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Investor’s column: Trying to make sense of new tax laws as you prepare to file in 2019

Not a lot of people are talking about this, but I will have my say: Politicians gave us postcard tax returns to file, and I think it’s horrible.

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 (TCJA) is the most significant change since the Tax Reform Act of 1986.

Tax reform, in my opinion, will make tax filing even more complicated for most individuals.

So here’s a sneak peek at new tax forms and changes affecting itemized deductions, qualified business income and credits.

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Postcards and six new schedules: Everybody who files a tax return will now submit form 1040. No more 1040EZ or Form 1040A — they’re gone. Now all filers must use form 1040.

Form 1040 is postcard sized. Six new schedules, however, flow numbers into the not really simple postcard.

In addition to the new schedules, Schedule A for itemized deductions, Schedule C for self-employed people, Schedule D for Capital Gains and losses, and Schedule E for Rental Income survived the cut but look radically different.

Schedule one is for additional income and adjustments to income. You’ll include the tax on schedule two. Use schedule three for nonrefundable credits. Put other taxes on schedule four, and schedule five is for additional payments and refundable credits. Show foreign address and third-party designee information on schedule six.

Schedule A: Itemized deductions now have fewer lines on Schedule A. There’s no line for miscellaneous itemized deductions subject to the 2 percent of adjusted gross income limit.

Miscellaneous deductions such as union dues uniforms, subscriptions, safe deposit boxes, tax prep investment expense, legal fees and moving costs, for those not in the military, are temporarily repealed.

Unreimbursed employee business expenses have been eliminated. There is now, however, a blank line 16 for other deductions where you can insert gambling loses and form 1041 estate excess deductions.

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Jim Germer is a CPA and financial adviser at Cetera Financial Specialists, LLC, in Bradenton.

The IRS is getting strict with mortgage interest. Deductions for home equity, non-acquisition indebtedness, interest are no longer deductible. The IRS is making sure that only interest for acquisition indebtedness, up to $750,000 on two homes, is allowed.

Also, casualty and theft deductions no longer are deductible, except for losses involving a federally claimed disaster. State and local income taxes, real estate and sales taxes are limited to $10,000 for joint and $5,000 for single filers.

Most of us will get larger standard deductions. Married filers get $24,000, singles get $12,000, and head of household gets $18,000 standard deductions. The TCJA also offers an additional standard deduction for seniors of $1,600 for singles and $1,300 for each spouse that’s married.

Also, there are lots of new boxes that let the IRS know you’re not cheating on paying taxes.

Consider:

Non-itemizing spouses forfeit any standard deduction. Check the box on 1040 if your spouse itemizes on a separate return.

Check the box if born before Jan. 2, 1954, on 1040 to qualify for the larger standard deduction, just for being at least age 65.

Use box on 1040 to show filing as a dual citizen.

Schedule A has a box eight to disclose if you didn’t use all of your home mortgage loans to buy, build or improve your home.

Qualified business income: Pay attention to line nine for qualified business income on Form 1040. The calculation for a massive — possibly 20 percent of qualified business income — tax deduction is acrobatic and tough.

Tax software users are bound to make mistakes because of nuances such as thresholds concerning wages, depreciating assets, specified service and nonservice business income.

Also, calculating qualified business income might include more than just income from sole proprietorships and S corporations, but also revenue from rental properties, listed on Schedule E, REITS, and profit from K1s from partnership and S Corps.

Credits, not exemptions: TCJA repeals personal exemptions, formerly $4,050, but expands dependent credits. The TCJA doubles the child credit form $1,000 to $2,000. The refundable portion of the child credit increases to $1,400. Use box three for nonrefundable credits. Use line 52 on form 1040 for nonrefundable credits.

There’s also a new family credit for dependents that aren’t your child. Taking care of elderly relatives might help you claim a new $500 credit for those not qualifying or able to make a child tax credit.

While there are no longer personal exemptions, Form 1040 has space for listing dependents. Add a supporting schedule if you have more than four.

I think this is a hot mess. CPAs, like myself, are going to be super busy helping clients navigate changes this tax season. And I pity all the TurboTax and IRS technical support people fielding calls from confused taxpayers.

Jim Germer is a CPA and financial adviser at Cetera Financial Specialists, LLC, member FINRA/SIPC, located at 100 Third Ave. W., Suite 130, in Bradenton. Call 941-746-5600 or email jim.germer@ceterafs.com.

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