As a year-end holiday gift, Congress included a number of individual and business friendly tax provisions in its year-end spending package that was signed into law by President Trump on December 20, 2019. The “Further Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2020” (2020 Act) brought back to life many deductions and credits that had expired at the end of 2017, as well as a few others that had either expired at the end of 2018 or were scheduled to expire at the end of 2019. In addition, substantial changes were made to retirement-related tax provisions and new disaster-related tax provisions have been added. Some of the funding for these changes will come from increases made to various penalty provisions – notably increases in the penalties for failing to timely file a tax return or timely pay the tax due.
To the extent that you could have benefited from any of the resurrected 2017 tax provisions on your 2018 tax return, you should file an amended return to claim any refunds you may be due. The 2020 Act changes may also affect your 2019 tax liability.
Some of the provisions which may be of interest to you include the following:
Expansion of Section 529 Plans
Several changes were made to the rules involving Section 529 plans – tax-advantaged savings plans designed to accumulate funds for future educational needs. First, tax-free distributions for higher education expenses now to apply to expenses for fees, books, supplies, and equipment required for the participation of a designated beneficiary in an apprenticeship program. The apprenticeship program must be registered and certified with the Secretary of Labor under Section 1 of the National Apprenticeship Act. Second, tax-free treatment applies to distributions of certain amounts used to make payments on principal or interest of a qualified education loan. No individual may receive more than $10,000 of such distributions, in aggregate, over the course of the individual’s lifetime. Third, a special rule allows tax-free distributions to a sibling of a designated beneficiary (i.e., a brother, sister, stepbrother, or stepsister). This rule allows a 529 account holder to make a student loan distribution to a sibling of the designated beneficiary without changing the designated beneficiary of the account.
Nonbusiness Energy Property Credit
The nonbusiness energy property credit is extended to property placed in service in 2018, 2019, and 2020. The nonbusiness energy property credit is available for (1) 10 percent of the amounts paid or incurred for qualified energy efficiency improvements installed during the tax year, and (2) the amount of residential energy property expenditures paid or incurred during the tax year.
Reduction in Medical Expense Deduction Floor
The floor for deducting medical expenses for 2019 and 2020 has been reduced from 10 percent of adjusted gross income to 7.5 percent of adjusted gross income. In addition, there is no adjustment to the medical expense deduction when computing the alternative minimum tax for 2019 and 2020.
Repeal of Maximum Age for Traditional IRA Contributions
The prohibition on contributions to a traditional IRA by an individual who has attained age 70½ has been repealed.
Increase in Age for Required Beginning Date for Mandatory Distributions
The required beginning date for required minimum distributions has been increased to 72 years old from 70 ½ years old. The former rules continue to apply to employees and IRA owners who attain age 70½ prior to January 1, 2020. The new provision is effective for distributions required to be made after December 31, 2019, with respect to individuals who attain age 70½ after December 31, 2019.
Energy Efficient Commercial Buildings Deduction
The deduction available for the cost of energy efficient commercial building property is extended to property placed in service before 2021. The deduction is limited to the excess (if any) of (1) the product of $1.80 and the square footage of the building, over (2) the aggregate amount of the energy efficient commercial property deductions allowed with respect to the building for all prior tax years.
Accelerated Depreciation Deduction for Business Property on Indian Reservations
The accelerated depreciation deduction for qualified Indian reservation property now applies to property placed in service before January 1, 2021.
Indian Employment Credit
Under the Indian employment credit, employers are allowed a credit for a percentage of the wages and health insurance costs paid to employees who are American Indians. This credit is now available through the end of 2020. However, the total amount of wages and health insurance costs that may be taken into account for any qualified employee for a tax year is limited to $20,000.