Every year brings a number of changes in various financial rules and regs that impact our personal financial planning. While President-elect Donald Trump has proposed sweeping tax reform, it’s impossible to know which of his proposals will turn into law, and of those that do, when they will be implemented.
With those big caveats in mind, what follows is our annual guide to some of the more significant changes that have been announced for the New Year, along with some of Trump’s proposed changes.
If you participate in a 401(k), 403(b), 457(b) or the federal government’s Thrift Savings Plan, you can contribute $18,000 in 2017—the same as in 2016. Participants age 50 or older can add another $6,000—again, no change from 2016.
Those contributing to an IRA are limited to the same $5,500 maximum that was in place for 2016. People age 50 and older can add another $1,000—again, the same as in 2016.
IRA contributors who are impacted by income phase-outs—those covered by a workplace retirement plan or married to someone who is—can make a bit more money in 2017 and still deduct their full contribution. The details are available on the IRS web site.
Health Savings Accounts
For those with a high-deductible health insurance plan, singles can save a tax-deductible $3,400 in 2017 in a Health Savings Account—$50 more than in 2016. Families can save $6,750—unchanged from 2016. If you are 55 or older, or will turn 55 in 2017, you can save an additional $1,000—unchanged from 2016.
In order to be able to use a health savings account, your health insurance deductible must be at least $1,300 for singles and $2,600 for families—unchanged from 2016.
Remember, unused money in your HSA can be carried over from year to year. An HSA can even serve as an additional tax-advantaged way to save for retirement expenses.
There’s more information about HSA rules and regs here.
If you’re eligible to contribute to a flexible spending account where you work, the IRS has increased the contribution limit to $2,600 from $2,550. In 2014, the IRS loosened the use-it-or-lose-it restriction that applied to FSAs, giving employers the freedom to allow employees to carry over up to $500 of unused money from one year to the next or to use up unspent money in a two-and-a-half month grace period at the start of a new year. Employers are not obligated to offer either benefit, so check with your HR department to find out about your company’s policies.
Tax brackets, standard deductions, and personal exemptions
Tax brackets have been adjusted for inflation. You can see all of the planned changes in this Forbes article.
The standard deductions will increase slightly—$6,350 for singles (up from $6,300) and $12,700 for married couples filing jointly (up from $12,600).
The personal exemption amount is $4,050 for 2017—the same as it was for 2016.
This is an area that could change substantially next year, as described in more detail in our December newsletter article Election Analysis: How a Trump Presidency May Affect Your Taxes. President-elect Trump has proposed condensing the current seven tax brackets into three, reducing the top tax rate from 39.6% to 33%. He would increase standard deductions to $15,000 for single filers and $30,000 for joint filers, but he would eliminate the personal exemption.
Social Security and Medicare
While the Social Security withholding rate will remain as it has been—6.2% of income for employees and 6.2% for employers, the maximum amount of earnings subject to Social Security tax in 2017 will jump from $118,500 to $127,200. That 7.3% hike is the largest increase since 1983.
Someone who earns $127,200 will pay an additional $539 in 2017.
The Medicare withholding rate will remain as it has been—1.45% of income paid by employees and 1.45% paid by employers. There is no limit on the amount of income subject to this tax.
High earners will continue to be subject to two additional Medicare taxes thanks to provisions in the Affordable Care Act. First, an additional .9% Medicare payroll tax is owed on income above $200,000 for singles or $250,000 for married couples filing jointly. Those income thresholds are unchanged from 2016.
Second, anyone making more than the income thresholds just mentioned may be subject to an additional 3.8% Medicare tax on net investment income, including interest, dividends, capital gains, the taxable portion of annuity payments, and more. (Trump has proposed eliminating the 3.8% tax on investment income.) This tax is owed on the lesser of net investment income for the year or the extent to which modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) exceeds the thresholds mentioned above. The tax is not owed if MAGI does not exceed those thresholds. If income does exceed those thresholds, the tax is only owed to the degree that there is net investment income.
Those receiving Social Security will see a 0.3% cost-of-living increase in their checks in 2017.
If you use your vehicle for business purposes (does not include commuting), you’ll be able to deduct 53.5 cents a mile in 2017—down slightly from 54 cents in 2016. The deductible rate for medical or moving purposes is lower as well in 2017, at 17 cents per mile—down from 19 cents per mile in 2016. The rate when using your vehicle for charitable purposes remains as it was in 2016: 14 cents per mile.
Very few households have to worry about federal estate taxes anymore due to high estate tax exemptions. In 2017, that exemption is $5.49 million per person—up from $5.45 million. Married couples can make use of twice that amount. President-elect Trump has proposed eliminating the estate tax.
What to do
For most taxpayers, it’s probably best not to make any moves during what’s left of 2016 in anticipation of any tax law changes that might take place in 2017 under the Trump administration. For higher-income earners, it wouldn’t hurt to touch base with your accountant to see what he or she recommends.