a Roth IRA during the Roth IRA owner’s lifetime. Unlike contributions to a traditional IRA which are made with pre-tax dollars, contributions to a Roth IRA are made with after-tax dollars. As such, the RMD requirement of traditional IRAs ensure that a taxpayer may not indefinitely defer tax on assets held in a traditional IRA.
  • The House Ways and Means Committee estimates that this change will cost $8.9 billion over the next 10 years. That’s more than half of the nearly $16.3 billion total the SECURE Act is estimated to cost over the next 10 years.


Penalty-Free Withdrawals From Certain Retirement Plans for Expenses Related to Child Birth or Adoption

Distributions from traditional IRAs and qualified retirement plans are generally included in income in the year received. With rare exception, distributions before age 59 ½ are subject to a 10-percent early withdrawal penalty on the amount includable in income. A common exception to the early withdrawal penalty is for distributions made in certain cases of emergency or financial hardship.

The SECURE Act provides an additional exception to the 10-percent early withdrawal penalty for a distribution of up to $5,000 from a defined contribution retirement plan or IRA made after December 31, 2019 which is used for expenses related to a qualified birth or adoption. To qualify for the penalty-free exception, the distribution must be made during the one-year period beginning on the date on which the child is born, or the adoption is finalized. Eligible adoptees are any individual (other than a child of the taxpayer’s spouse) who has not attained age 18 or is physically or mentally incapable of self-support. Qualified birth or adoption distributions may generally be repaid to the retirement plan at any time.

Insights

  • Amounts withdrawn for qualified birth or adoption expenses are included in the taxpayer’s income in the year withdrawn, but they are not subject to the 10 percent early withdrawal penalty or to mandatory 20 percent income tax withholding (because the new law says that they are not “eligible rollover distributions”). Qualified birth or adoption distributions generally can be repaid with after-tax dollars at any time, essentially allowing retirement plan participants to restore the full amount of the distribution to their plan accounts. So, if a participant withdrew $5,000 as a qualified birth or adoption expense, he or she could recontribute the full $5,000 back into the plan (even years later), even though the participant paid income tax on the distribution.
  • The $5,000 limit is per individual. Thus, a married couple may each separately receive a $5,000 qualified birth or adoption distribution from an eligible retirement plan.
  • The individual receiving the qualified birth or adoption distribution appears to be the only person who can repay it to the retirement plan or IRA. Thus, someone else could not directly repay the amount as a gift, but they could gift the funds to that individual, enabling him or her to repay the distribution.


Repeal of Maximum Age for Traditional IRA Contributions and Coordination with Qualified Charitable Distributions (QCDs)

Prior to the enactment of the SECURE Act, beneficiaries were required to be under age 70 ½ as of the end of the taxable year to be eligible for a deduction for qualified contributions to traditional IRA accounts. The SECURE Act repealed this maximum age limitation for taxable years beginning after December 31, 2019, ensuring that taxpayers of any age are now eligible to make qualified contributions to traditional IRA accounts and obtain a deduction for their qualified contributions.

Insights

  • The House Ways and Means Committee Report acknowledged that Americans are continuing to work past traditional retirement ages and explained that the elimination of the age limitation removed an impediment for older American workers to add to their retirement savings.
  • Roth IRAs have no such age limitation and therefore are unaffected by this provision of the SECURE Act. In 2020, contributions to all of taxpayer’s IRAs (traditional and Roth), may not exceed $6,000. Individuals age 50 or older are able to contribute an additional $1,000.

QCDs permit taxpayers to make a charitable contribution up to $100,000 from their traditional IRA and exclude that distribution from the taxpayer’s gross income. For taxable years beginning after December 31, 2019, QCDs that are excluded from a taxpayer’s gross income are reduced (but not below zero) by the excess of: (1) the total amount of deductions allowed to the taxpayer for contributions to a traditional IRA in taxable years ending on or after the date the taxpayer attains age 70 ½  over (2) the total amount of reductions for all tax years preceding the current tax year.

Insights

  • This change to QCDs prevents a taxpayer over age 70 ½ from usurping the traditional charitable contribution limitations by taking a deduction for a qualified contribution to a traditional IRA and then making a QCD and excluding the QCD from gross income.

Reinstatement of the Kiddie Tax Previously Suspended by the TCJA

Before the TCJA was enacted, for taxable years beginning before December 31, 2017, the net unearned income of a child was taxed at the parents’ tax rates if the parents’ rates were higher than the child’s. The TCJA suspended this so-called “kiddie tax” for taxable years beginning after December 31, 2017, and before January 1, 2026, and instead provided that the net unearned income of a child was taxed at the same rates as estates and trusts.

The SECURE Act reinstates the kiddie tax. As a result, for tax years beginning after December 31, 2019, the unearned income of a child is no longer taxed at the same rates as estates and trusts. Instead, the unearned income of a child will be taxed at the parents’ tax rates if such rates are higher than the child’s tax rates.

Insights

  • Taxpayers can elect to apply this provision retroactively to tax years that begin in 2018 or 2019. Taxpayers should revisit their 2018 filings and determine whether an amended return would be beneficial.

Own a Pass-Through Entity? Beware the Ides of March

“Beware the Ides of March.” Shakespeare’s words don’t apply just to Julius Caesar; they also apply to calendar-year partnerships, S corporations and limited liability companies (LLCs) treated as partnerships or S corporations for tax purposes. Why? The Ides of March — March 15 — is the federal income tax filing deadline for these “pass-through” entities.


Not-So-Ancient History

Until the 2016 tax year, the filing deadline for partnerships was the same as that for individual taxpayers: April 15 (or shortly thereafter if April 15 fell on a weekend or holiday). But the due date was changed to allow business owners to use the information contained in the pass-through entity forms to file their personal returns. For partnerships with fiscal year ends, tax returns are now due the 15th day of the third month after the close of the tax year. The same deadline applies to fiscal-year S corporations.

Avoiding a Tragedy

If you haven’t yet filed your calendar-year partnership or S corporation return, you can avoid the tragedy of a late return by filing for an extension. Under the current law, the maximum extension for calendar-year partnerships is six months (until September 15, 2020, for 2019 returns). This is up from five months under the old law. So, the extension deadline is the same — only the length of the extension has changed. The extension deadline for calendar-year S corporations also is September 15, 2020, for 2019 returns. Whether you’ll be filing a partnership or an S corporation return, you must file for the extension by March 15 if it’s a calendar-year entity.

Extending the Drama

Filing for an extension can be tax-smart if you’re missing critical documents or you face unexpected life events that prevent you from devoting enough time to your return right now.

But to avoid potential interest and penalties, you still must (with a few exceptions) pay any tax due by the unextended deadline. There probably won’t be any tax liability from the partnership or S corporation return. But, if filing for an extension for the entity return causes you to also have to file an extension for your personal return, it could cause you to owe interest and penalties in relation to your personal return.

To File or To Extend

We can help you file your tax returns on a timely basis or determine whether filing for an extension is appropriate. Contact us today.

Accounting for the Near and the Long Term in a Family Budget

A wise person once said, “Simplicity is the key to a family budget.” (He or she may or may not have been an accountant.) However, it also needs to be comprehensive enough to cover all necessary items. To find the right balance, a budget should cover two distinct facets of family members’ lives: the near term and the long term.

In the near term, the budget should encompass the day-to-day items that affect every family. First, the home: This is often the most valuable possession in a personal budget. And a budget shouldn’t include only mortgage payments, but also expenses such as utilities, maintenance and supplies.

Naturally, there are other items related to daily life that need to be accounted for. These include groceries, fuel, clothing, child care, insurance and out-of-pocket medical expenses. And families need to draw clear distinctions between fixed and discretionary spending.

Along with being a practical guide to near-term family spending, the budget needs to address long-term goals. Of course, some goals are further out than others. For example, virtually everyone’s longest-term objective should be to have a comfortable retirement. So, a budget needs to incorporate plan contributions and other ways to meet this goal.

A relatively less long-term goal might be funding one or more college educations. So, again, the budget should reflect efforts to this effect. And, as a long-term but “as soon as possible” objective, the budget needs to be structured to pay off debts and maintain a strong credit rating. We can help you craft a sensible budget that addresses your family’s distinctive needs.

Careful Tax Planning Required for Incentive Stock Options

Incentive stock options (ISOs) are a popular form of compensation for executives and other key employees. They allow you to buy company stock in the future at a fixed price equal to or greater than the stock’s fair market value on the ISO grant date. If the stock appreciates, you can buy shares at a price below what they’re then trading for. But careful tax planning is required because of the complex rules that apply.


Tax Advantages Abound

Although ISOs must comply with many rules, they receive tax-favored treatment. You owe no tax when ISOs are granted. You also owe no regular income tax when you exercise ISOs. There could be alternative minimum tax (AMT) consequences, but the AMT is less of a risk now because of the high AMT exemption under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

There are regular income tax consequences when you sell the stock. If you sell after holding it at least one year from the exercise date and two years from the grant date, you pay tax on the sale at your long-term capital gains rate. You also may owe the 3.8% net investment income tax (NIIT).

If you sell the stock before long-term capital gains treatment applies, a “disqualifying disposition” occurs and a portion of the gain is taxed as compensation at ordinary-income rates.

2019 Impact

If you were granted ISOs in 2019, there likely isn’t any impact on your 2019 income tax return. But if in 2019 you exercised ISOs or you sold stock you’d acquired via exercising ISOs, then it could affect your 2019 tax liability. It’s important to properly report the exercise or sale on your 2019 return to avoid potential interest and penalties for underpayment of tax.

Planning Ahead

If you receive ISOs in 2020 or already hold ISOs that you haven’t yet exercised, plan carefully when to exercise them. Waiting to exercise ISOs until just before the expiration date (when the stock value may be the highest, assuming the stock is appreciating) may make sense. But exercising ISOs earlier can be advantageous in some situations.

Once you’ve exercised ISOs, the question is whether to immediately sell the shares received or to hold on to them long enough to garner long-term capital gains treatment. The latter strategy often is beneficial from a tax perspective, but there’s also market risk to consider. For example, it may be better to sell the stock in a disqualifying disposition and pay the higher ordinary-income rate if it would avoid AMT on potentially disappearing appreciation.

The timing of the sale of stock acquired via an exercise could also positively or negatively affect your liability for higher ordinary-income tax rates, the top long-term capital gains rate and the NIIT.

Nice Perk

ISOs are a nice perk to have, but they come with complex rules. For help with both tax planning and filing, please contact us.

The TCJA Effect: Qualified Residence Interest

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) made a significant impact — both directly and indirectly — on the deductibility of various types of interest expense for individuals. One area affected is qualified residence interest.


Two Ways About It

The TCJA affects interest on residential loans in two ways. First, by nearly doubling the standard deduction and placing a $10,000 cap on deductions of state and local taxes, the act substantially reduces the number of taxpayers who itemize. This means that fewer taxpayers will benefit from mortgage and home equity interest deductions. Second, from 2018 through 2025, the act places new limits on the amount of qualified residence interest you can deduct.

Previously, taxpayers could deduct interest on up to $1 million in acquisition indebtedness ($500,000 for married taxpayers filing separately) and up to $100,000 in home equity indebtedness ($50,000 for married taxpayers filing separately).

Acquisition indebtedness is debt that’s incurred to acquire, build or substantially improve a qualified residence, and is secured by that residence. Home equity indebtedness is debt that’s incurred for any other purpose (such as buying a boat or paying off credit cards) and is secured by a qualified residence. A single mortgage could be treated as both acquisition and home equity indebtedness, allowing taxpayers to deduct interest on debt up to $1.1 million.

The TCJA reduced the deduction limit for acquisition indebtedness to interest on up to $750,000 in debt and eliminated the deduction for home equity indebtedness altogether, through 2025. The new limit on acquisition indebtedness doesn’t apply to debt incurred on or before December 15, 2017, subject to an exception for mortgages that were incurred on or before April 1, 2018, in certain circumstances. Specifically, it involves debt incurred pursuant to a written binding contract to purchase a qualified residence executed before December 15, 2017, and scheduled to close before January 1, 2018 (so long as the purchase, as it turned out, was completed before April 1, 2018). And it doesn’t apply to existing mortgages that are refinanced after December 15, 2017, provided the resulting debt doesn’t exceed the refinanced debt.

The elimination of interest deductions for home equity indebtedness, however, applies to existing debt. So, if you were previously deducting interest on up to $100,000 of home equity debt, that interest is no longer deductible. The same holds true for the $100,000 home equity portion of $1.1 million in mortgage debt. Note, however, that interest on a home equity loan used to substantially improve a qualified residence is deductible as acquisition indebtedness (subject to applicable limits).

Review Your Expenses

In light of the TCJA’s changes, you may want to make changes such as paying off home equity loans because interest is no longer deductible. Contact us for help.

 

Sidebar: Investment Interest Also Affected

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) also affects investment interest. This is interest on debt borrowed to buy taxable investments (margin loans, for example). Like qualified residence interest, investment interest is an itemized deduction, which is lost if you no longer itemize.

Deductions of investment interest cannot exceed your net investment income, which generally includes interest income and ordinary dividend income, but not lower-taxed capital gains, qualified dividends or tax-free investment earnings. For many people, net investment income is now higher because the TCJA eliminated miscellaneous itemized deductions for such expenses.