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Sunday, February 11, 2018

Tax system now 3 pages more complex; yet more will claim standard deduction

Annually, the Joint Committee on Taxation releases a report entitled - "Overview Of The Federal Tax System As In Effect For [current tax year]." The report for 2018 (JCX-3-18) was released February 7, 2018 and is 38 pages long. The last report for 2017 (JCX-17-17; 3/15/17) was only 35 pages long! And the 2018 report was issued two days before more tax legislation was enacted that mostly affects 2017 - the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 (H.R. 1892; P.L. 115-123 (2/9/18)). This new legislation mostly is the continuing budget resolution (CR) but also extends 33 tax items that expired at 12/31/16, mostly through 12/31/17 (retroactively that is!). These expiring provisions are generally not covered in these 30+-page overview reports by JCT. P.L. 115-123 also includes some disaster relief tax provisions and several miscellaneous items such as regarding whistleblower awards and the user fee for installment agreements to pay taxes.

Why is the 2018 report longer? It appears to be due to brief descriptions of new items added by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act P.L. 115-97; 12/22/17) such as half a page for new Section 199A on the qualified business income deduction that is a 7-page long, temporary provision in the law, plus a few more data tables. These overview reports include interesting data and graphs, such as on sources of revenue, the make-up of income reported by individuals, and distribution of income and taxes.

A few interesting items from the reports:
  • Projected for 2018, 1% of individual filers have income over $500,000. For this purpose, AGI is increased by tax-exempt interest, employer contributions for health insurance, employer share of FICA tax, worker's comp, nontaxable Social Security benefits, AMT preference items, Section 911 foreign earned income exclusion and a few other items.
  • For 2017, JCT estimates that 31.7% of individual filers will itemize deductions rather than claim the standard deduction. For 2018, their estimate is that 13.1% will itemize.  This is a significant drop due to the increase in the standard deduction by the TCJA as well as removal of several itemized deductions.
What do you think?

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