The new tax law signed by President Donald Trump is a 500-page document that you’d need an accountant to decode. But though it’s not user-friendly, it contains simple changes that could save you real money.
Hidden under the legalese are new benefits for business owners, families with kids, and almost all workers. Many of the law's benefits will be in place only through 2025, so you’ll want to take advantage of them while they last.
We cut through the jargon to uncover six secrets to getting all you can from the Trump tax law.
1. Take the raise
Some people hesitate about taking a raise at work because they worry it will put them into a higher and more expensive tax bracket.
If this is you, you may misunderstand how tax brackets work. At any rate, there's no need to worry under the new tax law.
It cuts individual tax rates by a few percentage points at almost all income levels and raises the thresholds for these lower taxes, too. (The exception is income between $200,000 and about $425,000, now taxed at a slightly higher rate.)
The biggest winners are people who make $500,000 or more, whose top tax rate has been cut from 39.6% to 37%.
So, if you’re offered a raise, your additional earnings will be taxed less than last year — and you might not even be bumped to a higher bracket. This translates to more money in your bank account. Yay!
2. Reduce your withholding
Since your overall tax rate may be coming down, your employer won't need to set aside as much of your income for Uncle Sam. So adjust your tax withholding and boost your take-home pay!
The Treasury has introduced new withholding tables to offer companies some guidance on how much to hold back from paychecks. But you may want to complete a W-4 and have even less withheld.
After all, if you're handing over too much money to the IRS, it's like giving the government an interest-free loan until you file your taxes and get a refund. Why not keep more of your money sooner, so it can work for you?
3. Invest in stocks with dividends
Though most changes in the tax law are temporary, it has cut the corporate tax rate from 35% to 21% permanently. Before the law passed, giant companies like Amazon, Apple and Walmart promised up and down that they'd use their millions in savings to invest in the country, employ more workers and “take care of shareholders.”
How much these mega firms will do to help the little people (besides giving bonuses to employees) remains to be seen — but Bloomberg predicts they will almost certainly put a sizable chunk of their tax savings into dividends for their stockholders.
If there was ever a time to invest in stocks that pay out dividends (that is regular, usually quarterly, payments based on their profits), this is it.
4. Become your own boss
If you work in a trade like construction or architecture or you’re a professional such as a lawyer or accountant, you could take advantage of a major tax break by starting your own “sole proprietorship” company or becoming a partner in a business.
Though smaller businesses have their earnings taxed as individual income rather than at the often lower corporate tax rate, the new law allows entrepreneurs to deduct 20% of their qualified business income. However, your taxable income must be under $157,500 if you file taxes as an individual, or $315,000 if you’re married and file taxes jointly.
The deduction is available through 2025.
You don’t need employees to start one of the eligible small businesses; freelancers and contractors can do it, too. The only thing to remember is that if you’re employed full-time now, you might be giving up certain benefits (like health insurance) that you’d have to pay for out of pocket as a business owner.
5. Go expense happy!
The tax law has doubled the immediate deduction that small business owners can take when they buy equipment or property.
Through 2025, entrepreneurs can write off $1 million in these expenses, up from the previous limit of $500,000.
If you’re considering starting your own business, this could be a great opportunity to enjoy a major — if temporary — boost in expensing.
6. Upgrade your kids' schooling
Under the old law, you'd open a 529 savings plan to save money for your kids' college. The money would be invested in stocks, mutual funds or certificates of deposit to grow it over time, and the gains were not subject to federal taxes. The funds would have to be used for qualified higher education expenses.
Now, the new law has extended the 529 perks to apply to K-12 education. While this change gives private-school parents a tax break, it could allow any family to use 529 savings so their kids can enjoy summer enrichment programs, international exchanges and other valuable experiences before heading off to college.
To get maximum benefit from a 529 plan, LearnVest recommends that you: choose a lower-cost 529 offered by a state (rather than a broker); review and update your investment portfolio yearly; and start saving as early as possible.