How The Final Tax Bill Affects Pastors

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Now that the GOP tax reform bill is finalized, how does it affect pastors? Let’s take a look at the changes being enacted into law and how they might affect you.

 

We finally have a tax bill that has passed both houses of Congress and is now on its way to the President’s desk. After several different versions of the bill and multiple votes, it is finally done.

 

Now comes the part where we all try to figure out how it impacts our own personal lives and our finances. Hopefully, I can help you with that. While I don’t know every unique aspect of your situation, here are the changes that are most likely to affect you:

 

Clergy Housing Allowance

Probably the most significant thing for you as a pastor is what isn’t in the bill. It makes no mention of the clergy housing allowance, the biggest tax break for pastors. Therefore, you can rest easy knowing that your housing allowance will not be taken away from you or change in any form.

 

Tax Brackets

There will still be 7 individual tax brackets, but they have been lowered. They are now:

 

Married, Filing Jointly
If Taxable Income Is… The Tax Is…
Not over $19,050 10% of taxable income
Over $19,050 but not over $77,400    $1,905 plus 12% of the excess over $19,050
Over $77,400 but not over $165,000    $8,907 plus 22% of the excess over $77,400
Over $165,000 but not over $315,000    $28,179 plus 24% of the excess over $165,000
Over $315,000 but not over $400,000    $64,179 plus 32% of the excess over $315,000
Over $400,000 but not over $600,000    $91,379 plus 35% of the excess over $400,000
Over $600,000 $161,379 plus 37% of the excess over $600,000

 

Head of Household
If Taxable Income Is… The Tax Is…
Not over $13,600 10% of taxable income
Over $13,600 but not over $51,800 $1,360 plus 12% of the excess over $13,600
Over $51,800 but not over $82,500 $5,944 plus 22% of the excess over $51,800
Over $82,500 but not over $157,500 $12,698 plus 24% of the excess over $82,500
Over $157,500 but not over $200,000    $30,698 plus 32% of the excess over $157,500
Over $200,000 but not over $500,000    $44,298 plus 35% of the excess over $200,000
Over $500,000 $149,298 plus 37% of the excess over $500,000

 

Individual
If Taxable Income Is… The Tax Is…
Not over $9,525 10% of taxable income
Over $9,525 but not over $38,700 $952.50 plus 12% of the excess over $9,525
Over $38,700 but not over $82,500 $4,453.50 plus 22% of the excess over $38,700
Over $82,500 but not over $157,500 $14,089.50 plus 24% of the excess over $82,500
Over $157,500 but not over $200,000    $32,089.50 plus 32% of the excess over $157,500
Over $200,000 but not over $500,000    $45,689.50 plus 35% of the excess over $200,000
Over $500,000 $150,698.50 plus 37% of the excess over $500,000

 

How do these compare to what we have been used to? Michael Kitces of The Nerd’s Eye View blog at kitces.com put together the very helpful illustration below. The green shows where rates will be lower and the red where they will be higher.

 

While rates are higher for some individual taxpayers, that doesn’t mean they will necessarily be paying more in taxes. The lower rates on the first part of their income will help to offset the higher rates once they get above $200,000.

 

These tax cuts are not permanent. They have only been enacted into law until 2025. So, while most people will save money under the new bill, it will only last until 2025 unless extended.

 

Standard Deduction & Personal Exemptions

One of the major reforms is the consolidation of the standard deduction and personal exemptions. There will now be a single larger standard deduction.

 

The individual standard deduction increases from $6,350 to $12,000. The standard deduction for married couples increases from $12,700 to $24,000. The “additional standard deduction” of $1,250 for people who are blind or over age 65 will still apply. Let’s see what this means:

 

Example 1: A single adult.

Current Tax Law:

$6,350(standard deduction) + $4,050 (personal exemption) = $10,400

New Law:

$12,000 standard deduction ($1,600 greater)

 

Example 2: Married couple without children.

Current Tax Law:

$12,700(standard deduction) + $8,100 (2 personal exemptions) = $20,800

New Law:

$24,000 standard deduction ($3,200 greater)

 

Example 3: Married couple with 3 children.

Current Tax Law:

$12,700(standard deduction) + $20,250 (5 personal exemptions) = $32,950

New Law:

$24,000 standard deduction ($8,950 less)

 

At first glance, this appears to be disastrous for families with children. However, an expanded Child Tax Credit makes up for it.

 

Child Tax Credit

The new tax reform bill doubles the Child Tax Credit from $1,000 to $2,000, makes more of it refundable, and expands eligibility.

 

How would that look for the family with 3 children in the example above? They will get $6,000 in tax credits, so they will be better off than under the previous law even though their standard deduction is $8,950 less.

 

You see, the deduction lowers your taxable income while the credit lowers your actual taxes owed. If you’re in the 12% tax bracket, deducting $8,950 less means you will pay $1,074 more in taxes. With the Child Tax Credit, you will pay $6,000 less in taxes. This is how it all adds up:

 

Current Tax Law:

Taxes due – $3,000(child tax credit) = $3,000 off your tax bill

New Law:

Taxes due + $1,074(lower standard deduction) – $6,000(child tax credit) = $4,926 off your tax bill

 

The expanded Child Tax Credit is also only in place until 2025.

 

Small Business Income

There has been a lot of attention given to the treatment of “pass-through” income in the tax bill. “Pass-through” income is business income that is not taxed in the business, but rather passed through to the owners and taxed on their personal tax returns. These businesses include partnerships and LLCs, S corporations, and sole proprietorships filing schedule C.

 

So, if you or your spouse has a side business, pay attention. The tax bill allows for a 20% deduction of such pass-through income. This will be a below-the-line deduction, not an itemized deduction. In essence, only 80% of your business income will be taxed. There are a number of restrictions to this rule, so you will need to work with a tax preparer familiar with the new law once you file your 2018 taxes to make sure you will be eligible for the deduction.

 

Obamacare Individual Mandate

The new tax bill repeals the tax on people without health insurance. However, this doesn’t kick in until 2019. If you don’t have qualified health care in 2018 you will still have to pay the Obamacare “shared responsibility payment” tax.

 

Miscellaneous

There are a few other notable parts of the tax bill that may or may not affect you:

  • Alimony Treatment. The tax treatment of alimony has changed and will benefit the recipient, not the payer.
  • Moving Expenses. You will no longer be able to deduct moving expenses, except for some members of the military.
  • Elderly and Dependent Care Credit. A $500 nonrefundable credit will be available to those with dependents not eligible for the Child Care Tax Credit. This could include older children or parents. This also expires in 2025.

 

That is a basic summary of our new tax law which, for the most part, will become effective in a couple of weeks. If you want to learn more about taxes, take a look at my posts:

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