Over the past couple of months, it has been hard to avoid the noise coinciding with what is formally known as the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. Now that the bill has passed, and much of that noise has become a reality, the consequences of the reform are impossible to avoid.

While the broader effects of the new legislation are yet to be seen, there are some components of the law that will have an effect on the majority of Americans within the next few weeks.

On Jan. 11, the IRS released Notice 1036, which serves to update employers on how much federal tax they should be withholding from their employee’s paychecks. Implementation of the new withholding amounts (as adjusted for the new tax landscape) is to begin “as soon as possible, but not later than Feb. 15.”

To put it simply, this means that many of us will see a change in our take-home pay very soon.

You may recall filling out a Form W-4 when you began your employment? That form is what your employer uses to calculate the amount of federal income tax they should remit from your paycheck. Using the updated withholding tables released with Notice 1036, employers will be adjusting their employees’ paychecks to more accurately cover their (new) income tax liability.

Here is what is important to remember: While employers can accurately determine the amount of tax owed based on the wages they pay their employees, they have no way of considering the other elements that factor into an employee’s tax situation. Taxpayers need to consider a more involved approach at determining what their overall tax liability will be. To do so, each of us needs to develop an understanding of the new tax laws, and applicably determine how the new laws will affect us.

For example, an employee who gets compensated for mileage. In the past, the compensation was likely included on the employee’s W-2, as taxable income. On their tax return, the employee would pick up the mileage compensation as part of their taxable wages, then deduct the mileage as an unreimbursed business expense on Schedule A.

Now, however, as a result of the recent tax reform, that deduction for unreimbursed business expenses is no longer available; meaning that the mileage compensation will still be included as taxable income, but there will no longer be an offsetting deduction.

If taxpayers aren’t proactive in making sure that they appropriately adjust their withholdings, they could potentially be in for quite a surprise when they file their tax return in April 2019.
There has a been a lot of curiosity amongst our clients lately; many of them have been asking us how they will fare under the new tax law. It is not necessary, and it might even be unwise, to wait until you file your 2018 tax return to get your answer.

The tax reform act certainly did create change. If you pay federal income tax, it will bode you well to consult your tax advisor sooner rather than later; taking a comprehensive look at your new tax environment now can help you plan ahead.

John Massey is a senior accountant at Perry, Fitts, Boulette & Fitton CPAs. He helps individuals and businesses with tax planning preparation and works on compiled and reviewed financial statements for businesses. He can be reached at [email protected] or 873-1603.