The Trump Tax Code: An Explainer for Families

How the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act may impact your family's budget


Published:

Image courtesy of Maxx-Studio/Shutterstock.com

TAX SEASON is here, and it’s the first time taxpayers will fully take President Donald Trump’s 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act into account as they file their taxes this year. Signed into law in December 2017, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act was the ‘largest tax overhaul since 1986,” according to the Tax Policy Center report, “Effects of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act: A Preliminary Analysis.”

The far-reaching consequences of the law have yet to be seen, but there are some aspects of the new tax codes that families should pay particular attention to. 

“There are things inside this tax reform bill that will, of course, affect families, certainly depending on how many children they have, how high their income is and … whether they claim the standard deduction or not,” says Courtney Edwards, associate director of the UNC Tax Center in Chapel Hill, established by the UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School.

A draft of the new 1040 form shows it will be a smaller, postcard-sized document that the Trump administration promises will simplify and shorten the filing process. What else do you need to know as you prepare to file? North Carolina tax experts weigh in.


Fewer Exemptions But Higher Deductions

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act nixed the personal and dependent exemptions many taxpayers have used in the past to reduce their taxable income, but higher deduction amounts may balance this out. 

Edwards explains that before the new law was passed, the personal and dependent exemption “was $4,050, but you multiply that by the number of taxpayers on the returns, and for a married couple that would be two, and also however many dependents they had,” she says. “So a large family would’ve had a very large reduction in their income, potentially, for this personal dependency exemption, and now it’s going to zero.” 

While that, on its face, might seem financially detrimental to families, the bill’s deductions component might take out some of the sting. 

“Balancing that somewhat is the fact that, in this tax reform bill, the standard deduction amount, which is separate and apart from personal dependency exemptions, was almost doubled for all taxpayers,” Edwards says. 

In 2017 a married couple filing jointly could claim a standard deduction of $12,700. If they were instead considering claiming itemized deductions, such as charitable donations, mortgage interest, etc., the total of those deductions would have had to exceed $12,700 to make their taxable income lower than it would have been had they just taken the standard deduction. In 2018, however, the standard deduction for a married couple rose to $24,000, Edwards points out. 

This could alter how some families approach their taxes this year, says David T. Dufault, an estate planning and business law attorney with Sodoma Law in Charlotte. There are “a certain number of people who are going to fall into that group where they’ve itemized for years, but now the standard deduction is going to be more beneficial because they get a bigger deduction against income.”


The Child Tax Credit Increase

Another component of President Trump’s Tax Cuts and Jobs Act that especially affects families is the rising child tax credit for any child under age 17 (ages 16 and younger). Previous tax laws included a child tax credit, but the new bill raises the phaseout ceiling. Dufault explains.

“You would take a credit against the actual taxes that you owed,” he says. “Under the new law, that credit has been doubled from $1,000 to $2,000 per child.” 

That’s not the only benefit to the new child tax credit, Edwards points out. The previous child tax credit was subject to a phaseout.

“A phaseout just means it’s slowly reduced as income gets higher, so that the benefit ultimately can be just completely wiped out,” he says. “That phaseout doesn’t kick in until the taxpayer’s income is over $400,000 (for joint filers) — and it used to be $110,000.” (The phaseout limit is $200,000 for all other taxpayers.) So, more families can benefit from the credit now that the income threshold for the phaseout has been raised.

Additionally, a $500 “family credit” has been added for dependents not eligible for the child tax credit, a new feature of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. To find out if you have qualifying dependents in your house, visit forbes.com (search for “When Seniors Become Dependents”).

Need help determining if your child qualifies for the child tax credit? The IRS offers an online tool that can help you determine that at irs.gov/help/ita/is-my-child-a-qualifying-child-for-the-child-tax-credit.


Changes to 529 Plans

Many parents choose to fund their child’s education with a 529 plan. In North Carolina, there’s no limit to the amount a parent, grandparent, other relative or family friend can put in the account. But in previous years, funds could only be withdrawn tax-free to pay for college, says
H. Lee Miller, a Raleigh-based CPA.

“Starting this year, they can also be used for tuition at elementary or secondary, public, private or religious schools up to $10,000 a year, whereas before you couldn’t take the money out of it, or if you did, you were taxed on it,” he says.


Finding Resources to Help 

Dufault warns that some taxpayers who historically have gotten a refund or owed very little taxes might see a higher tax bill this year regarding changes in withholdings. He advises taxpayers to plug their information into the online withholdings calculator at
apps.irs.gov/app/withholdingcalculator to avoid any surprises come April 15.

Feeling a little overwhelmed with all of this information? Both Dufault and Edwards say professional guidance is worth considering as you navigate the changes. “I do think that because there is some uncertainty this year, and because we’re going to be faced with what appears to be a whole new set of [tax] forms, ... this might be a time when families or taxpayers who traditionally did their own taxes might get some benefit from reaching out to a tax professional just to make sure that they’re doing it right — and [to] make sure that they’re not missing anything,” Dufault says.

Edwards agrees. “In this first year, I think talking — to the extent it’s possible— to a trusted advisor is always a good idea,” he says. “Because there are a lot of moving parts in this reform bill that affects families and non-families alike.”


Laura Lacey is a freelance writer in Chapel Hill.

 

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2080 E Williams St
Hope Community Building, Fuquay Varina Room
Apex/Holly Springs, NC  27539
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Telephone: 191-990-25432
Contact Name: Leigh Hamm
Website »

More information

Chip, chip, hooray! The first Zambrero in the Southeast is opening on January 24 with zingy, zesty activities! Bodacious Burritos and Bowls: $5 burritos and bowls all day Delicious Drawing: A...

Cost: Free

Where:
1 Glenwood Ave
#105
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Telephone: (919) 863-2561
Website »

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Just in time to keep up with those home improvement resolutions for 2020, the Downtown Raleigh Home Show returns to downtown’s Raleigh Convention Center January 24-26, 2020  with a jam-packed...

Cost: Tickets are $12 for adults and free for children under 12. Advance $9 tickets

Where:
Raleigh Convention Center
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: Marketplace Events
Telephone: 904-608-3823
Contact Name: Liz Morgan

More information

Sign up for a Raleigh scavenger hunt and put on your best Nick Cage impression as you seek out the national treasures hidden in Raleigh. Via an app, be guided through the cultural, historical,...

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Downtown Raleigh
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: LetsRoam!
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: LetsRoam!
Website »

More information

Skate on an ice trail or free skate on 17,000 sq. ft of ice. Located in the Upper Pond of the Whitewater Center, the skating environment features three distinct programming areas and an on-ice...

Cost: 20

Where:
USNWC
5000 Whitewater Center Pkwy
Charlotte, NC  28214
View map »


Sponsor: USNWC
Telephone: 704-391-3900
Website »

More information

Lights is a half-mile walking trail that leads viewers through a series of immersive light installations featuring  honeycombs, vines, crystals, and other natural features integrated into the...

Cost: Free

Where:
USNWC
5000 Whitewater Center Pkwy
Charlotte, NC  28214
View map »


Sponsor: USNWC
Telephone: 704-391-3900
Website »

More information

Triangle Restaurant Week (January 20-26, 2020) is a week-long celebration of culinary excellence designed to incorporate the premier Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill and surrounding area restaurants....

Cost: $15-$35

Where:
Participating Restaurants
, NC


Sponsor: Triangle Blvd
Telephone: 919-673-5784
Website »

More information

Take a hike after dark and enjoy the sights and sounds of a quiet night along the American Tobacco Trail. We will walk to the Beaver Creek bridge and back (about one mile total). Free for ages 4...

Cost: Free

Where:
American Tobacco Trail
1309 New Hill-Olive Chapel Rd.
Apex, NC  27502
View map »


Sponsor: Harris Lake County Park and the American Tobacco Trail
Telephone: 919-387-4342
Contact Name: Joanne St. Clair
Website »

More information

Hounded by Death, the character of Everybody desperately seeks out everyone and everything they know in hope of finding something meaningful to take to the grave. These 90 minutes of theatrical...

Cost: Ticket prices start at $15

Where:
PlayMakers' Repertory Company
120 Country Club Rd
Chapel Hill, NC  27599
View map »


Telephone: 919-962-7529

More information

Rumpelstiltskin-A Tale of Gold Book by Ellie FaggionMusic and Lyrics written by Brian Shrager and Ellie FaggionProduced by special arrangement with the author.Directed by Beth Wilson...

Cost: varies

Where:
Spiritual Twist Productions
1250 Aversboro Road
Garner, NC  27529
View map »


Sponsor: Spiritual Twist Productions
Telephone: 919-977-1976
Contact Name: Kathy MacDonald
Website »

More information

David Burney, lead singer for the acclaimed Johnny Cash tribute band Johnny Folsom 4, brings his one-man show to The ArtsCenter for three shows, January 24-26, 2020.  In “Hello, I’m...

Cost: $15 to $20

Where:
The ArtsCenter
300-G East Main St.
300-G East Main Street.
Carrboro, NC  27510
View map »


Sponsor: The ArtsCenter
Telephone: 919-929-2787
Contact Name: Patrick Phelps-Mckeown
Website »

More information

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Forget tourist-filled museums, make your own memories with a photo scavenger hunt tour in Raleigh! On a Let’s Roam scavenger hunt, you and your team will work together to wander throughout...

Cost: $11

Where:
500 S Salisbury St
raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: Let's Roam
Website »

More information

Amongst the ancient oak trees is the heart of Raleigh. We'll help you see the forest for the trees and all its magic splendor. Tourist, local, or new to town, this is a lively small group activity...

Cost: $11

Where:
Downtown
500 S Salisbury St
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: Let's Roam
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: Kelly
Website »

More information

Join the Museum and the Raleigh Astronomy Club to help you see the big picture — of the Universe! From comet crafts to solar observing, lectures to rocket launches, space enthusiasts of all ages...

Cost: Free

Where:
NC Museum of Natural Sciences
11 W. Jones St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

Join us for the Kids Exchange Spring/Summer Consignment Sale in July! This FREE ADMISSION event is the largest kids consignment sale in the nation and is held at the NC State Fairgrounds at...

Cost: 0 – $10

Where:
Jim Graham Building
1025 Blue Ridge Road
Raleigh, NC  27607
View map »


Website »

More information

Join us for the Kids Exchange Spring/Summer Consignment Sale in February!   This FREE ADMISSION event is the largest kids consignment sale in the nation and is held at the NC State Fairgrounds...

Cost: Free

Where:
Jim Graham Building
1025 Blue Ridge Road
Raleigh, NC  27607
View map »

More information

Family Wildlife Series: Tricky Tracks Saturday, January 25 10-11 a.m. Come dressed for the weather so you can roam the park learning the fine art of “tracking”.   Make a cast of an animal...

Cost: Free

Where:
Blue Jay Point County Park
3200 Pleasant Union Church Road
Raleigh, NC  27614
View map »


Telephone: 919-870-4330
Website »

More information

Kindermusik is a research-based early childhood curriculum that includes 45-minute classroom lessons with materials and resources that encourages parental involvement . Research has linked...

Cost: $70/month

Where:
Hope Community Building
2080 E Williams St
Hope Community Building, Fuquay Varina Room
Apex/Holly Springs, NC  27539
View map »


Telephone: 191-990-25432
Contact Name: Leigh Hamm
Website »

More information

RALEIGH (Jan. 16, 2020) – The North Carolina Association for Public Charter Schools will host its first school fair during National School Choice Week on Saturday, Jan. 25. The fair will take...

Cost: Free

Where:
Raleigh Convention Center
500 S. Salisbury Street
Raleigh, NC  27610
View map »


Sponsor: NC Association of Public Charter Schools
Telephone: 336-669-9996
Contact Name: Rhonda Dillingham
Website »

More information

Join the statewide kickoff to Black History Month at the North Carolina Museum of History in Raleigh. Named a Top 20 Event by the Southeast Tourism Society since 2015, the 19th...

Cost: 0

Where:
North Carolina Museum of History
5 East Edenton Street
Raleigh, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Just in time to keep up with those home improvement resolutions for 2020, the Downtown Raleigh Home Show returns to downtown’s Raleigh Convention Center January 24-26, 2020  with a jam-packed...

Cost: Tickets are $12 for adults and free for children under 12. Advance $9 tickets

Where:
Raleigh Convention Center
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: Marketplace Events
Telephone: 904-608-3823
Contact Name: Liz Morgan

More information

Sign up for a Raleigh scavenger hunt and put on your best Nick Cage impression as you seek out the national treasures hidden in Raleigh. Via an app, be guided through the cultural, historical,...

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Downtown Raleigh
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: LetsRoam!
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: LetsRoam!
Website »

More information

Skate on an ice trail or free skate on 17,000 sq. ft of ice. Located in the Upper Pond of the Whitewater Center, the skating environment features three distinct programming areas and an on-ice...

Cost: 20

Where:
USNWC
5000 Whitewater Center Pkwy
Charlotte, NC  28214
View map »


Sponsor: USNWC
Telephone: 704-391-3900
Website »

More information

Lights is a half-mile walking trail that leads viewers through a series of immersive light installations featuring  honeycombs, vines, crystals, and other natural features integrated into the...

Cost: Free

Where:
USNWC
5000 Whitewater Center Pkwy
Charlotte, NC  28214
View map »


Sponsor: USNWC
Telephone: 704-391-3900
Website »

More information

Spanish Alive is providing Family Spanish classes starting in January! Join us to learn Spanish as an entire family in an immersive, fun environment. Our teachers are trained Spanish educators and...

Cost: $75-$216

Where:
Spanish Alive
156 E. Chatham St
Cary, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Rumpelstiltskin-A Tale of Gold Book by Ellie FaggionMusic and Lyrics written by Brian Shrager and Ellie FaggionProduced by special arrangement with the author.Directed by Beth Wilson...

Cost: varies

Where:
Spiritual Twist Productions
1250 Aversboro Road
Garner, NC  27529
View map »


Sponsor: Spiritual Twist Productions
Telephone: 919-977-1976
Contact Name: Kathy MacDonald
Website »

More information

Winter days find many animals curled up in their dens. They sleep warmly, awakening in spring ready to enjoy the renewed Earth. Discover how animals deal with cold weather and which ones hibernate...

Cost: For all ages; FREE. Registration is required for all family members,& childre

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Triangle Restaurant Week (January 20-26, 2020) is a week-long celebration of culinary excellence designed to incorporate the premier Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill and surrounding area restaurants....

Cost: $15-$35

Where:
Participating Restaurants
, NC


Sponsor: Triangle Blvd
Telephone: 919-673-5784
Website »

More information

Join us in Arendelle for Frozen-inspired STEAM activities for the whole family! Included in the ticket cost is dinner and dessert for the whole family, make your own sock Olaf and Frozen bouncy...

Cost: $35 per family

Where:
Kidzu Children's Museum
201 S. Estes Dr.
Chapel Hill, NC  27514
View map »


Sponsor: Kidzu Children's Museum
Telephone: 919-933-1455
Website »

More information

AML Wrestling presents our 5th Anniversary Celebration! WHEN: Saturday, January 25th, 2020WHERE: Winston-Salem Fairgrounds in theHome & Garden Building 408 27th Street NW/Gate #9 Winston-Salem, NC...

Cost: $5

Where:
Winston-Salem Fairgrounds
408 27th Street NW/Gate #9
Winston-Salem, NC  27105
View map »


Sponsor: AML Wrestling
Telephone: 336-831-0646
Contact Name: Tracy Myers
Website »

More information

Hounded by Death, the character of Everybody desperately seeks out everyone and everything they know in hope of finding something meaningful to take to the grave. These 90 minutes of theatrical...

Cost: Ticket prices start at $15

Where:
PlayMakers' Repertory Company
120 Country Club Rd
Chapel Hill, NC  27599
View map »


Telephone: 919-962-7529

More information

David Burney, lead singer for the acclaimed Johnny Cash tribute band Johnny Folsom 4, brings his one-man show to The ArtsCenter for three shows, January 24-26, 2020.  In “Hello, I’m...

Cost: $15 to $20

Where:
The ArtsCenter
300-G East Main St.
300-G East Main Street.
Carrboro, NC  27510
View map »


Sponsor: The ArtsCenter
Telephone: 919-929-2787
Contact Name: Patrick Phelps-Mckeown
Website »

More information

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Education Guide

The 2019-20 Education Guide offers 718 education resources in the Triangle, including area preschools, private schools, public school systems, charter schools, boarding schools and academic resources.

The Triangle Go-To Guide

Our Triangle Go-To Guide connects you to family fun resources across the Triangle. In our 2019-20 issue, explore 1,028 resources for family fun.