Tax reform took effect more than a year ago, and investors have benefited from the boost that corporations immediately felt from big rate cuts for businesses. But only now are most individual taxpayers getting a chance to see the impact that the new tax laws will have on how much they pay to the IRS when they file their returns in the coming months.
Individuals will benefit from lower taxes, higher standard deductions, enhanced tax credits, and some other favorable provisions. However, there are some tax breaks that tax reform eliminated in order to offset the cost of the cuts elsewhere. Below, you'll learn about five key deductions that won't be available to take on your 2018 returns in the same way as before.
1. No more personal exemptions
Probably the most controversial provision among lost tax breaks in 2018 was the elimination of the personal exemption. In 2017, taxpayers got to reduce their taxable income by $4,050 for themselves and for every person they could claim as a dependent. Those breaks were especially important to families, with a typical couple with three children getting to write off more than $20,000 in income due to personal exemptions.
Tax reform eliminated these, but two factors offset the tax pain resulting from that move. First, the standard deduction nearly doubled, effectively wrapping in the personal exemption within a single tax provision. Second, the child tax credit doubled and broadened its scope, boosting income limits to let more people claim the $2,000-per-child credit. Combined, those factors will often weigh in taxpayers' favor, but regardless, not everyone's happy about the loss of the personal exemption.
2. Moved in 2018? There's no write-off for the costs unless you're in the military
Moving expenses were also a casualty of tax reform, with the popular deduction disappearing for 2018. Until last year, moving expenses were deductible if your new job was at least 50 miles farther from your old home than your old job was. The new rule simply eliminates the deduction entirely, except that members of the military on active duty are still allowed to take the deduction.
Moving expenses were especially useful because you didn't have to itemize deductions in order to claim the tax break. With fewer people likely to itemize because of the higher standard deduction, breaks that didn't force you to itemize will be worth more than ever -- but this one won't be among them for civilians.
3. Only some casualty and theft losses are still deductible
One itemized deduction will remain on the books, but its use will be dramatically curtailed. Before 2018, taxpayers were allowed to claim the amount of any casualty losses from theft, natural disasters, or other catastrophic events. This itemized deduction was allowed only to the extent that the damages were greater than the sum of $100 and 10% of your adjusted gross income, but it was available regardless of the nature of the casualty or theft loss.
Tax reform changed the rules so that this deduction is only available if the president declares your property to be within an officially designated disaster area. That will remove the deduction for all but the most severe of natural tragedies and for just about every instance of robbery or theft.
4. Miscellaneous deductions are no more
Also among itemized deductions lost to tax reform was the entire class of miscellaneous deductions. These deductions were available to the extent that they added up to more than 2% of your adjusted gross income and included a wide variety of items. Tax preparation fees, job-search expenses, the home office deduction for employees, and unreimbursed employee costs were just a few of the items that qualified for the break. But again, with a higher standard deduction, fewer people are likely to itemize. Moreover, with most miscellaneous deductions adding up to relatively small amounts, the net loss won't be too severe for the majority of taxpayers.
5. Some home-equity loan interest will no longer be deductible
Finally, tax reform made major changes to the deductibility of home mortgage interest. The limit on purchase mortgage loans was cut from $1 million to $750,000, although grandfathering provisions preserved the deduction for existing loans. However, rules for home equity loans changed significantly, disallowing any deduction unless the loan is used to purchase, build, or make substantial improvements to the home that is securing the home equity loan.
What that means is that if you took out a home equity loan for personal use, such as to pay for a vacation or to consolidate your credit card debt, then you'll no longer get a tax break for the interest you pay on the loan starting on your 2018 tax return. However, if the home equity loan went for home remodeling, then the deduction is likely still available.
Be smart with your taxes
The year 2018 will be special for taxpayers, because it'll be the first time that most people ever see the many changes from tax reform. By keeping in mind both the positive and negative impacts of the changes to the tax laws, you'll be better able to assess whether tax reform was good for you on the whole.