I am very glad the new Tax Cuts and Job Act is now law. With ongoing work reforming and reducing regulations, the tax bill will spur economic growth, and get people to understand the importance of reducing marginal rates. On the corporate side, the huge rate reduction (from 35% to 21%), move to territorial taxation, and expensing of equipment, is a home run. However, on the individual side, Congress allowed politics to get in the way of real reform, and that is inexcusable.
Without any discussion, Congress eliminated the deduction for miscellaneous itemized deductions. This is truly the only legitimate deduction, and it is absolutely necessary to maintain the integrity of the tax code. It gives people the chance to write off expenses incurred to allow them to earn the income they are taxed on. For instance, under current tax law, a person who earns $100K in a venture but had to pay $30K for legal fees to get it, would be able to pay taxes on only the $70K net that was actually made. With the new change now removing the miscellaneous itemized deduction, the person will have to pay taxes on the full $100K!
Another deduction Congress removed summarily is the moving deduction. Similar to the miscellaneous itemized deduction, this is a real and actual expense that is incurred when moving to get a new job (in order to earn the income that will be taxed.) It was removed from the tax code without discussion, and should not have been.
The casualty loss deduction was also eliminated. This enabled you to deduct a loss that was due to a sudden, unexpected event, such as a fire, hurricane, or robbery. Now, if your house burns down, you can no longer write it off. The exception to this change is if your loss is in a federally-declared disaster area. So if your house burns down, you get no deduction. But if it burns down in a large wildfire that was declared a disaster, you can claim the deduction. This is egregious; the effect on the individual — the loss of a house — is absolutely the same. This deduction elimination is unacceptable.
Furthermore, the alimony deduction was thrown out. The alimony deduction is a mechanism that prevents an inequitable tax burden to be created when a married family unit is split into two. It is inequitable and mean-spirited to create a targeted tax burden on people who suffered a family breakup.
While eliminating these important and equitable donations, Congress left in place a number of purely political, social engineering deductions and credits. Congress left in a substantial part of the mortgage deduction, which is really nothing more than a government subsidy to the real estate industry. They left in energy credits, rehabilitation and low income housing credits, and the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT). It’s disappointing to see Congress talk about simplicity, efficiency, and equitability, and then remove good provisions from the tax code while leaving in parts that are merely political.