Before we get to some additional items of interest under the new income tax laws, there is some good news. As reported by the Wall Street Journal, Governor Andrew Cuomo recently announced that New York State would spend $100 million to repair the potholes across New York. That is in addition to the $65 million already included in the state budget to repair pothole-damaged local roads. I really hope they come to my neighborhood and my street.
As promised in the last column, here are a few additional items that I thought were of note in the new tax law. The items I have noted are by no means exhaustive, but what is very clear to me is that if you have your taxes prepared for you, it will be more important than ever that you carefully read and fill out the questionnaire for your 2018 taxes.
• According to brookings.edu, the law is likely to provoke a rush to self-employment. The dramatic cuts in rates for corporations and partnerships will create a huge incentive for workers to set themselves up as small businesses. A two-wage-earner couple with an income of $250,000 a year would see little change in their tax bill. However, a couple with the same income generated through a small business would see an $11,000 annual cut, according to the Tax Policy Center. Of course there are costs associated with being organized as a partnership or small business that could reduce those savings, and it is unclear as to how the IRS will look at this possible strategy.
• You can no longer deduct tax preparations fees, unreimbursed employee business expenses, and investment fees. As for the tax preparation and investment fees, unlike as we discussed in the last column, charities may be changing some of their solicitations and marketing to downplay that donations are deductible. Those who pay tax preparation and investment fees will still need those services and they will still pay the fees, perhaps after some negotiation now.
• If you have an outstanding 401(K) loan and you lose your job, you will now have until your tax return is due for the year when you lost your job, rather than the roughly 60 days provided for under the prior law.
• Only members of the military can now deduct the cost of a job-related move, making those costs something that you may be able to negotiate with your new employer.
• Capital gains rates have remained the same; however, the applicable rate is now based upon income thresholds rather than total income.
• Although the Senate wanted to double the deductible amount, teachers can at least still continue to deduct up to $250 for classroom supplies they purchase, regardless of whether they itemize.
• Employers can no longer provide employees up to $20 a month tax-free to cover bike-related expenses. As a cyclist, you would think that I would have known about that benefit, but I didn’t.
• Working parents can still set aside up to $5,000 pretax in a dependent care flexible savings account for child care for children under 13. This is another opportunity for grandparents, who can, to help out financially through a tax-free gift.
On a different subject, we have talked about how gasoline prices are continuing to increase. I was in Brooklyn recently, and regular gasoline at one station was $4.17 a gallon. It made me glad to get home.
On a final subject, I recently did a presentation for New Visions high school students at Rochester General Hospital. These students are studying in healthcare-related areas. Our discussions about student loan debt quickly turned to the student loan relief benefits being offered by some employers in order to attract promising millennial employees carrying that debt. I was encouraged to hear that these students were already focused on ultimately looking for employers offering this benefit.
According to debt.org, only 4 percent of employers currently offer this benefit, but 8 percent of companies with 40,000 or more employees offer it. This number could go up if the job market gets tighter, since 70 percent of students are now graduating with some student loan debt, and there is proposed legislation, the Employer Participation in Student Loan Assistance Act., which would allow employers to exclude the amounts paid as income. As you would expect, the employer agrees to contribute a certain amount every year toward paying off the employee’s student loans.
When asked if I had any advice, I offered five things. Get the benefit in writing; ensure that the agreed benefit will continue for you, even if the program is discontinued; make sure that the benefit is not otherwise reducing your fair market salary; think carefully before you accept it in lieu of healthcare or 401(k) retirement benefits; and understand any tax treatment of the benefit.
Again, according to debt.com, here are some companies currently offering a student loan repayment benefit: Fidelity, Aetna, Pricewaterhouse Cooper and Staples.
John Ninfo is a retired bankruptcy judge and the founder of the National CARE Financial Literacy Program. Find his previous weekly columns at http://www.mpnnow.com/search?text=Ninfo or at http://www.monroecopost.com/search?text=Ninfo