Skip to Main Content

Tax Extenders

Tax Extenders

Did you know there a number of provisions that have been extended AND made retroactive via the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2020, signed by the President on December 20, 2019? In the below video, Tom walks you through what these extenders entail and what they could mean for your tax clients.

You can watch by clicking the play button and/or you can read the full video transcript below.

by Tom O’Saben, EA

Video Link:

Tax School Facebook Group

Hello, friends. Tom O’Saben coming to you from the University of Illinois Tax School with your weekly blog to help you get through tax season. You know, a lot of you didn’t have an opportunity to participate in our Getting Ready for Filing Season webinar that we did toward the end of January. And I want to make sure you’re aware of the tax extenders that went into effect when the President signed the appropriations bill on December 20, 2019. And one of the reasons you may not know about the extenders is the fact that as of, I will say Monday the 17th, I have checked with both my previous software provider and my current software provider (two of the biggest that are out there) and they have not yet updated their 2018 or 2019 software for the changes I’m going to describe to you. So you might find or you might believe that because they’re not in the software, they in fact, were not extended and that is not the case. The software providers have told me that they’re waiting for guidance from IRS before moving forward.That being said, we’re talking about what came out of the appropriations bill that was signed by the President on December 20. In there were a number of retroactive features. The first one (we’re gonna have some slides that show those to you) was the continuation of the discharge of principal residence indebtedness, as an exclusion from income. Now, you might recall that there are items that you can use – and I’m a forms guy –  if you use Form 982, when a taxpayer has debt forgiveness, the various options that are available to that taxpayer should not have to currently pay tax. Well, the problem we went into is this exclusion, this provision of principal residence indebtedness expired at the end of 2017. So if you had a client, for example, in 2018, who said “I can’t afford to stay in my home” and then went and met with the bank and the bank said, hey, there’s a federal program out there that’ll let us rework the mortgage, let you stay in your home… instead of that $250,000 mortgage, we’re going to rework it at $200,000. And we’ll get you a lower interest rate. And here’s your new payment. Like that idea? Client says, “hey, sounds great.” Well, then what does the bank do? The bank goes and sends out a 1099C for cancellation of indebtedness, and your taxpayer potentially has income. Now, if we didn’t have the principal residence exclusion, you would take that 1099C over to the Form 982, and then you’d have to run through: have they filed bankruptcy? Are they insolvent; meaning they have more debts than assets? And by what extent do they have more debt than assets? Is it real property indebtedness, now we’re talking about a principal residence not a business property, is it farm etc. So with this extension, and again, this is effective for tax years after 2017 extended through the end of 2020, you will be able to go ahead and exclude that debt forgiveness from your client paying tax on it currently. Now, I might caution you without turning this into a debt forgiveness session, that what you have to do is: that debt forgiveness that isn’t includable in income today doesn’t just go away. If you were to look at the Form 982, look at the second part, it says you’ve got to do something with that debt forgiveness. And that’s either give up tax attributes like capital loss carry forwards, charitable contribution carry forwards, etc, or make the decision to reduce basis and property. I would think in the scenario I’ve outlined for you, that you probably would elect to reduce the basis in the property since we’re talking about principal residence, and we’ve got that $250,000 or $500,000 exclusion on the profit from the sale of that principal residence if your client meets the rules. So that would be one to consider.

Another provision we had extended was the reduction in that 10% of AGI threshold for medical expenses. That has snapped back to 7.5%, as it was in years past, again, retroactive for 2018; also in effect for 19…in effect through 20. You know, a lot of what I’m going to talk about here, and I mentioned this when we did the Getting Ready for Filing Season webinar at the end of January, I think this is going to be the year of the amended return because that’s what we’re going to have to do for those returns that were filed. And maybe in my first analysis where we had debt forgiveness now includable as income; perhaps we had medical expenses in excess of that 10% threshold; now, 7.5% where amending those returns may make sense. And as far as I know, talking to you now towards the end of February 2020, amended returns cannot be electronically filed. So far we’ve got debt forgiveness made retroactive for principle residence reworking of mortgages for lack of a better term, the medical expense floor at 7.5%… Here’s the next one: mortgage insurance premiums, those PMI premiums. You saw those in the Form 1098 in 2018, then you went into your software, no place to put it in, because we didn’t get an extension. They’re extended now. And I believe in my software I was able to actually enter it. I’m not sure that the taxpayer benefited. I don’t have that return finished yet. But I’m going to look at it to see if the software has been brought up to date. But it may also be one where you might want to look at potentially going back and amending once the software is brought up to date. And maybe one of the indicators – a little planning tip for you might be – if that client has PMI, private mortgage insurance, remember that’s the insurance that insures the bank. This is not homeowners insurance. That’s because the client didn’t have 80% loan to value when they closed on their home so they need to insure the bank against default. A pretty good indicator that you might have it in ’18 is that you have it in ’19. So you may tell the client, this might be something you want to do after tax season to bring back in that 2018 information that you might want to go ahead and amend.

Our old friend, the tuition and fees deduction was brought back retroactively. None of the circumstances for the tuition fees deduction have been changed. Still, if we’re under $130,000, for that married couple filing jointly, we’re at a maximum of $4,000 as an adjustment to income. Between $130,000 and $160,000, we’re still at $2,000. And after that — gone. So we need to keep that in mind as well for the tuition and fees deduction. Again, as of this previous Monday, neither my old software nor my new software was doing anything with tuition and fees yet. May have to wait. I hate to be the bearer of bad news. But listen, ladies and gentlemen, I’m just a piano player just like you. So keep that in mind as well.

Our old friend the energy credits were retro actively extended. Still the $500 lifetime, this is what I’m really concerned about. Because remember that that’s $500 lifetime, going all the way back to 2006. And that’s for, you know, the high efficiency furnace, the water heaters, the new exterior windows and doors and insulation, all of those things we asked our taxpayers about. And I don’t know if you did, but last year, I kept a list of people who had these types of improvement but couldn’t do anything with it on the 2018 return because the law had not yet been extended. Well – now has been extended. And it appears to me in my new software that it’s picking it up. But I have one for example that I wanted to go to my old software to amend the 2018 return – not there yet, as of last Monday. Maybe that update will be coming once more guidance comes from IRS. So I want you to keep that one in mind too.

Another one I want to throw out to you that was in the extenders is the change, not really an extender, but a change. Remember that TCJA has kiddie tax pegged to estate and trust rates. That’s in effect for 2019 returns. However, you can elect to have the old kiddie tax rules, in other words, being taxed at the parents highest rate. That’s what the rule is now for 2019. But the change that came out of the bill the President signed in December says you can go back and amend 2018 returns if you wish to change how that kiddie tax is applied. In other words, if we had the estate and trust rates applicable to that child on the 2018 return, if we’d like to go back and have a tax at the parent’s maximum rate only because it would save money – maybe –  you’ve got the option to do that.

So I want you to be aware that these extenders were, in fact retroactive. I’m seeing out there on our Facebook page that a lot of people are asking were these, in fact made retroactive, because the software is not doing anything? And again, the answer I’m getting from the vendor I used previously, and the vendor we use now is that they’re waiting for IRS releases/IRS guidance as to how to apply these changes. But they are in effect. 7.5% threshold on medical; the discharge of qualified principal residence indebtedness; those PMI premiums; the tuition and fees deduction; the energy credits; all of those items were made retroactive, and they’re also in effect through 2020. And let’s not forget you also have the option of going back and amending 2018 returns where you had kiddie tax, and were using the estate and trust rates and you can go back and use the parent’s highest rate like we did for years and years and years and years. So a little tidbit to help you get through the tax season.

Folks, you’re already into the last week of February. Time is going by really quick. I hope you take some time for yourself and I’ll continue these little tidbits as we go through tax season to help you make tax season less “taxing.” Tom O’Saben coming to you from the University of Illinois Tax School. We’re here for you ladies and gentlemen. And don’t forget our Facebook page out there: lots and lots of good information being exchanged by professionals just like you. Have a great day.

Disclaimer: The information referenced in Tax School’s blog is accurate at the date of publication. You may contact if you have more up-to-date, supported information and we will create an addendum.

University of Illinois Tax School is not responsible for any errors or omissions, or for the results obtained from the use of this information. All information in this site is provided “as is”, with no guarantee of completeness, accuracy, timeliness or of the results obtained from the use of this information. This blog and the information contained herein does not constitute tax client advice.