Tax Season Tips with Ed Slott


With tax season in full swing, it can only mean one thing. It’s time for our annual chat with Ed Slott, the ultimate tax guru, and founder of IRA Help.

Here is your tax season boot camp for the first tax year of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA).

Itemized vs. Standard Deduction: Every taxpayer needs to determine whether it makes sense to claim one of these two deductions, both of which reduce the amount of income subject to tax. TCJA nearly doubled the Standard Deduction to $12,000 for Single and Married Filing Separately, $24,000 for Married Filing Jointly and $18,000 for Head of Household.

A couple of caveats on itemized deductions:

Your total deduction for state and local income, sales and property taxes is limited to a combined, total deduction of $10,000 ($5,000 if Married Filing Separate). Any state and local taxes you paid above this amount cannot be deducted.

The deduction for home mortgage and home equity interest was modified. It is now limited to interest you paid on a loan secured by your main home or second home that you used to buy, build, or substantially improve your main home or second home. So if you used a home equity loan or line of credit to pay off another debt, like a credit card or student loan, it would not be deductible.

There is a new dollar limit on total qualified residence loan balances. If your loan was originated or treated as originating on or before Dec. 15, 2017, you may deduct interest on up to $1,000,000 ($500,000 if you are married filing separately) in qualifying debt. If your loan originated after that date, you may only deduct interest on up to $750,000 ($375,000 if you are married filing separately) in qualifying debt.

Deduction for alimony is eliminated for agreements executed after December 31, 2018, or for any divorce or separation agreement executed on or before December 31, 2018, and modified after that date. In conjunction with this change, alimony and separate maintenance payments are no longer included in income based on these dates.

Claim Credits: Now that personal exemptions have been eliminated, credits are even more important.

The Child Tax Credit has increased to a maximum of $2,000 per qualifying child under the age of 17. Up to $1,400 of the credit can be refundable for each qualifying child as the additional child tax credit. In addition, the income threshold at which the child tax credit begins to phase out increased to $200,000, or $400,000 if married filing jointly.

There are two different education credits available: the American Opportunity Tax Credit (formerly Hope Credit), which is partially refundable, and the Lifetime Learning Credit. Both may apply to expenses you pay for yourself, your spouse and any dependents.Have a money question?

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