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The Major 2018 Federal Tax Changes

Comparing the old rules with the new.

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act made dramatic changes to federal tax law. It is worth reviewing some of these changes as 2019 approaches and households and businesses refine their income tax strategies.

Income tax brackets have changed. The old 10%, 15%, 25%, 28%, 33%, 35%, and 39.6% brackets have been restructured to 10%, 12%, 22%, 24%, 32%, 35%, and 37%. These new percentages are slated to apply through 2025. Here are the thresholds for these brackets in 2018.1,2

Bracket          Single Filers                      Married Filing Jointly            Married Filing                 Head of Household

                                                                    or Qualifying Widower        Separately                      

 

10%                $0 – $9,525                        $0 – $19,050                           $0 – $9,525                     $0 – $13,600

12%                $9,525 – $38,700              $19,050 – $77,400                 $9,525 – $38,700           $13,600 – $51,800

22%                $38,700 – $82,500           $77,400 – $165,000               $38,700 – $82,500         $51,800 – $82,500

24%                $82,500 – $157,500         $165,000 – $315,000             $82,500 – $157,500       $82,500 – $157,500

32%                $157,500 – $200,000       $315,000 – $400,000             $157,500 – $200,000    $157,000 – $200,000

35%                $200,000 – $500,000       $400,000 – $600,000             $200,000 – $300,000    $200,000 – $500,000

37%                $500,000 and up              $600,000 and up                    $300,000 and up            $500,000 and up

 

The standard deduction has nearly doubled. This compensates for the disappearance of the personal exemption, and it may reduce a taxpayer’s incentive to itemize. The new standard deductions, per filing status:

*Single filer: $12,000 (instead of $6,500)

*Married couples filing separately: $12,000 (instead of $6,500)

*Head of household: $18,000 (instead of $9,350)

*Married couples filing jointly & surviving spouses: $24,000 (instead of $13,000)

The additional standard deduction remains in place. Single filers who are blind, disabled, or aged 65 or older can claim an additional standard deduction of $1,600 this year. Married joint filers are allowed to claim additional standard deductions of $1,300 each for a total additional standard deduction of $2,600 for 2018.2,3

The state and local tax (SALT) deduction now has a $10,000 ceiling. If you live in a state that levies no income tax, or a state with high income tax, this is not a good development. You can now only deduct up to $10,000 of some combination of a) state and local property taxes or b) state and local income taxes or sales taxes per year. Taxes paid or accumulated as a result of business or trade activity are exempt from the $10,000 limit. Incidentally, the SALT deduction limit is just $5,000 for married taxpayers filing separately.1,4 

The estate tax exemption is twice what it was. Very few households will pay any death taxes during 2018-25. This year, the estate tax threshold is $11.2 million for individuals and $22.4 million for married couples; these amounts will be indexed for inflation. The top death tax rate stays at 40%.2,4

More taxpayers may find themselves exempt from Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT). The Alternative Minimum Tax was never intended to apply to the middle class – but because it went decades without inflation adjustments, it sometimes did. Thanks to the tax reforms, the AMT exemption amounts are now permanently subject to inflation indexing.

AMT exemption amounts have risen considerably in 2018:

*Single filer or head of household: $70,300 (was $54,300 in 2017)

*Married couples filing separately: $54,700 (was $42,250 in 2017)

*Married couples filing jointly & surviving spouses: $109,400 (was $84,500 in 2017)

These increases are certainly sizable, yet they pale in proportion to the increase in the phase-out thresholds. They are now at $500,000 for individuals and $1 million for joint filers as opposed to respective, prior thresholds of $120,700 and $160,900.2

The Child Tax Credit is now $2,000. This year, as much as $1,400 of it is refundable. Phase-out thresholds for the credit have risen substantially. They are now set at the following modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) levels:

*Single filer or head of household: $200,000 (was $75,000 in 2017)

*Married couples filing separately: $400,000 (was $110,000 in 2017)2

Some itemized deductions are history. The list of disappeared deductions is long and includes the following tax breaks:

*Home equity loan interest deduction

*Moving expenses deduction

*Casualty and theft losses deduction (for most taxpayers)

*Unreimbursed employee expenses deduction

*Subsidized employee parking and transit deduction

*Tax preparation fees deduction

*Investment fees and expenses deduction

*IRA trustee fees (if paid separately)

*Convenience fees for debit and credit card use for federal tax payments

*Home office deduction

*Unreimbursed travel and mileage deduction

Under the conditions set by the reforms, many of these deductions could be absent through 2025.5,6

Many small businesses have the ability to deduct 20% of their earnings. Some fine print accompanies this change. The basic benefit is that business owners whose firms are LLCs, partnerships, S corporations, or sole proprietorships can now deduct 20% of qualified business income*, promoting reduced tax liability. (Trusts, estates, and cooperatives are also eligible for the 20% pass-through deduction.)4,7

Not every pass-through business entity will qualify for this tax break in full, though. Doctors, lawyers, consultants, and owners of other types of professional services businesses meeting the definition of a specified service business* may make enough to enter the phase-out range for the deduction; it starts above $157,500 for single filers and above $315,000 for joint filers.  Above these business income thresholds, the deduction for a business other than a specified service business* is capped at 50% of total wages paid or at 25% of total wages paid, plus 2.5% of the cost of tangible depreciable property, whichever amount is larger.4,7

* See H.R. 1 – The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, Part II—Deduction for Qualified Business Income of Pass-Thru Entities

We now have a 21% flat tax for corporations. Last year, the corporate tax rate was marginally structured with a maximum rate of 35%. While corporations with taxable income of $75,000 or less looked at no more than a 25% marginal rate, more profitable corporations faced a rate of at least 34%. The new 21% flat rate aligns U.S. corporate taxation with the corporate tax treatment in numerous other countries. Only corporations with annual profits of less than $50,000 will see their taxes go up this year, as their rate will move north from 15% to 21%.2,4

The Section 179 deduction and the bonus depreciation allowance have doubled. Business owners who want to deduct the whole cost of an asset in its first year of use will appreciate the new $1 million cap on the Section 179 deduction. In addition, the phaseout threshold rises by $500,000 this year to $2.5 million. The first-year “bonus depreciation deduction” is now set at 100% with a 5-year limit, so a company in 2018 can now write off 100% of qualified property costs through 2022 rather than through a longer period. Please note that bonus depreciation now applies for used equipment as well as new equipment.1,7

Like-kind exchanges are now restricted to real property. Before 2018, 1031 exchanges of capital equipment, patents, domain names, private income contracts, ships, planes, and other miscellaneous forms of personal property were permitted under the Internal Revenue Code. Now, only like-kind exchanges of real property are permitted.7

This may be the final year for the individual health insurance requirement. The Affordable Care Act instituted tax penalties for individual taxpayers who went without health coverage. As a condition of the 2018 tax reforms, no taxpayer will be penalized for a lack of health insurance next year. Adults who do not have qualifying health coverage will face an unchanged I.R.S. individual penalty of $695 this year.1,8

This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate. Please note – investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.

Citations.

1 – cpapracticeadvisor.com/news/12388205/2018-tax-reform-law-new-tax-brackets-credits-and-deductions [12/22/17]

2 – fool.com/taxes/2017/12/30/your-complete-guide-to-the-2018-tax-changes.aspx [12/30/17]

3 – cnbc.com/2017/12/22/the-gop-tax-overhaul-kept-this-1300-tax-break-for-seniors.html [12/26/17]

4 – investopedia.com/taxes/how-gop-tax-bill-affects-you/ [1/3/18]

5 – tinyurl.com/ycqrqwy7/ [12/26/17]

6 – forbes.com/sites/kellyphillipserb/2017/12/20/what-your-itemized-deductions-on-schedule-a-will-look-like-after-tax-reform/ [12/20/17]

7 – americanagriculturist.com/farm-policy/10-agricultural-improvements-new-tax-reform-bill [11/14/17]

8 – irs.gov/newsroom/in-2018-some-tax-benefits-increase-slightly-due-to-inflation-adjustments-others-unchanged [10/19/17]

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A Setback for the Fiduciary Rule

A Court of Appeals ruling could set the stage for a Supreme Court opinion.

The fiduciary rule is now a retirement planning standard – at least in 47 states. A recent appeals court ruling has dealt a blow to this new financial industry regulation, which has been applauded by investors and financial professionals alike.1

You probably have heard of this rule; if not, here is a brief explanation. The fiduciary rule is the recent directive from the Department of Labor requiring financial professionals who serve as retirement plan advisors to adopt a fiduciary standard. In other words, the advisor must regularly put the client’s interest first in the client-advisor relationship.1

In Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas, the fiduciary rule has been struck down. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals decided 2-1 in March to vacate the fiduciary rule in those states. As of May 7, it will no longer apply within their borders. If the DoL appeals the court’s decision on or before that date, that means limbo.1,2

This ruling opened a legal door, and some financial industry analysts think that a Supreme Court ruling may be ahead.1,3

The 2-1 decision reflects the fact that the full court was not present, so the DoL could simply ask for a rehearing before the full court instead of an appeal. The DoL also has a legal plus on its side: no other court has reviewed the fiduciary rule and concluded that it amounts to the DoL overstepping its bounds under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA).1,3

Many financial services companies and financial professionals are hoping for resolution soon, for they have already altered their business practices and compensation models to align with the fiduciary rule. Having made that commitment, they could lose face by turning legally away from it to any degree. They might keep upholding the fiduciary standard whether the rule stands or falls.1,2

If the fiduciary rule does fall, you can at least say that the industry rose to meet its standard. Whether the highest court in the land is called upon to determine the validity of the rule or not, whether the rule ends up standing or not, it definitely prompted a paradigm shift in the way retirement plan advisors and retirement planners thought about their roles – and that shift may be permanent.1

This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate. Please note – investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.

Citations.

1 – thestreet.com/story/14527631/1/court-ruling-puts-fiduciary-rule-and-retirement-investors-in-limbo.html [3/20/18]

2 – tinyurl.com/ycgk3vmf [3/27/18]

3 – employeebenefitadviser.com/opinion/rip-fiduciary-rule-not-so-fast [3/6/18]

 

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Retirement Plans for Individuals & Businesses

A look at some of the choices.

Many Households are saving too little for the future. According to one new analysis, 41% of Gen Xers and 42% of baby boomers have yet to begin saving for retirement. In a recent financial industry survey, 35% of small business owners said they were planning to use the sale proceeds from their company for a retirement fund, an idea which comes with a flashing question mark.1,2

Do you need to build retirement savings? Take a look at these retirement plans:

SEP-IRA: low fees, easy to implement and maintain. These plans cover sole proprietors and their workers with no setup fees or yearly administration charges. Your business makes all the contributions with tax-deductible dollars. The amount of the contribution your company can deduct is the lesser of your contributions or 25% of an employee’s compensation. You can even skip contributions in a lean year.3,4

SIMPLE IRAs and 401(k)s: low maintenance, high contribution limits. In contrast to SEP-IRAs, Savings Incentive Match Plan (SIMPLE) IRAs are largely employee-funded. A worker can direct as much as $12,500 or 100% of compensation (whichever is less) into a SIMPLE IRA per year. That current $12,500 annual contribution limit rises to $15,500 for plan participants 50 and older. Matching employer contributions are required: you can either put in 2% of an employee’s annual compensation, or match employee contributions dollar-for-dollar up to 3% of the employee’s annual compensation.2,4

Does your company have less than 100 workers? Do you want a 401(k) plan that is relatively easy to administer? The SIMPLE 401(k) might do. This is a regular 401(k) with a key difference: the employer must match employee contributions in the manner described in the previous paragraph. As with the SIMPLE IRA, employee contributions are elective. Contributions to a SIMPLE 401(k) vest immediately. While you must file a Form 5500 annually with the I.R.S., no non-discrimination testing is necessary for these 401(k)s.2,4

Solo 401(k)s: One way to “play catch-up.” Both pass-through firms and C corps can install these plans, which allow a solopreneur to contribute to a retirement plan as both an employee and an employer. In 2018, a business owner can direct up to $55,000 into a solo 401(k). As with a standard 401(k), participants age 50 and older can make a $6,000 catch-up contribution each year. If you are 50 or older, your maximum annual contribution could be as large as $61,000.2,5,6

If you are behind on retirement saving, a solo 401(k) presents a beneficial opportunity to help you grow your retirement fund. The catch is that your business must be very small and stay that way. You can only have one employee besides yourself, and that employee must be your spouse. Solo 401(k)s do need plan administrators, but no Form 5500 is needed until the plan assets top $250,000. If you have a corporation, your solo 401(k) contributions are characterized by the I.R.S. as business expenses. If your business is unincorporated, you may deduct your solo 401(k) contributions from your personal income.2

The solo 401(k) offers even more savings potential for a married couple. Your employed spouse can make an employee contribution to the plan (limit of $18,500/$24,500 annually), and you can then make a profit-sharing contribution of up to 25% of his or her compensation as the employer. You can even have a Roth solo 401(k).4,6

Roth and traditional IRAs: the individual retirement planning mainstays. These accounts currently let you save and invest up to $5,500 a year ($6,500 a year if you are 50 or older). Both permit tax-advantaged growth of the invested assets. With a Roth IRA, contributions are not tax-deductible, but distributions are tax-free provided I.R.S. rules are followed. Roth IRAs never require mandatory withdrawals when you reach your seventies. Withdrawals from traditional IRAs are taxed as regular income, but contributions are often fully tax-deductible; withdrawals must begin when the account owner is in his or her seventies.2,7 

Roth and traditional 401(k)s: the small business standard. These plans now have annual contribution limits of $18,500 ($24,500 for those 50 and older). Your 401(k) contributions reduce your taxable income. Assets within all 401(k)s grow with tax deferral. Some 401(k) plans now feature a Roth option. The rules for Roth 401(k)s mirror those for Roth IRAs, with a notable exception: Roth 401(k) plan participants usually must begin taking mandatory withdrawals from their accounts once they reach age 70½.8,9 

Contact the financial professional you know and trust to discuss these plans. You should build adequate retirement savings for the future, and your prospects for retirement should not depend on the future of your business.

This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate. Please note – investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.

«RepresentativeDisclosure»

Citations.
1 – fool.com/retirement/2018/01/29/guess-how-many-gen-xers-and-baby-boomers-have-no-r.aspx [1/29/18]
2 – inc.com/hr-outsourcing/best-retirement-plans-for-small-businesses.html [2/2/18]
3 – irs.gov/retirement-plans/retirement-plans-faqs-regarding-seps-contributions [10/25/17]
4 – trustetc.com/resources/investor-awareness/contribution-limits [2/6/18]
5 – irs.gov/retirement-plans/one-participant-401k-plans [10/25/17]
6 – nerdwallet.com/blog/investing/what-is-a-solo-401k/ [7/24/17]
7 – cbsnews.com/news/new-tax-law-roth-vs-traditional-ira-or-401k/ [2/6/18]
8 – investopedia.com/ask/answers/112515/are-401k-contributions-tax-deductible.asp [1/30/18]
9 – forbes.com/sites/greatspeculations/2017/03/17/__trashed-55/ [3/17/17]

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LPL Ranks #1 in Customer Loyalty in 2018

The most meaningful measure of how well we’re serving our clients is whether we exceed their expectations in delivering the value and commitment they need to pursue their life and financial goals.

That’s why I wanted to share with you the news that LPL and its affiliated advisors, including Cornerstone Wealth Management, were recently ranked No. 1 in customer loyalty among 21 leading financial distributor firms. It means a great deal for us to be part of a network that’s a recognized industry leader in providing quality personal service—and it’s an even greater honor that LPL has risen in these rankings in each of the past three years.

The rankings were among the findings in Investor Brand BuilderTM, a Cogent ReportsTM study released by Market Strategies International, in which 4,408 affluent investors nationwide were surveyed.*

The study explored the key aspects of client experience that drive investor loyalty. On each of the top 5 drivers of investor loyalty, LPL earned No. 1 rankings by exceeding client expectations in the following areas:

  • Quality of investment advice
  • Financial stability
  • Easy to do business with
  • Range of investment products and services
  • Retirement planning services

In addition, LPL ranked No. 1 in the likelihood of its investors recommending the firm and its advisors to their friends, families, and colleagues.

As an advisors affiliated with LPL Financial, I we are proud of this recognition by investors of the value of the objective financial advice we offer to help clients pursue their goals, and of the innovative products and services our affiliation with LPL allows us to provide access to.

I appreciate the opportunity to partner with you, and I look forward to our continued work together. Thank you for your business.

This letter was prepared by LPL Financial LLC. This is not a recommendation to purchase, or an endorsement of, LPL Financial stock. LPL Financial and Cogent are unaffiliated entities.

*Market Strategies International, Cogent Wealth Reports, “Investor Brand Builder™: Maximize Purchase Intent Among Investors and Expand Client Relationships,” November 2017.

ABOUT THE REPORT: Market Strategies International’s Cogent Wealth Reports: Investor Brand Builder™ provides a holistic view of key trends affecting the affluent investor marketplace. The November 2017 report is based on a web survey of over 4,000 affluent investors, who hold $100,000 or more in investable assets. A total of n=82 LPL advisor clients were represented in the study. Customer Loyalty is based on how likely the participant would recommend each of their investment account companies to friends, family, or colleagues. Participants also evaluate their investment account companies using a 5-point rating scale across 10 aspects of client experience.