On December 14th, we are closing our offices at 3pm for an internal event.
Starting from October 20 (Friday) until December 29 (Friday), SKR + Co will be following our Fall office hours. Our offices will be closed at NOON on Fridays.
On December 14th, we are closing our offices at 3pm for an internal event.
Converting a traditional IRA to a Roth IRA can provide tax-free growth and tax-free withdrawals in retirement, but what if you convert your traditional IRA — subject to income taxes on all earnings and deductible contributions — and then discover you would have been better off if you left it as a traditional IRA?
Before the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), you could undo a Roth IRA conversion using a “recharacterization.” Effective with 2018 conversions, the TCJA prohibits recharacterizations. If you executed a conversion in 2017, you may still be able to undo it.
Reasons to recharacterize
Generally, if you converted to a Roth IRA in 2017, you have until October 15, 2018, to undo it and avoid the tax hit.
Here are some reasons you might want to recharacterize a 2017 Roth IRA conversion:
If you recharacterize your 2017 conversion but would still like to convert your traditional IRA to a Roth IRA, you must wait until the 31st day after the recharacterization. If you undo a conversion because your IRA’s value declined, there is a risk that your investments will bounce back during the waiting period, causing you to reconvert at a higher tax cost.
Recharacterization in action
Sally had a traditional IRA with a balance of $100,000 when she converted it to a Roth IRA in 2017. Her 2017 tax rate was 33%, so she owed $33,000 in federal income taxes on the conversion.
However, by August 1, 2018, the value of her account had dropped to $80,000. So Sally recharacterizes the account as a traditional IRA and amends her 2017 tax return to exclude the $100,000 in income.
On September 1, she reconverts the traditional IRA, whose value remains at $80,000, to a Roth IRA. She will report that amount when she files her 2018 tax return. The 33% rate has dropped to 32% under the TCJA. Assuming Sally is still in this bracket, this time she’ll owe $25,600 ($80,000 × 32%) — deferred for a year and resulting in a tax savings of $7,400.
(Be aware that the thresholds for the various brackets have changed for 2018, in some cases increasing but in others decreasing. This, combined with other TCJA provisions and changes in your income, could cause you to be in a higher or lower bracket in 2018.)
Know your options
If you converted a traditional IRA to a Roth IRA in 2017, it is worthwhile to see if you could save tax by undoing the conversion. If you are considering a Roth conversion in 2018, keep in mind that you will not have the option to recharacterize. See your financial adviser whether recharacterizing a 2017 conversion or executing a 2018 conversion makes sense for you.
For tax years beginning in 2018 and beyond, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) created a flat 21% federal income tax rate for C corporations. Under prior law, C corporations were taxed at rates as high as 35%. The TCJA also reduced individual income tax rates, which apply to sole proprietorships and pass-through entities, including partnerships, S corporations, and, typically, limited liability companies (LLCs). The top rate, however, dropped only slightly, from 39.6% to 37%.
On the surface, that may make choosing C corporation structure seem like a no-brainer, but there are many other considerations involved.
Under prior tax law, conventional wisdom was that most small businesses should be set up as sole proprietorships or pass-through entities to avoid the double taxation of C corporations: C corporations pay entity-level income tax and then shareholders pay tax on dividends — and on capital gains when they sell the stock. For pass-through entities, there is no federal income tax at the entity level.
Although C corporations are still potentially subject to double taxation under the TCJA, their new 21% tax rate helps make up for it. This issue is further complicated, however, by another provision of the TCJA that allows noncorporate owners of pass-through entities to take a deduction equal to as much as 20% of qualified business income (QBI), subject to various limits. But, unless Congress extends it, the break is available only for tax years beginning in 2018 through 2025.
No one-size-fits-all answer applies when deciding how to structure a business. The best choice depends on your business’s unique situation and your situation as an owner. Your tax adviser can help you evaluate your options.
As the new tax bill worked its way through Congress last fall, nonprofits across the country raised their voices high to share concerns about its disincentives for charitable donations — as well as the proposed repeal of the Johnson Amendment. Little was heard, though, about changes to the rules for unrelated business income tax (UBIT). It turns out that the final law, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), includes several provisions that have the potential to boost your organization’s liability for the tax, regardless of whether you operate an unrelated business.
Why your UBI may grow
The most important change relates to how unrelated business income (UBI) is computed. The new law requires nonprofits to calculate UBI separately for each unrelated business, with the $1,000 deduction typically allowed applied to the aggregate UBI for all businesses.
Your UBI also can increase because net operating losses (NOLs) can only be claimed against future income from the specific business that generated the loss. Under previous law, you could use NOLs from one business to offset the income of another or to offset gains from alternative investments or pass-through entities, also considered UBI.
UBI also might grow due to a change in how certain fringe benefits are treated under the TCJA. In previous years, you could provide your employees qualified transportation benefits (including commuter transportation and transit passes), qualified parking fringe benefits and on-site athletic facilities free of income tax for both you and employees.
The TCJA, however, treats the payments for such benefits as UBI unless they are directly connected to an unrelated business (for example, parking benefits provided employees of an unrelated business). Congress made the change to create parity between nonprofits and taxable organizations. For-profit businesses lost a previous tax exemption for certain fringe benefits under the TCJA. The end result, though, is that nonprofits may owe UBIT even without operating any unrelated businesses.
It’s not all bad news. The new law also changes the corporate tax rate that nonprofits pay on UBI to 21% from a range of 15% to 35%. In some cases, a nonprofit’s UBIT liability might fall despite your higher UBI.
What you can do
Fortunately, you have some options to avoid the worst effects of these changes. For example, you may conduct an audit of your unrelated businesses. You might find that you have been over-reporting your UBI because you have not captured all the related business expenses.
Another option for nonprofits with multiple unrelated businesses is forming a single taxable corporate subsidiary to hold all of them, which would permit you to again offset their income and losses. Any restructuring will likely carry some implications, whether tax-related, financial or operational.
Changes to the UBIT rules have not received as much coverage as some of the other TCJA provisions, but they may impact your organization. Consult with your CPA to determine steps you can take to minimize the impact of tax reform on your bottom line.
Under the pre-Act rules, you could deduct interest on up to a total of $1 million of mortgage debt used to acquire your principal residence and a second home, i.e., acquisition debt. For a married taxpayer filing separately, the limit was $500,000. You could also deduct interest on home equity debt, i.e., debt secured by the qualifying homes. Qualifying home equity debt was limited to the lesser of $100,000 ($50,000 for a married taxpayer filing separately), or the taxpayer’s equity in the home or homes (the excess of the value of the home over the acquisition debt). The funds obtained via a home equity loan did not have to be used to acquire or improve the homes. So you could use home equity debt to pay for education, travel, health care, etc.
Under the TCJA, starting in 2018, the limit on qualifying acquisition debt is reduced to $750,000 ($375,000 for a married taxpayer filing separately). However, for acquisition debt incurred before Dec. 15, 2017, the higher pre-Act limit applies. The higher pre-Act limit also applies to debt arising from refinancing pre-Dec. 15, 2017 acquisition debt, to the extent the debt resulting from the refinancing does not exceed the original debt amount. This means you can refinance up to $1 million of pre-Dec. 15, 2017 acquisition debt in the future and not be subject to the reduced limitation.
And, importantly, starting in 2018, there is no longer a deduction for interest on home equity debt. This applies regardless of when the home equity debt was incurred. Accordingly, if you are considering incurring home equity debt in the future, you should take this factor into consideration. And if you currently have outstanding home equity debt, be prepared to lose the interest deduction for it, starting in 2018. (You will still be able to deduct it on your 2017 tax return, filed in 2018.)
Lastly, both of these changes last for eight years, through 2025. In 2026, the pre-Act rules come back into effect. So beginning in 2026, interest on home equity loans will be deductible again, and the limit on qualifying acquisition debt will be raised back to $1 million ($500,000 for married separate filers).