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Alerts and Updates

Overview of Key Provisions of Tax Reform

November 8, 2017

Overview of Key Provisions of Tax Reform

November 8, 2017

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With great anticipation, the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Ways and Means unveiled its long-anticipated tax reform legislation – the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA). It is the first legislative attempt at comprehensive tax reform under President Trump. With the introduction of this sweeping legislation, House Republicans have laid out an initial plan for tax reform as the bill moves through the two chambers of Congress.

Under reconciliation procedures as set by the House Budget adopted October 27, this tax bill cannot be filibustered in the Senate if it adds $1.5 trillion or less to the deficit. In order to meet this budgetary requirement, provisions decreasing federal revenue must be supplemented by provisions increasing revenue. In the initial version of the bill, though it is subject to heavy markup, compromise and Senate Finance Committee re-writes, certain winners and losers are evident from the countless provisions contained in the bill’s 400-plus pages.  The provisions outlined below are as of  November 7.

Projected Winners and Losers

Projected Winners

Owners of Passive Pass-through Businesses: Under the bill, owners of passive pass-through entities, such as partnerships (publicly traded partnerships and private equity partnerships, for example), S corporations, and limited liability companies, would be subject to a preferential maximum rate of 25% on qualified business income from these entities, as compared to the ordinary tax rates currently in effect, up to a maximum tax rate 39.6%. Presumably rental properties would also qualify for the preferential rate.

Owners of Nonpassive Pass-through Businesses: For certain owners of pass-through businesses which materially participate in the business, by default, up to 30% of income would be subject to the preferential tax rate of 25% on qualified business income. Certain service professionals, such as doctors, lawyers, accountants, engineers, consultants, financial service advisors and performing artists, would not receive the benefit of the preferential rate unless there is business income from fixed assets used in the business.

Corporations and their Shareholders: Under the bill, corporations would be subject to a flat corporate tax of 20% (25% for personal services corporations), compared to a maximum rate of 35% under current law. This lower rate allows domestic corporations to be more competitive internationally, less influenced by tax incentives, and is designed to free up capital for hiring and distribution to shareholders. In addition, the corporate alternative minimum tax (AMT) has been repealed.

Small Businesses: Increased Section 179 limits will allow businesses to expense up to $5 million in assets, with a phase-out of $20 million, placed in service each year starting in 2018, through 2022, up from $500,000. The elimination of the AMT for corporations and individuals will alleviate bookkeeping requirements for assets and allow for refunds of certain AMT credit carryforwards. Certain businesses with up to $25 million in gross receipts may now use the simpler method of cash accounting, rather than accrual, even pertaining to inventories.

Large estates: Under the current bill, the unified credit for the estate and gift tax will be $10 million, up from the $5 million current. Additionally, the estate and generation-skipping taxes would be repealed for decedents dying after 2023. However, inherited property would still receive a stepped-up basis. The gift tax would remain in effect after 2023, but the rate of tax would decrease from 40% to 35% in 2024.

Projected Losers

Taxpayers in High Income Tax States: One of the most publicized features of the current bill is the elimination of the state and local income and sales tax deductions. While many taxpayers currently do not realize the full benefit of these deductions due to the AMT or other limitations, certain taxpayers in high brackets will undoubtedly be affected by the loss of the state and local income tax deduction.

Taxpayers in High Property Value Areas: The current bill limits the deduction on mortgage interest to new mortgages of up to $500,000, as opposed to the combination of $1.1 million of acquisition and home equity indebtedness under current law. Initial discussions in the Senate have indicated that the $1 million limit may remain in place in the Senate version of the bill, but the outcome of this provision in the final bill is anything but clear. In addition, the deduction for property taxes is capped at $10,000 in the current bill.

Certain Retirees: Under the current bill, the Medical Expense deduction is eliminated. The repeal of this deduction could adversely impact many retirees who are entering or residing in nursing homes, where a large part of their substantial entrance and monthly fees consist of deductible medical expenses.

Businesses Claiming the Entertainment Deduction: The current bill eliminates the deduction for entertainment expenses, which is used for many business development activities and employee morale building, such as golf outings, tickets to sporting events, company retreats and holiday parties. Additionally, the current deduction for transportation fringe benefits is eliminated.

TAG’s Perspective

As the proposed bill will undergo separate markups, negotiations, and amendments in both chambers of Congress, there will likely be significant changes to the existing bill prior to its ultimate enactment, assuming passage. Many of the provisions contained in last week’s bill will be subject to intense lobbying and scrutiny from Senators and members of Congress whose constituents may represent “Losers” under the bill. Therefore, to maximize tax savings, we recommend flexibility in developing a year-end strategy. In developing a strategy for 2017 and beyond, taxpayers need to contemplate three different scenarios – passage of a tax reform bill prior to year-end, passage of a bill in early 2018, or the bill failing altogether. As we approach the end of the year, the content and likelihood of the tax law changes will become clearer.

Despite speculation that tax cuts would become effective in 2017, the bill in its current form is largely effective beginning January 1, 2018. However, there will be 2017 year-end planning opportunities for many taxpayers impacted by the potential changes starting in 2018.  For example, taxpayers who may stand to lose certain deductions under the bill may benefit from accelerating deductions into 2017. In addition, in the event where the proposed tax rates may benefit taxpayers, there may be an opportunity to realize tax savings by deferring income to 2018.

As the pending legislation develops and certainties arise, we are developing tax minimization strategies for each outcome in anticipation of assisting our clients with 2017 and 2018 tax planning. If you identify any of the provisions below that you believe would have an impact on your business or personal tax situation, we would be happy to evaluate the provision’s impact on your unique scenario.

Key Provisions in the Current Bill

The charts below summarize the key provisions as they affect individuals, corporations and businesses, international taxpayers, taxpayers subject to estate and gift taxes, and tax-exempt organizations.

Individual Income Tax Brackets and Tax Rates

The current seven tax bracket system, culminating in a top tax rate of 39.6 percent for high-income taxpayers (exclusive of the net investment income tax of 3.8 percent and 0.9 percent Medicare tax), would be reduced to four brackets, taxing ordinary income at 12 percent, 25 percent, 35 percent and 39.6 percent. The new brackets as outlined in the TCJA will tax ordinary income at the levels indicated in the table below.

Current Ordinary Income Tax Rates

TCJA Ordinary Income Tax Rates

Single Taxpayers under Current Law

Single Taxpayers under the TCJA

Married Filing Joint Taxpayers under Current Law

Married Filing Joint Taxpayers under the TCJA

10% & 15%






25% & 28%






33% & 35%












The starting points for each bracket would be adjusted for inflation for years after 2018. The 12% rate would be phased out for taxpayers with high incomes (over $1.2 million for joint filers and surviving spouses, over $1 million for other individuals).

Capital Gains Tax Rates

Long-term capital gains tax rates would remain at 0%, 15%, and 20%. The rate would now be determined based on inflation-indexed income levels instead the ordinary income tax rate of the taxpayer. However, the income levels are largely similar to the tax rate thresholds under current law.

Although the proposed law is similar to current law, there are two substantial changes to note. The income at which the 20% rate is imposed and, therefore, the capital gains tax, would change drastically. For example, for married filing separate taxpayers capital gains tax increases from the 15% rate to the 20% rate for those with incomes between $239,500 and $418,401. Whereas the capital gains tax rate decreases for single taxpayers from 20% to 15% for those with incomes between $235,351 to $425,800.



Proposed Law

Current Law

State & Local Tax Income and Sales Tax Deduction

No itemized deduction for state and local income or sales taxes, but a deduction for state and local income or sales taxes paid or accrued in carrying on a trade or business or producing income would be allowed.

An itemized deduction for all state and local government income or sales taxes paid.

Mortgage Interest

The amount of acquisition debt used to calculate mortgage interest deduction would be reduced to $500,000. Interest would be deductible only on a taxpayer’s principal residence. For debt incurred before November 2, 2017, the $1 million threshold would still apply.

Deduction for mortgage interest paid with respect to a principal residence and one other residence of the taxpayer. Itemizers may deduct interest payments on up to $1 million in acquisition indebtedness and up to $100,000 in home equity indebtedness.

Real Estate Taxes

An itemized deduction for real property taxes paid up to $10,000.

No current dollar limitation.

Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT)

AMT would be repealed. AMT Credit carryforwards could be used to claim a refund of 50 percent of the remaining credits (to the extent the credits exceed regular tax for the year) in tax years beginning in 2019, 2020, and 2021. Taxpayers would be able to claim a refund of all remaining credits in the tax year beginning in 2022.

Taxpayers must compute their income for purposes of both the regular income tax and the AMT. The tax liability is equal to the greater of their regular income tax liability or AMT liability.

Charitable Contributions

Would remain largely unchanged with the 50 percent of adjusted gross income (AGI) limitation for cash contributions to public charities and certain private foundations increasing to 60 percent

A taxpayer may claim an itemized deduction for charitable contributions with certain limitations based on AGI.

Standard Deduction

The standard deduction would increase to:

  • $24,000 for joint filers (and surviving spouses)
  • $12,000 for individual filers
  • $18,000 for single filers with at least one qualifying child

The standard deduction is currently:

  • $12,700 for married individuals filing a joint return.
  • $6,350 for single individuals and married individuals filing separate returns
  • $9,350 for heads of households.

Personal Exemptions

The deduction for personal exemptions and the personal exemption phase-out would be repealed.

For 2017, taxpayers may generally deduct $4,050 for each personal exemption. This amount is indexed annually for inflation (CPI). Subject to the personal exemption phase-out based on income.

Medical Expense Deduction


Deduction for out-of-pocket medical expenses of the taxpayer, a spouse, or a dependent. This deduction is allowed only to the extent the expenses exceed 10 percent of the taxpayer’s adjusted gross income.

Alimony Payment Deduction and Inclusion

Alimony payments would not be deductible by the payor or includible in the income of the payee. The provision would be effective for any divorce decree or separation agreement executed after 2017 and to any modification after 2017 of any such instrument executed before such date if expressly provided for by such modification.

Alimony payments generally are an above-the line deduction for the payor and included in the income of the payee.

Low Bracket Phase out

For high-income taxpayers, the provision would phase out the tax benefit of the 12% bracket on the initial $90,000 of income on a joint return ($45,000 single) and instead subject it to tax at 39.6%, beginning at an adjusted gross income of $1.2 million for a joint return.

No current phase out.

Limitation on Itemized Deductions

Overall limitation on itemized deductions would be repealed.

The total amount of otherwise allowable itemized deductions (other than medical expenses, investment interest, and casualty, theft, or wagering losses) is limited for certain upper-income taxpayers.

Dependent Care Assistance Programs

Repealed effective January 1, 2023.

Employer-provided dependent care assistance programs are excluded from employees’ income up to a limit of $5,000 per year to help pay for work-related expenses of caring for a child under the age of 13 or spouses or other dependents who are physically or mentally unable to care for themselves.

Child Tax Credit and New Family Tax Credit

The Child Tax Credit would be increased to $1,600. A $300 credit would be available for taxpayers, spouses, and dependents who do not qualify as children under the Child Tax Credit. Beginning of phase out would be increased to $230,000 (for joint filers), and $115,000 (for single filers). 

An individual may claim a tax credit for each qualifying child under the age of 17. The amount of the credit per child is $1,000. The aggregate amount of child credits that may be claimed is phased out by $50 for each $1,000 of AGI over $75,000 for single filers and $110,000 for joint filers.

Capital Gains Rate

With the reduction of the number of brackets, capital gains tax rates of 0%, 15% and 20% are established based on inflation-indexed income levels largely similar to the bracket thresholds under current law.

However, the income at which the 20% rate is imposed would change substantially for married filing separate taxpayers (down from $418,401 to $239,500) and as single taxpayers (up from $235,351 to $425,800).

Capital gains are taxed at 0% for those in the 10% and 15% brackets, 15% for those in the 25%, 28%, 33%, and 35% brackets, and 20% for those in the 39.6% brackets.

Unreimbursed Employee Business Expenses

No itemized deduction for expenses attributable to the trade or business of performing services as an employee.

Itemized deduction subject to 2% floor.

Deduction for Tax Preparation Expenses


Deduction allowed subject to 2% floor.

Credit for Plug-In Electric Drive Motor Vehicles


A taxpayer may claim a credit for each qualified plug-in electric-drive motor vehicle placed in service capped at $7,500

Education Credits Reform

The American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC), Hope Scholarship Credit (HSC) and the Lifetime Learning Credit (LLC) would be consolidated into an enhanced AOTC. The enhancement is a credit for an additional fifth year of post-secondary education at half the rate of the first four years, with up to $500 of such credit being refundable.

The American Opportunity Tax Credit provides a 100 percent tax credit for the first $2,000 of certain higher education expenses and a 25 percent tax credit for the next $2,000 of such expenses, for a maximum credit of $2,500 subject to income phase out limitations.

Deduction for Personal Casualty Losses

The deduction for personal casualty losses would generally be repealed. The deduction for personal casualty losses associated with special disaster relief legislation would not be affected.

Individuals may claim an itemized deduction for personal casualty losses (i.e., losses not connected with a trade or business or entered into for profit), including property losses arising from fire, storm, shipwreck, or other casualty, or from theft, subject to certain income limitations.

Deduction for Moving Expenses


Deduction for moving expenses incurred in connection with starting a new job, regardless of whether or not the taxpayer itemizes his deductions.

Exclusion of Gain from Sale of a Principal Residence

A taxpayer would be required to own and use their home as their principal residence for five out of the previous eight years to qualify for the exclusion. In addition, the taxpayer would be able to use the exclusion only once every five years. The exclusion would be phased out by one dollar for every dollar of adjusted gross income in excess of $500,000.

Taxpayers filing jointly may exclude from gross income up to $500,000 of gain on the sale of a principal residence. The property must have been owned and used as the taxpayer’s principal residence for two out of the previous five years. A taxpayer may use this exclusion only once every two years.

Student Loan Interest Deduction


An above-the-line deduction for interest payments on qualified education loans for qualified higher education expenses of the taxpayer, the taxpayer’s spouse, or dependents capped at $2,500 subject to income phase-outs.

Tuition Expenses


An individual may claim an above-the-line deduction for qualified tuition and related expenses incurred capped at $4,000 subject to income phase-outs.

Interest on United States Savings Bonds


Interest on United States savings bonds is excluded from income if used to pay qualified higher education expenses, subject to income phase-outs.

Employer-Provided Education Assistance


Employer-provided education assistance is excluded from income. The exclusion is limited to $5,250 per year and applies to both graduate and undergraduate courses.

Recharacterization of Roth IRA Contributions

The rule allowing recharacterization of IRA contributions and conversions would be repealed.

An individual may re-characterize a contribution to a traditional IRA as a contribution to a Roth IRA (and vice versa).

Medical Savings Accounts (MSA)

No deduction would be allowed for contributions to an Archer MSA.

Employer contributions to an Archer MSA would not be excluded from income.

Existing Archer MSA balances, however, could continue to be rolled over on a tax-free basis to a Health Savings Account (HSA).

Above-the-line deduction for contributions to an Archer MSA and exclusion from income for employer contributions to an MSA.

Corporations and Businesses


Proposed Law

Current Law

Corporate Tax Rate

Starting in 2018, corporations would be subject to a flat tax rate of 20%.

Personal service corporations would be subject to a flat tax rate of 25%.

Taxable Income—Tax Rate




Over $10,000,000—35%

Personal service corporations are subject to a flat rate of 35% without the benefit of graduated tax rates.

Bonus Depreciation

100% of the cost would be  expensed immediately for qualified property placed in service after September 27, 2017. Under the current bill, used property would now be eligible for bonus depreciation in addition to new property, as long as it is the taxpayer’s first use of the property.

Bonus depreciation may be taken on certain “qualified property” placed in service through 2019. Taxpayers are allowed to take additional depreciation of 50% of the cost of the qualified property in 2017, 40% in 2018, and 30% in 2019. The use of the property must begin with the taxpayer in order to take the additional depreciation. 

Section 179 Expense

The expensing limitation would be increased to $5 million.

The definition for what qualifies as section 179 property would be expanded to include energy efficient heating and cooling property.

Businesses can immediately expense up to $500,000 of the cost of section 179 property placed in service during the year.

The $500,000 deduction is subject to an expensing limitation of $2 million. The $500,000 deduction is reduced by the amount of assets placed in service during the year in excess of $2 million.

Entertainment Expenses

Deduction of expenses incurred for entertainment repealed.

Expenses incurred relating to entertainment, amusement or recreation activities, or facilities may be deducted. The deduction is subject to a 50% limitation. Entertainment expenses are deductible provided taxpayer establishes that the item was directly related to the active conduct of a trade or business.

Employee Fringe Benefits

Deduction of employee fringe benefits would be repealed.

Employers can deduct de minimis fringe benefits paid on behalf of employees, including qualified transportation and parking expenses, on-premises gyms, or other benefits primarily benefits primarily personal in nature.

Cash Method of Accounting

The $5 million threshold for corporations and partnerships with corporate partners who may not use the cash method of accounting would be increased to $25 million. This threshold would be applied to the current year, and will not take prior years in to account.

Corporations and partnerships with a corporate partner may only use the cash method of accounting if their average gross receipts over all preceding years do not exceed $5 million.

Net Operating Loss

Net operating losses would be allowed to the extent of 90% of the taxpayers income, carried forward indefinitely. The two-year carry back would be repealed, but a special one-time carryback would be allowed for small business in certain casualty and disaster loss scenarios.

Net operating loss (NOL) is limited to the current year business loss. NOL cannot be deducted in the year they are incurred, but instead may be carried back two years, and carried forward 20 years.

Like-Kind Exchanges

Deferral of gain on like-kind exchanges would be limited to the exchange of real property.

Gain on the exchange of like-kind property is deferred. This rule does not apply to the exchange of stock in trade or other property held primarily for sale.

Domestic Production Activities

Domestic production activities deduction would be repealed.

Taxpayers are allowed a deduction of 9% of the lesser of qualified production activities income or taxpayers’ taxable income for the following year. The deduction is further limited to 50% of taxpayers’ W-2 wages for the year.

Employer-Provided Child Care Credit

The credit for employer-provided healthcare would be repealed.

Employers can claim a credit of 25% of qualified expenses for employee child care and 10% of qualified expense for child-care resource and referral services, limited to $150,000 per year.

Work Opportunity Credit

The work opportunity credit would be repealed for employees who begin work after 2017.

Employers can claim a credit of 40% of qualified first-year wages of employees. The credit is subject to various limits between $6,000 and $24,000.

Deduction for Unused Business Credits

The deduction for unused business credits would be repealed.

Unused business credits may be carried back one year and forward 20 years.



Proposed Law

Current Law

100% Deduction for Foreign-Source Portion of Dividends

The current-law system of taxing U.S. Corporations would be replaced with a dividend exemption system, in which 100% of the foreign-source portion of dividends paid by a foreign corporation to a U.S. corporate shareholder that owns 10% or more of the foreign corporation would be exempt from U.S. taxation.

U.S. citizens, resident individuals, and domestic corporations are generally all taxed on all income, whether earned in the US or abroad.

Repatriation of Foreign Earnings

A 10% or more shareholder of a foreign subsidiary would be subject to tax on a pro rata share of accumulated foreign Earnings and Profits (E&P) which have previously not been subject to U.S. tax. Such E&P would be subject to tax rates of 12% for liquid assets and 5% for all other E&P.

Foreign income earned by a foreign subsidiary is generally not subject to U.S. tax until income is distributed as a dividend to the U.S. corporation, subject to tax at the ordinary income rate of the corporation, up to 35%.

Foreign Tax Credit

No foreign tax credit or deduction would be allowed for any taxes paid or accrued with respect to any dividend to which the dividend exemption system would apply.

To mitigate double taxation, the US allows a credit or deduction for foreign income taxes paid designed to offset, in whole or in part, the U.S. tax owed on foreign income.

Stock Attribution Rules for Determining Status as a Controlled Foreign Corporation

A U.S. corporation would be treated as constructively owning stock held by its foreign shareholder.

A foreign subsidiary is a CFC (controlled foreign corporation) if it is more than 50% owned by one or more U.S. persons, each of which at least owning 10%. While a U.S. person may be treated as constructively owning stock held by related parties, a U.S. corporation generally cannot.

Estates, Gifts and Trusts


Proposed Law

Current Law

Estate and Gift Taxes (Effective 2018)

The amount of the lifetime gift, estate, and generation-skipping tax exclusion would double to $10 million.

Annual gift tax exclusion of $14,000, indexed for inflation, would remain unchanged.

The first $5 million worth of transferred property is exempt from estate, gift and generation-skipping tax in any combination.

Annual gift tax exclusion allowed of $14,000, indexed for inflation.

Estate and Gift Taxes (Effective post-2023)

The estate tax would be eliminated.

The gift tax would be lowered to a top rate of 35%.

The proposal maintains that basis in assets be stepped up after death.

Property in an estate is generally taxed at 40% before it passes to the beneficiaries of the estate.

Gifts are subject to a maximum rate of 40%.

Generation-Skipping Tax (Effective post-2023)

The generation-skipping tax would be repealed.

Property transferred beyond one generation is subject to an additional tax, with a top tax rate of 40%.

Tax-Exempt Organizations


Proposed Law

Current Law

Unrelated Business Taxable Income (UBTI)

UBTI would be expanded to increase unrelated business taxable income by including certain fringe benefits in the calculation of UBTI

UBTI is derived from trade or business regularly carried on by an exempt organization under Code section 501(a).

The tax rate applied is the highest corporate tax rate.

Bond Reform

Interest on newly-issued private activity bonds (PABs) would now be considered taxable. PABs issued prior to 2017 would retain their character.

Interest from governmental and PABs is excluded from gross income.

PABs are typically an add-back for AMT taxpayers.

Bond Interest from Professional Stadium Production

The interest from bonds used to produce a professional stadium will be taxable.

Interest from bonds used to finance the production of a professional stadium have been previously classified as tax-exempt.

Excise Tax on Excess Tax-Exempt Organization Executive Compensation

A tax-exempt organization would be subject to a 20 percent excise tax on compensation, including benefits, in excess of $1 million paid to any of its five highest paid employees for the tax year.

There are currently no excise taxes with regard to executive compensation for tax-exempt organizations.

Excise Tax on Private Foundation Investment Income

The excise tax rate on net investment income would be streamlined to a single rate of 1.4 percent. Additionally, the rules providing for a reduction in the excise tax rate from 2 percent to 1 percent would be repealed.

Private foundations are subject to a 2 percent excise tax on their net investment incomes. However, they may reduce this excise tax rate to 1 percent by making distributions equal to the averages of their distributions from the previous five years plus 1 percent.

Churches and Political Speech

Churches would no longer lose tax-exempt status for participating or intervening in a political campaign, if the speech is in the ordinary course of the organization’s business and expenses relating to the speech are de minimis.

An entity exempt from tax under § 501(c)(3) is prohibited from participating in, or intervening in any political campaign on behalf of, or in opposition to, any candidate for public office.

Excise Tax Based on Investment Income of Private Colleges and Universities

Certain private colleges and universities would be subject to a 1.4 percent excise tax on net investment income. The provision would only apply to private colleges and universities with at least 500 students and assets valued at the close of the preceding tax year of at least $250,000 per full-time student. State colleges and universities would not be subject to the provision.

Private foundations and certain charitable trusts are subject to an excise tax of up to 2 percent on their net investment income. The excise tax on net investment income does not apply to public charities, including colleges and universities

Exception from Excess Business Holding Tax for Private Foundations

Private foundations would be exempt from the excess business holding tax if:

(1) The foundation owns all of the business’ voting stock;

(2) The foundation did not purchase any of the stock;

(3) The business distributes all of its net operating income to the foundation within 120 days of the close of the tax year; and

(4) The businesses directors and executives are neither substantial contributors to the foundation nor make up a majority of the foundation’s board of directors.

A private foundation is not permitted to own 20% or more of a for-profit business, and is subject to a 10% excise tax on the value of holdings exceeding 20% of the ownership in such business. The excise tax increases to 200% for excess holdings not disposed of prior to the end of the year after acquisition.

For Further Information

If you would like more information about this topic’s impact on your unique situation, please contact any of the practitioners in the Tax Accounting Group. For information about other pertinent tax topics, please visit our publications page.

Disclaimer: This Alert has been prepared and published for informational purposes only and is not offered, nor should be construed, as legal advice. For more information, please see the firm's full disclaimer.