News & Blog

December 23, 2015

Taxes

Congress Renews Tax Breaks In Year-End Legislation

The Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes Act of 2015 was signed into law on December 18, 2015. The law renews a long list of tax breaks known as “extenders” that have been expiring on an annual basis.

This tax legislation makes some of the rules effective through December 31, 2016. Others are effective through 2019, and some are effective permanently. Provisions in the Act also make changes to existing tax rules that were not part of the extenders. All of these changes will affect your tax planning now and in future years.

Here’s an overview of selected provisions.
● The provision for tax-free distributions from IRAs to charities is now permanent. When you’re age 70½ and over, this break lets you make a qualified distribution of up to $100,000 from your IRA to a charity. The transfer counts as a required minimum distribution and is excluded from your gross income.
● If you’re a homeowner, you can exclude mortgage debt cancellation or forgiveness of up to $2 million for 2015 and 2016. Discharges of qualified mortgage debt can also be excluded after January 1, 2017, if you have a binding written agreement in effect before that date. This tax break is only available for your principal residence.
● If you or a family member is an eligible student, you may be able to claim a tuition and fees above-the-line deduction for qualified higher education expenses for 2015 and 2016. For 2015 tax returns, the maximum deduction is $4,000 when your adjusted gross income (AGI) does not exceed $65,000 ($130,000 for joint filers). The maximum deduction is $2,000 when your AGI is less than $80,000 ($160,000 for joint filers).
● The deduction for up to $250 of out-of-pocket eligible educator expenses is now permanent. It will be indexed for inflation beginning with 2016 tax returns. You claim this deduction “above the line,” meaning it’s available even if you don’t itemize. If you do itemize, you can also generally claim qualified expenses above $250 as a deduction subject to a 2% of adjusted gross income limit.
● The optional itemized deduction for state and local sales taxes in lieu of deducting state and local income taxes is now permanent. This deduction is especially beneficial if you live in a state with no income tax. You may also benefit no matter where you live if you pay sales tax on a large ticket item such as an automobile, boat, or RV.
● When you itemize, you can treat mortgage insurance premiums as deductible home mortgage interest in 2015 and 2016. The deduction is subject to phase-out based on adjusted gross income.
● You may be able to claim a credit of 10% of the cost of energy-saving improvements installed in your home in 2015 and 2016, subject to a lifetime credit limit of $500.

Call our office today at 412.278.2200 to see how this tax legislation affects you.

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