As tax time approaches, there are even more questions than usual this year. With the sweeping changes in tax law that passed in December, what used to be deductible might not be anymore, and what used to be taxed might be taxed differently, or not at all, now.
The scariest change for millennials, the removal of the deductions for tuition, student loan interest, and grad student tuition waivers, was removed from the House bill at the last minute, sparing college students from the worst of the tax reform.
Another tax going away this year that disproportionately affects Millennials is the Individual Mandate, the former requirement that everyone have either sufficient health insurance coverage or a hardship waiver, or pay a tax penalty of up to $950. For the 11% of millennials without health insurance — or the 9% more who plan on canceling their insurance when freed from the individual mandate, this has the potential to be a welcome tax cut.
The elimination of the personal exemption, and increase of the standard deduction from $6650 to $12000 for a single taxpayer, also combine to provide a slight added benefit on the typical millennial’s paycheck. Most younger taxpayers have lower incomes, and more importantly, lower deductions, with just 34% of millennials owning a home (and therefore having mortgage interest to deduct), and only 13% investing in the stock market (counting 401(k) plans, this increases to about 37%, but the capital gains realized from retirement funds aren’t taxable until the money is withdrawn, so these have little to no effect on deductions), and a study by H&R Block showing that while just 19% of millennials itemize their deductions, half of those didn’t need to. With the higher standard deduction, even fewer taxpayers now need to itemize, and up to $4350 of additional income will not be taxable in 2018.
The final major change to have a serious effect on the average millennial is the pass-through deduction. While the exact rules are still being determined for this one, the simplest effect is a reduction in income taxes owed for self-employed and independent contract workers: in other words, not just freelancers, but also the gig economy, both extremely popular alternative employment arrangements for millennials, with 47% of workers under 30 working as independent contractors in at least one job in 2017, whether by choice or necessity.
Overall, despite the negative press coverage, the impact on most millennial taxpayers will be minimal: a few extra dollars in each paycheck, maybe more if you choose to leave health insurance coverage behind. But if you’re worried about filing your taxes, or you want to get ahead now and be prepared for a tax surprise next year, the best way to find out exactly how this law will affect you is to consult a financial professional!