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US taxpayers scramble to claim deductions before Republican tax bill is enforced next year

Legislation expected to pass this week and caps amount of state, local and property taxes individuals can claim to $10,000

Elizabeth Dilts
Monday 18 December 2017 13:22 GMT
The president has praised the new bill
The president has praised the new bill (Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images)

Financial advisers and accountants are working overtime as many US taxpayers scramble to pay the rest of their 2017 taxes before 1 January when the proposed Republican tax overhaul would sharply cut the amount they can deduct on federal tax bills.

The tax legislation, which top US Republicans said on Sunday they expected Congress to pass this week, caps the amount of state, local and property taxes individuals can deduct from their federal tax bills at $10,000.

The average American who itemised his or her tax bill in 2015 claimed more than $27,000 in deductions. While taxpayers have until 15 January to pay the final instalment of their 2017 taxes, Tom Holly of the accounting firm PwC said he received dozens of calls over the weekend from concerned clients eager to pay sooner.

“It’s going to be a very busy holiday season for advisers,” said Holly, who heads the firm’s wealth and asset management division.

Lisa Featherngill, managing director of wealth planning at Wells Fargo’s Abbot Downing, said she was skipping a family trip to the Valero Alamo Bowl football game in Texas on 28 December in order to work.

Featherngill said wealthy clients and their accountants were not just trying to figure out if it makes sense to estimate and pay the rest of their 2017 itemised taxes this year, but also working to see if they should itemise at all.

Some taxpayers, particularly those in high-tax states who have income above $100,000, may end up paying the alternative minimum tax, which limits the deductions a person can take against his or her federal income tax.

“People really have to run the numbers because ... if they are subject to alternative minimum tax, some of those taxes wouldn’t be deductible anyway,” said Featherngill.

Last week, according to media reports, state officials in New York received calls from residents asking to pay their 2018 state, local and property taxes before 1 January in an effort to claim the higher amount of deductions before the Republican tax bill takes effect.

In response, the US Treasury Department issued guidance over the weekend saying that any pre-payments for 2018 tax liabilities would not be deductible on federal tax bills.

If passed, the tax bill would be the biggest US tax rewrite since 1986.

The legislation would cut the corporate income tax rate to 21 per cent from 35 per cent but offer a mixed bag for individuals, including middle-class workers, by roughly doubling a standard deduction that does not require itemisation, but eliminating or scaling back other popular itemised deductions and exemptions.


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