Tax Guru – Ker$tetter Letter

Helping real people win the tax game.

IRS’s 2017 Inflation Adjustments

Posted by taxguru on October 26, 2016

As anyone who follows the tax systems in this country knows, they consist of a crazy quilt of thousands of different provisions.  Some of the provisions have dollar amounts that are never changed without an official Act of Congress.  As a result, many of these have been in the system at the same amounts for decades and have not kept up with inflation.

One of the biggest such unchanged figures is the $250,000 per person tax free exclusion of gain from sales of primary residences, under Section 121. This has been the exemption amount when this provision took effect on May 7, 1997 and is still that exact same amount today.  While that amount does cover the gains that most people have when they sell their homes, especially in “fly-over” parts of this country, it is far from adequate to cover the gains sellers in expensive areas have, such as on the coasts.

Other provisions of our tax systems have been written with annual inflation adjustments in order to keep up with the cost of living.  The most important area is with the “progressive” (aka “soak the rich”) tax rate structure that we have that assesses much higher percentages on taxpayers who earn more money than others.  Before our rulers in DC added annual inflation adjustments to where these tax brackets begin and end, many people were victims of what was called “Bracket Creep.”  Their income was growing at the pace of inflation, but they were finding themselves pushed into the higher percentage brackets.  With annual inflation adjustments of the brackets, taxpayers whose income only rises at the same rate as the CPI should stay in the same marginal brackets.

Interestingly, the inflation adjustments for tax rates only apply to individual taxpayers.  The tax rate structure for C corporations has been pretty much the same for decades and does not change until our all powerful rulers in DC so decree.

This is a longer than normal introduction to the IRS’s official calculation and announcement of the inflation adjusted amounts for 2017.  These are very handy for tax planning purposes. 

Some States also have similar kinds of inflation adjustments for their state level taxes, but they are normally announced much later than IRS’s timetable.  For example, the California Franchise Tax Board just announced its 2016 inflation adjustments on Sept 7, 2016.

IRS Summary of 2017 Changes:

In 2017, Some Tax Benefits Increase Slightly Due to Inflation Adjustments, Others Are Unchanged

IRS Details of Changes: 

Revenue Procedure 2016-55  (30 page PDF)

 

Annual Gifting Exclusion:

The amount that is exempt from Gift Tax reporting is not adjusted every year.  It is only adjusted when the cumulative CPI change since the most recent change is close to $1,000 so the amount can always be an even multiple of thousands and not some odd looking number.  Since I constantly receive questions about gifting, I want to point out that the 2016 inflation has been so low that the annual exclusion will remain at the same $14,000 per donor per donee amount for 2017 as it has been since 2013.

 

 

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