Year-End Planning: Impact of Pending Tax Legislation

Below is a memo by Steven Woolf, Senior Tax Policy Counsel of The Jewish Federations of North America about making the most of your year-end giving.

As the House and Senate spend the next few days ironing out their differences in their versions of the tax cut bills, now is the time to consider a number of planning strategies that can impact your 2017 and 2018 taxes. Although many will see their tax rates go down in 2018, this reduction may be more than offset by the loss of certain deductible items.

For individuals, the cornerstone of both the House and Senate tax cut bills is a doubling of the standard deduction in 2018 (to approximately $28,000 for married couples). At the same time, a number of so-called itemized deductions will be eliminated or limited in value. As a consequence, taxpayers won’t be itemizing their deductions unless their total of home mortgage interest, charitable contributions, and perhaps up to $10,000 in local property taxes exceeds the $28,000 threshold.

For those who could be claiming the standard deduction in 2018, it may pay to consider accelerating some payments before the end of this calendar year. And accelerating deductions could also make sense for those who will continue to itemize. The bottom line is that it is essential to “run the numbers” to see how strategies such as those discussed below will impact your 2017 and potential 2018 tax bills.

Year-end strategies include:

Prepay certain state and local taxes: it may make sense to prepay 2018 installments of both estimated state income taxes and property taxes this year. Note that it is important to consider the impact of the alternative minimum tax as this tax can be triggered by excessive state and local tax deductions.

Accelerate charitable contributions: making larger charitable donations by December 31, 2017, also may make sense, especially for those who may not itemize in 2018. Consider paying outstanding pledges, or in some cases, next year’s gift before the end of the calendar year.

Gift appreciated securities to charity: contributions of appreciated securities, including stocks, bonds, and mutual fund shares remain one of the most tax-efficient ways to support the charity of your choice. With many stocks hovering at or near all-time highs, donating appreciated securities provides you with a deduction worth the fair market value of the stock at the time it is donated, and you avoid paying any capital gains tax on the underlying appreciation.

Review your stock portfolios: consider selling shares of stock that have declined in value as losses from such sales can offset other potential sales generating a gain. Congress is considering a rule that could require shareholders who have purchased shares of the same stock over a period of time to sell those shares purchased first (so-called “first in, first out”) rather than identifying which shares to sell. This rule, which would be effective in 2018, could lock-in potential gains or losses and restrict planning flexibility. As a consequence, it may make sense to consider a number of changes to your portfolio before year-end. Note that this identification rule would also apply to gifts of stock which could impact the charitable strategy noted above.

Bottom line, it’s important to speak with your legal, accounting, and philanthropic adviser soon to discuss these and other planning ideas. And keep your eyes on the news to follow developments in Washington, DC as tax writers put their finishing touches on the tax cut legislation.

This letter is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal, tax or financial advice. When considering gift planning strategies, you should always consult with your own legal and tax advisors.


Add Comment