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新税法1月生效,普通美国人如何抢占窗口期合法避税?

BloomBerg 2017年12月20日

托税改的福,今年的美国又多了几百万可以采取策略性避税的人。

每年年底,都有几百万美国人可以策略性地通过一些避税措施使自己在来年四月的报税季少交点税。目前,美国国会中的共和党人正在谋求通过一项503页的新法案,该法案或许将从根本上改变美国的税制。虽然该法案尚未结束立法程序,但托它的福,今年的美国又多了几百万可以采取策略性避税的人。

如果该法案获得通过,新税率和数不清的其他条款将从1月1日起生效。在2017年的最后两个星期里,大多数旧税制规则依然是管用的。所以对于想采取策略性避税的人来说,留给他们的窗口期已经越来越窄了。(尽管新法案1月1日就会生效,但它直到2019年的报税季才会真正反映在你的报税单上。)

至于如何利用新老法律交替的窗口期合法避税,一些会计师、理财师和税收专家也给出了自己的建议。不过要记住,以下建议并非适用于每一个人,你得先弄清楚新税法将对你产生怎样的影响。大多数美国人短期内要交的税的确是变少了,但也有一些纳税人2018年可能得缴纳更多税费。北方信托公司(Northern Trust Corp)的税收策略师苏珊娜·希尔就提醒道:“没有一个个人缴纳的是平均数。平均数是由一系列综合的个体组成的。”

如果2018年你的税额注定要飙升,那么很多这些策略并不适用于你。不过如果你也属于我们这种“平凡的大多数”,属于能从新法案中获得一些初始利益的人,那么如果你行动得够快的话,还是能获益不少的。

1.向慈善机构捐钱

在美国,每到年底,税务专家通常会建议你提高报税单上的抵扣项目。抵扣项目是指你今年做的一些能够降低个税缴纳额度的事情。如果你今年的抵扣项目多一些,来年四月份你要缴纳的税额就会少一些。过了一月份,你就得再等一年才能享受到抵扣项目带来的好处了。

对于今年来说,多向慈善机构捐钱可能是个比往年更有效的策略。如果2018年你的税率降低了,而且你的税率是基于今年的收入计算的,那么你的抵扣项目就更有价值了。慈善捐款这个抵扣项目依然被保存在新税法中,它是你在年底前迅速提高抵扣项目的一个非常有效的方法。

如果根据新法案,你明年的税率要提高了,那么你赶在今年年底前突击捐款仍然是个不错的选择。包括慈善捐款在内的大多数的抵扣项目只有分项报列才能抵扣,而新法案将大大限制能够通过分项报列获益的人口数。首先它将单身者的标准抵扣额从6350美元提高到了12000美元,将已婚夫妇的标准抵扣额从12700美元提高到了24000美元。其次,新法案对其他一些抵扣项目做出了限制——比如州税和地方税。因此,一些以前通过分项报列能解决的问题,现在成了很多纳税人面前更难以跨过去的门槛。

有鉴于此,俄克拉荷马州Exencial财富咨询公司的理财顾问菲利浦·罗斯建议道,在条件允许的情况下,你可以考虑赶在这个月捐掉以后几年的慈善捐款。如果你不确定捐给哪家机构,你以可以开一个捐赠者建议基金,先把钱捐到账户里,以后再决定具体捐给谁。不过你要赶快行动,毕竟12月份只剩不到两周了。

2.延迟获得收入

对于这种时候,另一个传统建议是延迟获得收入。当然,那些拿死工资的工人是无法选择什么时候发薪水的,但是企业主却经常可以把收入的入账时间推迟到下一年,这样他们在四月份的报税季就可以少交一点税款了。对于投资者来说,他们可以卖掉一些赔钱的股票,或者把赚钱的股票握到2018年再卖,这样对资本收益部分就可以少交些税了。在多数年份,延迟获取收益只是为了迟些报税,那些税钱你终究还是要一分不少的交。但是如果你预计明年你的税率会下降,那么延迟获取收入真的会为你省下一些钱。(新税法对“先进先出”规则的改革也给证券投资者带来了一些利好。)

3.能交尽量交

正如上文指出的那样,美国新税法将限制个人所能抵扣的州税和地方税限额,个人能抵扣的财产税、收入税、营业税等项目的抵扣限额加起来将不会超过1万美元。共和党控制下的国会也因此遭到了民主党人的批评,民主党表示共和党此举是“劫富济贫”,相当于让高税收的蓝州(即民主党的票仓)人民掏钱给低税收的红州(即共和党票仓)老百姓发福利。同时理财顾问们也纷纷指导那些受到该条款影响的客户,让他们想办法尽量赶在2017年年底前提高州税和地方税的抵扣额,比如在条件允许的情况下尽可能多地预付明年的税款,然后根据旧法进行抵扣。但是上周五由参众两院的共和党人披露出来的最新拆衷法案显示,这个漏洞已经明确被堵上了,任何今年预付明年的地方税都要基于2018年的税率计算。不过2017年的所有税款和此前年份的所有迟交税款仍将按照今年的税率计算。

4.员工垫付

美国当前税法规则,员工与工作有关的未报销支出只要超过了收入的2%就可以抵扣。但根据新税法,这种分项报列的抵扣项目过了今年就将作废。所以布洛克税务公司税收研究所的执行理事凯茜·皮克林建议道,你可以想想,最近有没有机会能替公司垫点钱,然后多积攒些发票用来抵扣个税。可抵扣个税的未报销支出包括采购工具和备品、垫付职业税、置装费、工会会费、因公出差开支等等。在新税制下,个体户和企业主则仍可以抵扣相关开支。

5.搬家

根据新法案,新年过后,与工作相关的搬家费用就无法再抵扣了(除非你在军队工作)。当然,2017年只剩下两周不到,在这么短的时间里移民到国外肯定是有难度的。不过福特汉姆大学的会计学和税收学教授斯坦利·维利欧提斯建议道:“如果你真要搬家,记得要赶在12月31日前将所有与搬家有关的开销整理出来。”另外,如果你的目的地恰好是一个低税率的“红州”,那你真要感谢圣诞老人赐给你的福气了。(财富中文网)

译者:贾政景

At the end of every year, millions of Americans can make strategic moves to shave a few bucks off their April tax bill. Right now, millions more should be able to get into the act, with Congressional Republicans poised to pass a 503-page law that fundamentally restructures the U.S. tax code.

If the bill passes, new tax rates and countless other provisions would go into effect on Jan. 1. Most of the old rules though would still apply in the last two weeks of 2017—and that gives individuals a shrinking window of time to employ strategies that would lower their taxes for next year’s tax season. (While the legislation would take effect in the new year, it won’t be reflected in your tax forms until the 2019 tax season).

So, here are suggestions from accountants, financial planners, and other tax experts on how to make the most of this opportunity. Keep in mind that the best advice depends specifically on how you’re going to be affected by the tax bill. While most Americans would get a tax cut in the short term, some taxpayers could see higher tax bills in 2018. “No individual is average,” Suzanne Shier, a tax strategist at Northern Trust Corp., reminds us. “An average is a composite of multiple individuals.”

If your taxes are set to spike in 2018, many of these strategies won’t work as well. But if you’re part of the majority who will see an initial tax benefit from the law, there could be big benefits for acting soon.

1. Give to Charity

A typical piece of end-of-the-year advice is to increase your potential deductions before Jan. 1. Deductions claimed for things you did this year will lower tax bills due the following April. Wait until January, and you’ll need to cool your heels for more than a year to get the benefit of deductions claimed.

This year, beefing up your charitable giving could be even more effective. If your tax rate is falling in 2018, your deductions are more valuable if claimed against this year’s income. Giving to charity, a tax deduction that’s preserved under the tax bill, is an effective way to boost your 2017 deductions on short notice.

And even if your tax rate is going up next year under the new bill, you may still want to make a bunch of charitable donations in 2017. Most deductions, including the charitable one, can only be claimed if you itemize your tax return. The bill would sharply limit the number of taxpayers who would benefit from itemizing: First it raises the standard deduction from $6,350 to $12,000 for single people, and $12,700 to $24,000 for married couples. Second, it limits other deductions—most famously for state and local taxes—so it’s harder for taxpayers to reach the threshold where itemizing makes sense.

So, you might want to think about making several years of charitable donations this month if you can afford it, said Philip “Rusty” Ross, a financial adviser at Exencial Wealth Advisors based in Oklahoma City. If you’re not sure where to donate, you can open a donor-advised fund and decide later where your money will go. But move fast—there are only two weeks left in December.

2. Defer Income

Another traditional recommendation for this time of year is to defer income. While salaried workers generally can’t choose when they get paid, business owners can often delay registering income until the following year, lowering their April tax bill in the process. Investors can also control their taxable income—and thus lower capital gains tax bills—by selling losing stocks or waiting to sell winning stocks until 2018. In most years, deferring income merely delays the taxes you will have to pay eventually. But, if you expect your tax rate to fall next year, deferring income into 2018 could actually save you money. (There’s also some good news for equity investors when it comes to the FIFO rule.)

3. Pay Your Taxes—If You Can

As we noted, the tax bill would limit how much state and local taxes (or SALT) individuals can deduct, to no more than $10,000 of a combination of property taxes and either income or sales taxes. The move by the Republican-controlled Congress was criticized by Democrats as an effort to make citizens of high-tax blue states pay for benefits to corporations and citizens of low-tax red states. As a result, advisers had been planning to instruct clients targeted by this provision to find ways to maximize their SALT deduction in 2017, by pre-paying next year’s taxes as much as allowed and deducting them under the old rules. But the final compromise bill, unveiled Friday by Republicans in the Senate and House, explicitly closes this loophole. Any 2018 local taxes that are paid this year would need to be counted on next year’s taxes, according to the bill. However, any taxes due for 2017—or any late taxes from previous years—could still be deducted on a tax return due this April.

4. Employee Expenses

Current tax law allows employees to deduct unreimbursed expenses related to their jobs as long as they’re more than 2 percent of income. The tax bill ends these itemized deductions after the end of this year. So, workers should think about whether they can pay —and get the receipts—for as many of these expenses as possible this month, said Kathy Pickering, executive director of the Tax Institute at H&R Block. Examples of unreimbursed expenses for employees might include tools and supplies, occupational taxes, work uniforms, union dues, and expenses for work-related travel. Self-employed people and business owners would still be able to deduct expenses under the new tax bill.

5. Pay For Your Move

Under the proposed law, you’ll no longer be allowed to deduct work-related moving expenses after the new year (unless you’re in the military). Of course it might be difficult to schedule a cross-country move on such short notice, but, “if you did move, make sure you clear up any moving-related expenses by Dec. 31,” said Fordham University accounting and taxation professor Stanley Veliotis. And if your destination happens to be a low-tax red state, maybe thank Santa Claus for your good luck.

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