2018 Tax Changes (Explained as Best as Humanly Possible)

To put it very (very) mildly, the new tax bill is not without its problems. In their newsletter attempting to explain the new bill's changes, the American Institute for Public Bookkeepers (AIPB) wrote, "Warning: You are encouraged to wait, where possible, for IRS guidance to confirm the details below. There are many technical errors in this tax law."

We have tried our best to explain how a few of these various changes might affect your business. In the interest of keeping this an article and not a book, we'll be summarizing many of the details, with links to articles where each piece can be expanded upon in greater depth.

To begin, here are a few of the easiest changes.

Mileage rates. The standard business mileage deduction has been raised from 53.5 cents per mile to 54.5 cents per mile.

Listed property. Computers and peripherals are no longer listed property, and therefore do not have to be held to the same proof of exclusive business-use standards as, for example, vehicles.

Meals & Entertainment. From 2018 through 2025, on-premise meals for employees will be reduced from 100% deductible to 50% deductible. As of 2026, they will no longer be deductible at all. Most entertainment expenses are no longer deductible.

Getting a bit more in-depth...

Income from pass-through entities. Anything other than a C-Corp is now considered a pass-through entity (including S-Corps). Pass-through deductions on individual returns are also significantly changed, particularly for those higher-income earners in the fields of law, accounting, medicine, consulting, athletics, financial services, and brokerage services. More details can be found here, Can You Win From the Pass-Through Deduction?, and more details on other lines of businesses to be affected will hopefully be explained by new IRS amendments and regulations.

C-Corp income. You may already be aware that taxes for C-Corps have been significantly reduced, to a flat 21%. However, the deduction for dividends received from other corporations has also been reduced from 70% to 50% for most dividends, and to 65% for those dividends which had been previously deducted at 80%.

Depreciation changes. This is another area that has received a lot of coverage, as the changes here are extensive. For starters, tangible personal property has been expanded to include property primarily used to furnish lodgings and improvements to nonresidential real estate. (If you're in the hotel business, this should be very exciting news for you.) Furthermore, Section 179 and bonus depreciation have been increased, with new rules not only applying to 2018, but also to property purchased in 4th quarter 2017, or purchased before 4th quarter 2017 but not put into use until 2018. Unfortunately, most of the bonuses expire in five years. Forbes has a great write-up of these changes, Tax Geek Tuesday: Changes To Depreciation In The New Tax Law.

Business interest expense and income. The business interest deduction is now capped at 30% of income (excluding depreciation) and can be carried forward for five years. Small businesses are exempt if they have less than $25 million in annual gross receipts, or are cash-basis. It also does not apply to "any taxpayer in the business of being an employee" (IRS clarifications hopefully coming soon), or to real property/real estate businesses. Business interest income also no longer includes interest from investments.

And the information we either don't have, or which is too long to list here.

FITW. For starters, federal income tax withholding tables are not yet available, but are scheduled for this month, to be used for employee wages as early as February. These could mean for some significant changes in employee take-home pay, but we won't know exact details until they are released by the IRS. This can be a bit of a headache for small businesses handling their own payroll; if you are not currently using a payroll service provider, now might be a good time to research those options.

Fringe benefits. Many fringe benefits which previously counted as deductions for employers will now no longer be deductible. Additionally, certain expenses are no longer deductible for employees, as well (in particular, un-reimbursed business expenses). See The New GOP Bill and What It Means for Employee Benefits in 2018 for a list of the eliminated benefits.

With all of the changes to tax law in 2018, it's dangerous to try and navigate on your own. Talk to your accounting professional about how these changes will affect your business.