Congress delivered the historic 560-plus-page Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, and President Donald Trump signed it into law on the Friday before Christmas. The changes will affect 2018 taxes, not those for 2017. Here are 10 points that bode well for farm operators and small business owners:
1. Property tax deductions. This business deduction continues for real estate and person property taxes on farm business assets.
2. Co-op dividends. The Domestic Production Activities (Section 199) Deduction is replaced with a new 20% maximum deduction on taxable income for qualified cooperative dividends. (See pass-through income.)
3. Like-kind exchanges. Continues Section 1031 exchanges for buildings and land, but will end for equipment and livestock.
4. Estate tax relief. Doubles to $11.2 million per individual, indexed for inflation.
5. Stepped-up Basis. Continues to allow capital gains tax avoidance for heirs upon death.
6. Bonus depreciation. Allows businesses to immediately write off 100% of qualified property costs through 2022, and now includes used equipment.
7. 179 expensing. Permanently increases the maximum allowance to $1 million, but increases the expenditure level to $2.5 million, at which point the deduction begins to phase out. Both are indexed for inflation.
8. Interest deductibility. Limits it for businesses with more than $25 million gross receipts by disallowing deductions exceeding 30% of adjusted taxable income. Still allows carryover rules.
9. Net operating losses. Allows carrybacks for two years and carryforwards indefinitely, but limits carryforwards to 80% of income.
10. Pass-through income. Covers income from sole proprietorships, joint ventures, limited liability companies and S corporations. Individuals operating these businesses can take a 20% deduction of business income payments from co-operatives and farmland rent. It’s limited to 50% of W-2 wages paid to employees or the sum of 25% of W-2 wages paid plus 2.5% of depreciable business property. The W-2 limit doesn’t apply when taxpayer income doesn’t exceed $315,000 (joint) or $157,000 (individual). Co-operatives, trusts and estates are eligible for this 20% deduction. Individuals owning many service businesses with income over $150,000 aren’t eligible.
NOTE: Most of these tax breaks expire within 7 to 10 years. Reason: A Senate rule limits legislative impact on the federal deficit after 10 years. So, the key is to take advantage of the new rules, but keep your eye on the ball as time passes and new tax bills are proposed.