Tax Alert: IRS Issues Its 2017 Cost-of-Living Adjustments

By Mark R. Baran  |  December 14, 2016

Many 2017 Cost-of-Living Adjustments Increase Slightly

The IRS recently issued its 2017 cost-of-living adjustments. Because inflation remains relatively low, the cost-of-living increases, if any, are modest. . As you implement your 2016 year-end tax planning strategies, be sure to take these 2017 adjustments into account.

Individual income taxes

Tax-bracket thresholds increase in 2017 for each filing status.  The top 10% bracket increases from $50 to $100, depending on filing status. The top 35% bracket increases by $1,875 to $3,750, again depending on filing status.

2017 ordinary-income tax brackets

Tax rate

Single

Head of household

Married filing jointly or surviving spouse

Married filing separately

10%

           $0 -     $9,325

           $0 -   $13,350

           $0 -   $18,650

           $0 -     $9,325

15%

    $9,326 -   $37,950

  $13,351 -   $50,800

  $18,651 -   $75,900

    $9,326 -   $37,950

25%

  $37,951 -   $91,900

  $50,801 - $131,200

  $75,901 - $153,100

  $37,951 -   $76,550

28%

  $91,901 - $191,650

$131,201 - $212,500

$153,101 - $233,350

  $76,551 - $116,675

33%

$191,651 - $416,700

$212,501 - $416,700

$233,351 - $416,700

$116,676 - $208,350

35%

$416,701 - $418,400

$416,701 - $444,550

$416,701 - $470,700

$208,351 - $235,350

39.6%

         Over $418,400

         Over $444,550

         Over $470,700

         Over $235,350

The personal and dependency exemption remains unchanged at $4,050 for 2017. This exemption is subject to a phase-out that reduces exemptions by 2% for each $2,500 (or portion thereof) by which a taxpayer’s adjusted gross income (AGI) exceeds the applicable threshold (2% of each $1,250 for separate filers).

For 2017, the phase-out starting points increase from $1,250 to $2,500, to AGI of $261,500 (singles), $287,650 (heads of households), $313,800 (joint filers), and $156,900 (separate filers). The exemption phases out completely at $384,000 (singles), $410,150 (heads of households), $436,300 (joint filers), and $218,150 (separate filers).

Your AGI also may affect some of your itemized deductions. An AGI-based limit reduces certain otherwise allowable deductions by 3% of the amount by which a taxpayer’s AGI exceeds the applicable threshold (not to exceed 80% of otherwise allowable deductions). The thresholds are the same as the personal and dependency exemption phase-out amounts.

AMT

The alternative minimum tax (AMT) is a separate tax system that limits or denies some deductions and treats certain income items differently. If your AMT liability is greater than your regular tax liability, you must pay the AMT.

Like the regular tax brackets, AMT brackets are annually indexed for inflation. For 2017, the threshold for the 28% bracket increased by $1,500 for all filing statuses ― except married filing separately, which increased by $750.

2017 AMT brackets

Tax rate

Single

Head of household

Married filing jointly or surviving spouse

Married filing separately

26%

         $0  -  $187,800

         $0  -  $187,800

         $0  -  $187,800

          $0  -  $93,900

28%

         Over $187,800

         Over $187,800

         Over $187,800

         Over $93,900

The AMT exemptions and exemption phase-outs are also indexed. The exemption amounts for 2017 are $54,300 for singles and heads of households, and $84,500 for joint filers. The increases are $400 and $700, respectively, over 2016 amounts. The inflation-adjusted phase-out ranges for 2017 are $120,700–$337,900 (singles and heads of households) and $160,900–$498,900 (joint filers). Amounts for separate filers are half those for joint filers.

Education- and Child-related breaks

The maximum tax benefit amounts for various education- and child-related expenses generally remain the same for 2017. Most of these breaks are limited, based on the taxpayer’s modified adjusted gross income (MAGI). Taxpayers with MAGIs within the applicable phase-out range are eligible for a partial break, and breaks are eliminated for those with MAGIs exceeding the top of the range.

The MAGI phase-out ranges generally remain the same or increase modestly for 2017, depending on the break. For example:

The American Opportunity credit. The MAGI phase-out ranges for this education credit (maximum $2,500 per eligible student) remain the same for 2017: $160,000–$180,000 for joint filers and $80,000–$90,000 for other filers.

The Lifetime Learning credit. The MAGI phase-out ranges for this education credit (maximum $2,000 per tax return) increase for 2017; they’re $112,000–$132,000 for joint filers and $56,000–$66,000 for other filers — up $2,000 for joint filers and $1,000 for others.

The adoption credit. The MAGI phase-out ranges for this credit also increase for 2017 — by $1,620, to $203,540–$243,540 for joint, head-of-household and single filers. The maximum credit increases by $110, to $13,570 for 2017.

(Note: Married couples filing separately generally aren’t eligible for these credits.)

These are only a few of the many education- and child-related breaks that might be of benefit to you. Keep in mind that if your MAGI is too high for you to qualify for a break for your child’s education, your child might be eligible.

Retirement plans

Only a few retirement-plan-related limits increase for 2017, and even those increases are slight.


Type of limitation

2016 limit

2017 limit

Elective deferrals to 401(k), 403(b), 457(b)(2) and 457(c)(1) plans

$18,000

$18,000

Annual benefit for defined benefit plans

$210,000

$215,000

Contributions to defined contribution plans

$53,000

$54,000

Contributions to SIMPLEs

$12,500

$12,500

Contributions to IRAs

$5,500

$5,500

Catch-up contributions to 401(k), 403(b), 457(b)(2) and 457(c)(1) plans

$6,000

$6,000

Catch-up contributions to SIMPLEs

$3,000

$3,000

Catch-up contributions to IRAs

$1,000

$1,000

Compensation for benefit purposes for qualified plans and SEPs

$265,000

$270,000

Minimum compensation for SEP coverage

$600

$600

Highly compensated employee threshold

$120,000

$120,000

Your MAGI may reduce or even eliminate your ability to take advantage of IRAs. Fortunately, IRA-related MAGI phase-out range limits will all increase for 2017:

Traditional IRAs. MAGI phase-out ranges apply to the deductibility of contributions if the taxpayer (or his or her spouse) participates in an employer-sponsored retirement plan:

  • For married taxpayers filing jointly, the phase-out range is specific to each spouse, based on whether he or she is a participant in an employer-sponsored plan:

― For a spouse who participates, the 2017 phase-out range limits increase by $1,000, and the new range phase-out range is $99,000–$119,000.

― For a spouse who doesn’t participate, the 2017 phase-out range limits increase by $2,000, and the new phase-out range is $186,000–$196,000.

  • For single and head-of-household taxpayers participating in an employer-sponsored plan, the 2017 phase-out range limits increase by $1,000, and the new range is $62,000–$72,000.

Taxpayers with MAGIs that are in the applicable range can deduct a partial contribution; and those with MAGIs exceeding the applicable range may not deduct any IRA contribution. Regardless of whether your deduction is reduced or eliminated, taxpayers can make nondeductible traditional IRA contributions. The $5,500 contribution limit (plus $1,000 catch-up if applicable and reduced by any Roth IRA contributions) still applies. These nondeductible traditional IRA contributions may be beneficial if your MAGI is also too high for you to contribute (or fully contribute) to a Roth IRA.

Roth IRAs. Whether you participate in an employer-sponsored plan doesn’t affect your ability to contribute to a Roth IRA, but MAGI limits may reduce or eliminate your ability to contribute:

  • For married taxpayers filing jointly, the 2017 phase-out range limits increase by $2,000, and the new range is $186,000–$196,000.
  • For single and head-of-household taxpayers, the 2017 phase-out range limits increase by $1,000, and the new range is $118,000–$133,000.

You can make a partial contribution if your MAGI falls within the applicable range, but no contribution if it exceeds the top of the range.

(Note: Married taxpayers filing separately are subject to much lower phase-out ranges for both traditional and Roth IRAs.)

Gift and estate taxes

The unified gift and estate tax exemption and the generation-skipping transfer (GST) tax exemption are both adjusted annually for inflation. For 2017 the amount is $5.49 million (up from $5.45 million for 2016).

The annual gift tax exclusion remains at $14,000 for 2017.

Impact on your year-end tax planning and retirement planning

The 2017 cost-of-living adjustment amounts are trending higher than 2016 amounts, but only slightly. Regarding retirement-plan-related limits, only a few increased, and they increased minimally. How might these amounts affect your year-end tax planning or retirement planning? Contact us for answers.

For more information 

If you have questions about this alert, please contact Mark Baran, Principal in the Tax Practice, by phone at (212) 503-8991 or by email at mbaran@markspaneth.com or any of our Marks Paneth professionals.


About Mark R. Baran

Mark R. Baran Linkedin Icon

Mark Baran, JD LL.M., is a Principal in the Tax Department at Marks Paneth LLP. He has more than 25 years of specialized tax, transactional and legal experience advising publicly-traded and private companies, regulated financial institutions, investors, high net worth individuals, and government agencies. Mr. Baran provides specialized tax consulting and transactional services to a broad spectrum of clients and industries including the public sector. He routinely provides tax opinions on the tax implications of... READ MORE +


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