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Congress Extends Expired Tax Breaks Helping You Keep More Money in Your Pocket

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Last week, the Taxpayer Certainty and Disaster Tax Relief Act of 2019 — which provides tax relief for millions of Americans — was passed by Congress and signed into law by the President. The law extends many already expired provisions that provide tax relief and support for families and individuals, special tax relief for certain disaster victims and the extension of energy-efficient tax credits.

If you’re wondering what the passage of the law means to you and your tax situation, TurboTax is here to help you better understand.

Here are some of the tax extenders and special provisions for disaster relief victims that were extended through tax year 2019:

Extended Tax Relief for Individuals and Families

Mortgage Debt Exclusion – Financial crisis can sometimes be unavoidable. If you experienced a foreclosure, short sale or loan modification, you may still be able to exclude the amount of debt forgiven on your principal residence on your 2019 taxes up to $2,000,000.

Mortgage Insurance Premiums – You may not be thrilled about the mortgage insurance your lender required when you purchased your home, but you may be able to deduct the amount you paid for the mortgage insurance, which is considered interest for mortgage interest deduction purposes. There are income requirements as the deduction phases out for taxpayers with adjusted gross income over $100,000($50,000 if married filing separately).

Tuition and Fees Deduction – You may once again have another education tax benefit option with the extension of the Tuition and Fees Deduction if you, your spouse, or your dependent child have college expenses. The Tuition and Fees Deduction is an above-the-line tax deduction for qualified expenses for higher education like tuition, books and other supplies, up to $4,000 (even if you only took one class). The deduction is capped at $4,000 for individuals with adjusted
 gross income(AGI) up to $65,000 ($130,000 for joint filers) and $2,000 for individuals with AGI up to $80,000 ($160,000 for joint filers).

Medical Expense Deduction – Medical expenses can really add up for individuals and families. The medical expense deduction threshold was set to go back up to 10% in 2019, but the new provision extends the lower 2017 and 2018 threshold of 7.5%. Therefore, you may be able to claim your un-reimbursed medical expenses if they are more than 7.5% of your adjusted gross income and you can claim itemized tax deductions. For example, if your adjusted gross income is $50,000, you can claim your medical expenses that are more than $3,750 ($50,000 x 7.5%) if you can claim itemized deductions. At the 10% threshold, they would need to be more than $5,000.

Incentives for Energy Efficiency

Credit for Nonbusiness Energy Property – If you made energy-efficient improvements to your home (including the addition of energy-saving roofs, windows, skylights, doors, etc.), you will still be able to claim the nonbusiness energy property credit for 10 percent of amounts paid for qualified energy efficiency improvements up to a lifetime cap of $500 or in fixed dollar amounts ranging from $50 to $300 for energy-efficient property such as furnaces, boilers, biomass stoves, heat pumps, water heaters, central air conditioners and circulating fans.

Credit for New Qualified Fuel Cell Motor Vehicles – If you purchased a new qualified fuel cell vehicle, you may receive a credit between $4,000 and $40,000 depending on the weight of your vehicle.

Tax Relief for Disaster Victims

The disaster relief portion of the law provides special tax relief for individuals and businesses in Presidentially-declared disaster areas occurring between January 1, 2018 and 30 days following the date of enactment of the law. Here are some of the provisions providing relief:

Special Rules for Qualified Disaster-Related Personal Casualty Losses – If you were a disaster victim, the provision eliminates the current law requirement that personal losses have to exceed 10% of adjusted gross income and eliminates the requirement that you have to itemize your tax deductions in order to claim your casualty loss.

Eased Access to Retirement Funds – If you were a hurricane victim, you will not be subject to the 10% early plan withdrawal penalty for qualified disaster relief distributions from retirement funds up to $100,000. If you had to cancel your home purchase as a result of an eligible disaster, you can also re-contribute your retirement plan withdrawal for home purchases or construction and avoid the tax on the plan withdrawal.

Special Rules for Determining Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit – If you were in a designated disaster area, you can use income from 2018, if it is higher, to qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit.

Automatic Extension Filing Deadline – If your principal place of residence or business is located in a disaster area, you are automatically granted a 60-day tax filing extension.

Don’t worry about knowing these tax laws — TurboTax has you covered. TurboTax will ask you simple questions about you and give you the tax deductions and credits you’re eligible for based on your answers. If you have more questions while doing your taxes, you can connect live via one-way video to a TurboTax Live CPA or Enrolled Agent with an average 15 years-experience to get your tax questions answered. TurboTax Live CPAs and Enrolled Agents are available in English and Spanish and can even review, sign, and file your return.


Lisa Greene-Lewis

Lisa has over 20 years of experience in tax preparation. Her success is attributed to being able to interpret tax laws and help clients better understand them. She has held positions as a public auditor, controller, and operations manager. Lisa has appeared on the Steve Harvey Show, the Ellen Show, and major news broadcast to break down tax laws and help taxpayers understand what tax laws mean to them. For Lisa, getting timely and accurate information out to taxpayers to help them keep more of their money is paramount. More from Lisa Greene-Lewis

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