Tax Checklist 2020

Tax Preparation Checklist for 2020

As we close out the year and get ready for tax season, here’s what individuals and families need to know about tax provisions for 2020.

Personal Exemptions
The personal exemption was suspended from the tax code when the Trump Tax Act went into effect in 2018. However, as with many aspects of the tax code that affected personal taxes, this change is scheduled to revert after the 2025 tax year. The personal exemption may not necessarily return after the 2025 tax year. Congress has the option of renewing that and other temporary aspects of the tax law. Generally, you have three years from the date of filing to amend a previous year’s tax return. That means you may still have the opportunity to amend 2017 returns (which were filed in 2018) to take full advantage of the personal exemption.

Standard Deductions
The standard deduction for married couples filing a joint return in 2020 is $24,800. For singles and married individuals filing separately, it is $12,400, and for heads of household, the deduction is $18,650.

The additional standard deduction for blind people and senior citizens in 2020 is $1,300 for married individuals and $1,650 for singles and heads of household.

Income Tax Rates
In 2020 the top tax rate of 37 percent affects individuals whose income exceeds $518,400 ($625,050 for married taxpayers filing a joint return). Marginal tax rates for 2020 are as follows: 10%, 12%, 22%, 24%, 32%, 35%, and 37%. As a reminder, while the tax rate structure remained similar to prior years under tax reform (i.e., with seven tax brackets), the tax-bracket thresholds increased significantly for each filing status.

Estate and Gift Taxes
In 2020 there is an exemption of $11.58 million per individual for estate, gift, and generation-skipping taxes, with a top tax rate of 40 percent. The annual exclusion for gifts is $15,000.

Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT)
For 2020, exemption amounts increased to $72,900 for single and head of household filers, $113,400 for married people filing jointly and for qualifying widows or widowers, and $56,700 for married taxpayers filing separately.

Pease and PEP (Personal Exemption Phaseout)
Both Pease (limitations on itemized deductions) and PEP (personal exemption phase-out) have been eliminated under Trump Tax Act.

Flexible Spending Account (FSA)
A Flexible Spending Account (FSA) is limited to $2,750 per year in 2020 (up from $2,700 in 2019) and applies only to salary reduction contributions under a health FSA. The term “taxable year” as it applies to FSAs refers to the plan year of the cafeteria plan, which is typically the period during which salary reduction elections are made.

Long-Term Capital Gains
In 2020 tax rates on capital gains and dividends remain the same as 2019 rates (0%, 15%, and a top rate of 20%); however, taxpayers should be reminded that threshold amounts don’t correspond to the tax bracket rate structure as they have in the past. For example, taxpayers whose income is below $40,000 for single filers and $80,000 for married filing jointly pay 0% capital gains tax. For individuals whose income is at or above $441,450 ($496,600 married filing jointly), the rate for both capital gains and dividends is capped at 20 percent.

Miscellaneous Deductions
Miscellaneous deductions that exceed 2 percent of AGI (adjusted gross income) are eliminated for tax years 2018 through 2025. As such, you can no longer deduct on Schedule A expenses related to tax preparation, moving (except for members of the Armed Forces on active duty who move because of a military order), job hunting, or unreimbursed employee expenses such as tools, supplies, required uniforms, travel, and mileage.

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