Smart Tax Planning

Here are 6 tax breaks you'll lose on your 2018 return

Key Points
  • Under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, the standard deduction increased to $12,000 for singles and $24,000 for married filing jointly in 2018.
  • Nine out of 10 filers are expected to take the standard deduction for 2018.
  • A number of itemized tax breaks are now limited, including a new $10,000 cap on state and local tax deductions. Others are gone.
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If you were planning on taking a tax break for those unreimbursed expenses at work or the fees you pay your tax preparer, prepare to be disappointed.

That's because the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, the new tax legislation that went into effect last year, curbed itemized deductions.

The new tax law eliminated personal exemptions — which were once valued at $4,050 for the taxpayer, spouse and each dependent — and boosted the standard deduction to $12,000 for singles and $24,000 for married joint filers.

As a result, fewer taxpayers are expected to itemize deductions. Nearly 90 percent of filers will wind up taking the standard deduction instead, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation.

That means about 30 million fewer households will itemize deductions in 2018, compared to 2017.

A surprise could be in store for some of those filers.

"People who itemized deductions and have no kids are likely to be negatively surprised, as well as those who work for employer who don't reimburse for out-of-pocket expenses, like home offices and mileage," said Nathan Rigney, lead tax research analyst at The Tax Institute at H&R Block.

Here are six itemized deductions that are out of reach or gone altogether from your 2018 tax return.

Home office costs and more

izusek | E+ | Getty Images

If you hoard receipts, you're probably familiar with the grab bag of tax breaks, known as the miscellaneous itemized deductions.

Back in 2017, before the tax overhaul, you were able to deduct unreimbursed employee costs, tax preparation fees, investment expenses and more — as long as they exceeded 2 percent of your adjusted gross income.

Telecommuters who work from home full time will feel the pinch in particular. As employees, they were once able to write off a slice of their mortgage, utilities and more for a home office.

Under the new tax code, these breaks are out of the picture as of 2018.

Theft and property damage

Henrik Sorensen | Getty Images

Under the old tax code, you were able to claim an itemized deduction for property losses that aren't reimbursed by insurance and that occur unexpectedly.

This would include damage from fire, accidents, theft and vandalism, as well as natural disasters.

You were able to deduct the losses to the extent they exceed 10 percent of your adjusted gross income.

Now, you can only claim personal casualty losses if the damage is attributable to a disaster declared by the president. This change is in effect through the end of 2025. The 10 percent threshold of AGI still applies.

In 2016, 154,274 tax returns claimed a casualty or theft loss deduction, according to the IRS.

State and local taxes

San Diego, California
SeanPavonePhoto | Getty Images

If you reside in New York, New Jersey or California, odds are you're feeling the squeeze from property tax, real estate taxes, and state and local income levies.

Meanwhile, 45 states and the District of Columbia levy statewide sales taxes — and municipalities in 38 states add on a layer of local sales taxes, too, according to the Tax Foundation.

Before the tax overhaul, you were able to nab an itemized deduction — known as the state and local tax deduction or SALT — for these levies.

Kiss those breaks goodbye — at least to a certain extent. The new tax code places a $10,000 cap on SALT deductions, which could dent returns for people living in high-tax areas.

In 2015, the average SALT deduction for New Yorkers who claimed the tax break was more than $22,000, according to the Tax Policy Center.

Home mortgage interest

LWA/Dann Tardif/Blend Images | Getty Images

Prior to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, you were able to write off the interest for up to $1 million in mortgage debt. If you took out a home equity loan or line of credit, you were also able to deduct the interest paid on loans of up to $100,000.

Now you can only claim a deduction for interest on up to $750,000 in qualified residence loans — that is, the combined amount of loans you use to buy, build or substantially improve your dwelling and second home.

Tax refunds disappear in wake of tax reform bill
Tax refunds disappear in wake of tax reform bill

The IRS has also applied new restrictions to interest claimed for home equity loans and lines of credit: You can only take the break if you were using the money to build or improve your home.

The deduction is off the table if you took a HELOC to use for personal expenses.

Charitable giving

A woman(R) makes a donation into a Salvation Army kettle outside a Giant grocery store in Clifton, Virgina.
Paul J. Richards | AFP | Getty Images

The IRS continues to reward taxpayers with philanthropic inclinations — as long as they give generously.

The charitable donation deduction is still on the table, even after the tax overhaul. The only difference now is how many people will be able to claim it.

A combination of higher standard deductions and limitations on itemized deductions means that fewer people will be itemizing on their 2018 returns.

In turn, that could put the charitable deduction out of reach for those taxpayers.

If you fall just short of the new standard deduction of $12,000 (single) or $24,000 (married and filing jointly), you might be able to itemize in 2018 if you "bunch" multiple years of charitable donations and get over the hurdle.

Medical and dental costs

A medical doctor examines a patient with a stethoscope at a CCI Health and Wellness Services health center in Gaithersburg, Maryland.
Andrew Harrer | Bloomberg | Getty Images

The tax overhaul temporarily lowered the threshold for the medical expense deduction.

For the 2017 and 2018 tax years, you're able to claim an itemized deduction for out-of-pocket health-care costs to the extent they exceed 7.5 percent of your adjusted gross income.

Here's the bad news for people with steep medical costs this year.

Starting in 2019, that threshold will leap back up to 10 percent — where it had previously been for most taxpayers.

Bear in mind that while the IRS has lowered the bar for the amount of medical expenses you must incur in 2018, fewer people all around are likely to itemize their deductions due to the higher standard deduction.

As a result, this break may no longer be available to you.

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