Unless you have been hiding under a rock for the last few months, you are aware that both the House and Senate have passed legislation to change the tax code. At the center of many political debates will be the benefit of reducing corporate tax rates, the increased standard deduction, tax simplification and the affordability of these sweeping changes.

Since I am not an economist, I will not attempt to discuss the merits of trickle down economic stimulus, or the impact that tax reform will have on charities, the real estate market or the middle class. I am not a politician, so I will not suggest that either political party knows how to best mix taxation with economic and social reform. I am a CPA and will limit my commentary to a few obvious facts about this attempt at tax reform:
Fewer people will have to itemize deductions. This is largely due to a proposed increase in the standard deduction, along with the elimination of items that have been deductible in the past. Most notably, the state income tax deduction will no longer be available.

Most businesses will pay a lower rate of tax under the proposed changes.

With these thoughts in mind, there are some simple tax savings tips that should be considered before Dec. 31, 2017. Proactively taking advantage of the following tips may save you hundreds or even thousands of dollars.

1. For most Americans, the biggest proposed change will come from the doubling of the standard deduction. It is estimated that 95 percent of those filing tax returns in 2018 will no longer benefit from itemizing deductions.

Therefore, if you currently itemize deductions, and if you will fall into the 95th percentile who will use the standard deduction, it will behoove you to make charitable contributions before the year ends. For a family earning $60,000 annually, shifting a $500 contribution from January 2018 to December 2017 will save $75. Likewise, paying your $1,500 real estate tax bill in December rather than January, could save you an additional $150.

2. The second group of taxpayers who may benefit by early action are those who will still itemize deductions. Both versions of the proposed legislation remove the availability of the state income tax deduction.

Therefore, most will benefit if state fourth quarter estimated tax payments are made before Dec. 31, 2017. To put it into perspective, if Joe and Mary have a $5,000 Maine estimated income tax payment due on Jan. 15, 2018 and they are in a 30 percent Federal income tax bracket, they could save $1,500 by making their estimate before year end.

3. Project your state income tax that will be due in April 2018. If you are expected to owe Maine tax and are not subject to AMT, pay it before Dec. 31.

4. If you are a business owner, consider moving expenses into 2017. Purchase equipment in 2017 rather than 2018. Cash basis businesses should also consider paying as many bills as possible before the new year.

Finally, it might be wise to defer taking income in 2017, if earning will be subject to lower rates next year.

To close, my comment to our U.S. Congress members is that we would all benefit from more doing and less finger pointing. Like many, I have become disgusted with the political bantering. I wonder if reform will stimulate the economy in a way that will benefit Maine people. I grow tired of promises to make the tax code simpler while it becomes more complex.

So for this holiday season, I have resigned myself to reading the legislation and looking for ways to help everyone pay less tax.

Jamie Boulette, CPA has 30 years of tax experience and is managing director of Perry, Fitts, Boulette & Fitton CPAs with offices in Bath and Oakland.