Tax Cuts and Jobs Act

The recently enacted Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) is a sweeping tax package. We wanted to keep you up to date. If you wish to discuss the impact of the law on your particular situation, please give us a call (423-803-1440). Here's a look at some of the more important elements of the new law.

We will start with changes that have an impact on individuals. Unless otherwise noted, the changes are effective for tax years beginning in 2018 through 2025.

  • Tax rates. The new law imposes a new tax rate structure with seven tax brackets: 10%, 12%, 22%, 24%, 32%, 35%, and 37%. The top rate was reduced from 39.6% to 37% and applies to taxable income above $500,000 for single taxpayers, and $600,000 for married couples filing jointly. The rates applicable to net capital gains and qualified dividends were not changed. The "kiddie tax" rules were simplified. The net unearned income of a child subject to the rules will be taxed at the capital gain and ordinary income rates that apply to trusts and estates. Thus, the child's tax is unaffected by the parent's tax situation or the unearned income of any siblings.
  • Standard deduction. The new law increases the standard deduction to $24,000 for joint filers, $18,000 for heads of household, and $12,000 for singles and married taxpayers filing separately. Given these increases, many taxpayers will no longer be itemizing deductions. These figures will be indexed for inflation after 2018.
  • Exemptions. The new law suspends the deduction for personal exemptions. Thus, starting in 2018, taxpayers can no longer claim personal or dependency exemptions. The rules for withholding income tax on wages will be adjusted to reflect this change, but IRS was given the discretion to leave the withholding unchanged for 2018.
  • New deduction for "qualified business income." Starting in 2018, taxpayers are allowed a deduction equal to 20 percent of "qualified business income," otherwise known as "pass-through" income, i.e., income from partnerships, S corporations, LLCs, and sole proprietorships. The income must be from a trade or business within the U.S. Investment income does not qualify, nor do amounts received from an S corporation as reasonable compensation or from a partnership as a guaranteed payment for services provided to the trade or business. The deduction is not used in computing adjusted gross income, just taxable income. For taxpayers with taxable income above $157,500 ($315,000 for joint filers), (1) a limitation based on W-2 wages paid by the business and depreciable tangible property used in the business is phased in, and (2) income from the following trades or businesses is phased out of qualified business income: health, law, consulting, athletics, financial or brokerage services, or where the principal asset is the reputation or skill of one or more employees or owners.
  • Child and family tax credit. The new law increases the credit for qualifying children (i.e., children under 17) to $2,000 from $1,000, and increases to $1,400 the refundable portion of the credit. It also introduces a new (nonrefundable) $500 credit for a taxpayer's dependents who are not qualifying children. The adjusted gross income level at which the credits begin to be phased out has been increased to $200,000 ($400,000 for joint filers).
  • State and local taxes. The itemized deduction for state and local income and property taxes is limited to a total of $10,000 starting in 2018.
  • Mortgage interest. Under the new law, mortgage interest on loans used to acquire a principal residence and a second home is only deductible on debt up to $750,000 (down from $1 million), starting with loans taken out in 2018. And there is no longer any deduction for interest on home equity loans, regardless of when the debt was incurred.
  • Miscellaneous itemized deductions. There is no longer a deduction for miscellaneous itemized deductions which were formerly deductible to the extent they exceeded 2 percent of adjusted gross income. This category included items such as tax preparation costs, investment expenses, union dues, and unreimbursed employee expenses.
  • Medical expenses. Under the new law, for 2017 and 2018, medical expenses are deductible to the extent they exceed 7.5 percent of adjusted gross income for all taxpayers. Previously, the AGI "floor" was 10% for most taxpayers.
  • Casualty and theft losses. The itemized deduction for casualty and theft losses has been suspended except for losses incurred in a federally declared disaster.
  • Overall limitation on itemized deductions. The new law suspends the overall limitation on itemized deductions that formerly applied to taxpayers whose adjusted gross income exceeded specified thresholds. The itemized deductions of such taxpayers were reduced by 3% of the amount by which AGI exceeded the applicable threshold, but the reduction could not exceed 80% of the total itemized deductions, and certain items were exempt from the limitation.
  • Moving expenses. The deduction for job-related moving expenses has been eliminated, except for certain military personnel. The exclusion for moving expense reimbursements has also been suspended.
  • Alimony. For post-2018 divorce decrees and separation agreements, alimony will not be deductible by the paying spouse and will not be taxable to the receiving spouse.
  • Healthcare "individual mandate." Starting in 2019, there is no longer a penalty for individuals who fail to obtain minimum essential health coverage.
  • Estate and gift tax exemption. Effective for decedents dying, and gifts made, in 2018, the estate and gift tax exemption has been increased to roughly $11.2 million ($22.4 million for married couples).
  • Alternative minimum tax (AMT) exemption. The AMT has been retained for individuals by the new law but the exemption has been increased to $109,400 for joint filers ($54,700 for married taxpayers filing separately), and $70,300 for unmarried taxpayers. The exemption is phased out for taxpayers with alternative minimum taxable income over $1 million for joint filers, and over $500,000 for all others.

In addition to the changes to personal taxation, here is a look at highlights of the changes to business taxation.

  • Corporate tax rates reduced.  For tax years beginning after Dec. 31, 2017, the corporate tax rate is a flat 21% rate.
  • Corporate AMT (alternative minimum tax). Corporate AMT is repealed.
  • Increased Code Section 179 expensing. For property placed in service in tax years beginning after Dec. 31, 2017, the maximum amount a taxpayer may expense under (Code Sec. 179) is increased to $1 million, and the phase-out threshold amount is increased to $2.5 million.
  •  Temporary 100% cost recovery of qualifying business assets.  A 100% first-year deduction for the adjusted basis is allowed for qualified property acquired and placed in service after Sept. 27, 2017, and before Jan. 1, 2023. Thus, the phase-down of the 50% allowance for property placed in service after Dec. 31, 2017.  The additional first-year depreciation deduction is allowed for new and used property. First-year bonus depreciation sunsets after 2026.
  • Recovery period for real property shortened.  For property placed in service after Dec. 31, 2017, the separate definitions of qualified leasehold improvement, qualified restaurant, and qualified retail improvement property are eliminated, a general 15-year recovery period and straight-line depreciation are provided for qualified improvement property.
  • Limits on deduction of business interest.  For tax years beginning after Dec. 31, 2017, every business, regardless of its form, is generally subject to a disallowance of a deduction for net interest expense in excess of 30% of the business's adjusted taxable income. The net interest expense disallowance is determined at the tax filer level. However, a special rule applies to pass-through entities, which requires the determination to be made at the entity level, for example, at the partnership level instead of the partner level.  An exemption from these rules applies to taxpayers (other than tax shelters) with average annual gross receipts for the three-tax-year period ending with the prior taxable year that does not exceed $25 million.
  • Modification of net operating loss deduction For NOLs arising in tax years ending after Dec. 31, 2017, the two-year carryback and the special carryback provisions are repealed.  For losses arising in tax years beginning after Dec. 31, 2017, the NOL deduction is limited to 80% of taxable income (determined without regard to the deduction).
  • Domestic production activities deduction repealed.  For tax years beginning after Dec. 31, 2017, the DPAD is repealed for non-corporate taxpayers. For tax years beginning after Dec. 31, 2018, the DPAD is repealed for C corporations.
  • Like-kind exchange treatment limited.  Generally effective for transfers after Dec. 31, 2017, the rule allowing the deferral of gain on like-kind exchanges is modified to allow for like-kind exchanges only with respect to real property that is not held primarily for sale.
  • Employer's deduction for fringe benefit expenses limited.  For amounts incurred or paid after Dec. 31, 2017, deductions for entertainment expenses are disallowed, eliminating the subjective determination of whether such expenses are sufficiently business-related; the current 50% limit on the deductibility of business meals is expanded to meals provided through an in-house cafeteria or otherwise on the premises of the employer.
  • New credit for employer-paid family and medical leave. For wages paid in tax years beginning after Dec. 31, 2017, but not beginning after Dec. 31, 2019, the Act allows businesses to claim a general business credit equal to 12.5% of the amount of wages paid to qualifying employees during any period in which such employees are on family and medical leave (FMLA) if the rate of payment is 50% of the wages normally paid to an employee.
  • Cash method of accounting.  For tax years beginning after Dec. 31, the cash method may be used by taxpayers (other than tax shelters) that satisfy a $25 million gross receipts test, regardless of whether the purchase, production, or sale of merchandise is an income-producing factor.
  • Accounting for inventories.  For tax years beginning after Dec. 31, 2017, taxpayers that meet the $25 million gross receipts test are not required to account for inventories under (Code Sec. 471), but rather may use an accounting method for inventories that either (1) treats inventories as non-incidental materials and supplies, or (2) conforms to the taxpayer's financial accounting treatment of inventories.
  • Capitalization and inclusion of certain expenses in inventory costs.  For tax years beginning after Dec. 31, 2017, any producer or re-seller that meets the $25 million gross receipts test is exempted from the application of (Code Sec. 263A). The exemptions from the UNICAP rules that are not based on a taxpayer's gross receipts are retained.


As you can see from this overview, the new law affects many areas of taxation. Please let us know if we can help. 

 

Leading Your Leaders

One of my favorite conversations to have with business leaders that I respect is asking what their favorite books are that they’ve read recently. The answers often vary, but one of the most recent answers particularly struck me because it introduced a new concept of leadership that has rarely been mentioned to me. The book is titled “Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy Seals Lead and Win”. Its authors, Jocko Willink and Leif Babin are former U.S. Navy Seals that served on Seal Team 6 during the Iraq War. They also literally wrote the manual on leadership for U.S. Navy Seals. Needless to say, what they say carries massive value to anyone. 

The principle that my friend related to me that I found most fascinating was the concept of leading your leaders. I admit, the initial thought confused me, so I asked for further clarification. In the book, Willink and Babin speak about how military leadership relies on their on the leaders on the ground to give them tactical advice so that they can develop high level strategies. The leaders on the ground rely on their fellow troops to provide them with accurate views of the battlefield so that they can make the proper adjustments to the battle plans and receive proper supplies from above to give them the best chance to succeed. The chain continues to go down the until each position is actually leading someone above him. 

Almost always when I’ve thought of leadership, it’s been a top-down approach. The boss tells the subordinate what to do and the channel simply runs downhill. However, under the concept of leading your leaders, the importance of personal responsibility is maximized at each level of command. It’s incumbent on subordinates to show their superiors the best way to lead them so that the team achieves success. 

How can you lead those who are in a position of leadership above you? Could better communication with them make your challenges easier to accomplish, because the reality is that leaders can’t make adjustments when they aren’t fully aware of the challenges. Do your superiors know the causes behind the challenges you’re facing? The reality is that your leaders desire for their teams to succeed. 

Adding Value to Each Task

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With the amount that we are all connected to a steady stream of information through the internet and smart phones, it seems that being able to focus has never been more difficult in our society. The second we try to begin a task, it always seem like your pocket buzzes, there’s a knock on the door, or an email that seems to be begging for your click. Before you know it, thirty minutes are gone and progress on your original task is minimal. 

 

Robert J. Shiller, a Nobel Laureate, once said, “The ability to focus on important things is a defining characteristic of intelligence.” As leaders, our teams rely on our ability to act wisely, including the way that we utilize our time. Despite the way it seems that distractions can seem to pull us in other directions, we still have agency over where we focus our attention. This week, I hope you’ll join me in recommitting yourself to choosing to focus the finite amount of time we each have toward wise activities, whether at work or at home. It’s not simply about getting more done- it’s about adding value to each of our tasks! 

Go Farther by Going Together

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Over the past several years, Chattanooga has gained a strong reputation for attracting endurance races. From running, cycling, and triathlons, these athletes are an incredible testament to the power of preparation, endurance, and willpower. My favorite of these races though has to be the Ragnar. This nation-wide brand puts on hundreds of races across the country and one of them goes from Downtown Chattanooga to Nashville, TN. Climbing over Monteagle Mountain in the middle of the night, this race lasts over a 24-hour period covering 200 miles. Teams of 6 or 12 split the course and run varying distances, elevation gains, and times of day and night. The craziest part of the race is that most of the teams genuinely seem to be enjoying themselves. They dress up in costumes, cheer each other on from vans, and celebrate with cold beer and delicious food at the end. It’s incredible!

There’s an old African Proverb: if you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go farther, go together.

There are moments in life and in business where we have to go fast: when completing a task, getting through a busy day, or sprinting to finish an important project before a deadline. Those times are necessary and vital to your business and I don’t want to overlook the importance of those moments. Even the best sports teams require a last-minute drive or a buzzer-beater at times.

But what’s more important: the immediate results or the long-term health of your business?

For example, I love to go hiking with my friends. When we go though, I have to intentionally stay in the back., otherwise I’ll set a pace that’s unrealistic for everyone else, tiring everyone out quicker, and causing the group to take more breaks and slow up our pace for the day.

As a leader, you can set lofty expectations, ask for fast deadlines, try to move your team at your pace, and drag them along in the process. But you might find yourself looking back and dragging a bloody stump.

The team you work with is vital to the long-term health and success of your organization. Great leaders understand that while the short game might get results, the long game will keep your business thriving for a long time.

Your team is your most important asset. You hired them to share the load and run the relay, not the solo race. The value of appreciating your team will pay dividends no matter what season your business might be in. They aren’t dispensable expenses. Their contributions will make or break your legacy and your longevity.

-       Kyle 

Big News- We've Moved to Serve You Better!

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It’s with great pleasure that we’re writing to inform you that as of a few short weeks ago we officially opened our doors in a more spacious and comfortable space at 835 Georgia Avenue, Suite 301, Chattanooga, TN, 37402. Other than our address, no other contact information for us is changing. Our new location is in the Smart Bank Building across the street from Miller Plaza. 

 

Since we’ve opened our doors in 2016, our goal has been to service our valuable clients with the highest level of clarity and service anywhere in the accounting industry. We want to make sure that our office space allows us to convey that commitment as well through added convenience, better client meeting space, and more room to have a positive environment for our team members. We couldn’t be more pleased so far! 

While we're excited about what this means for the growth of our company, we intentionally delayed publicizing this announcement for a simple reason- it's not about us, it's about our clients. This is an important time of year for our clients, and we want you to know that our focus has been squarely on the work. While our move is fully focused on serving our clients better, we wanted to be sure that our actions followed our words and that our focus was on maintaining our process, not on shining the light on ourselves. 

Thank you to our team members who have made this move smoother than we could ever imagine. Thank you to our families who have supported our dream of creating a better accounting firm. More than anything, thank you to our clients for entrusting some of the most important things in your life with Market Street Partners. It's not a responsibility we take lightly, and we look forward to serving you even better in our new space! 

The MSP Leadership Team