Ask us anything: We're getting questions from readers about the new tax law. While there's a lot still to be learned about the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, people are asking about changes to the retirement savings credit, property taxes and more. No matter your question, we've got answers from some of the nation's top tax and financial planning experts. So don't be shy. Send your questions about the new tax law to Robert.Powell@TheStreet.com. We'll try to answer and publish as many as we can about how it's going to affect your investments, retirement savings and taxes.
Editor's note: The following questions were answered by Gina Chironis, CPA/PFS, the CEO of Clarity Wealth Management and a member of the AICPA's Personal Financial Planning Executive Committee.
Question: I understand that interest paid on a home equity line of credit (HELOC) is no longer tax deductible. Instead of taking out a HELOC, would the interest on a short-term mortgage, say a 5/1 or a 7/1 ARM be tax deductible -- even if the proceeds from the mortgage would be used for general living expenses? In other words, to get the mortgage interest deduction, does the mortgage have to be secured only for acquisition/construction purposes?
Answer: The IRS rules only allow a mortgage interest expense deduction when the proceeds are used to purchase or improve a home -- and this has not changed. So, taking a deduction when the proceeds are used for general living expenses was not allowed historically, and it will continue to not be allowed. The type of mortgage (5/1 or 7/1) does not affect the deductibility of interest expense but it does need to be used for acquisition or construction purposes.
Question: My newly built home (2014) was financed by the local bank with a construction loan for 30 years. After taking possession of the house I modified the loan to 15 years and found a home equity loan at a different bank at a much lower rate with no closing costs. I have been paying on the $360,000 for two years and will never need to take any equity dollars. Will the interest from this mortgage labeled "equity loan" be tax deductible?
Answer: Although technically interest on home equity loans is now no longer deductible, the reality is that lenders do not identify these loans any differently on the tax reporting documents. We are not sure how this will be enforced going forward.
Question: I own 2 houses that produce income. Should I form an LLC to get the 20% deduction?
Answer: My understanding is that this is not necessary. Net rental income which is reported on an individual's tax return on Schedule E will qualify as business income and receive the 20% deduction.
Question: My partner and I own and manage a small shopping center and a stand-alone commercial building. I've heard about a 20% credit to such a business. Can you explain it to me?
Answer: Assuming you are operating as a partnership, you may be entitled to receive a 20% deduction (not a credit) on your personal tax return. This will depend on your total taxable income, your share of wages paid by the partnership and your share of ownership in depreciable property (the buildings). The deduction amount would also depend on whether you received a guaranteed payment, since that does not count as qualified business income and is not eligible for the deduction.
Question: Is there a difference for the pass through with the new tax law for a financial planning firm that is an LLC versus a S-corporation versus a C-corporation? What are the benefits to each and the income thresholds? I assume the income is not adjusted gross income (AGI).
Answer: Yes. C-corporations are not eligible for the 20% deduction, but LLC and S-corporations are. The calculation of the deduction is based on taxable income, not AGI, and is subject to phase-out rules for service businesses. So, the owners of the financial planning business can take the deduction if it is a pass-through entity and if their taxable income is below the top of the phase-out ranges: Married filing joint: $315,000-$415,000; everyone else: $157,000 - $207,500. If taxable income is above the upper range, then the owners lose the deduction. If within the range, they lose a percentage of it calculated as: taxable income over the beginning phase-out amount divided by the total phase-out amount.
Example: married filing joint, if taxable income is $330,000 they would lose $15,000/$100,000 or 15% of the deduction.
Got questions about the new tax law? Email Robert.Powell@TheStreet.com.