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Alternative Minimum Tax -- What's It Like Today?


The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act made many changes to the individual tax law, including the alternative minimum tax. One of the goals of the new tax law was to reduce the impact of the AMT or even to repeal it entirely. A modification was made — let's see what it could mean to you.

The AMT is a different way to calculate federal income tax. Implemented in 1969 to ensure that high-income households paid their fair share of taxes, it balanced taxes against how many deductions such households were entitled to. It later was indexed for inflation to help prevent it from hurting middle-class taxpayers it was never designed to affect.

The AMT is calculated by starting with your adjusted gross income and adding back in some other deductions. For example, these include the deductions for state and local income taxes, personal property taxes, and deductions for a net operating loss. The mortgage deduction and charitable contributions are still allowed, as are IRA contributions. For 2018, there are only two AMT brackets: 26 and 28 percent.

Note also that the 2017 AMT exemption amount for a single or head of household was $54,300, but for 2018, the AMT exemption amount is $70,300. There are similar increases in other categories. The AMT for some people now will be closer to their standard tax calculation, thanks to the repeal of certain deductions, including miscellaneous itemized deductions such as employee business expenses and interest on home equity loans, which formerly were added for AMT purposes but are generally no longer allowed as deductions and no longer impact the AMT.

How It's Calculated

According to the IRS, the AMT is the excess of the tentative minimum tax over the regular tax. Thus, the AMT is owed only if the tentative minimum tax is greater than the regular tax. The tentative minimum tax is figured separately from the regular tax. In general, compute the tentative minimum tax by

  1. computing taxable income, eliminating or reducing certain exclusions and deductions, and taking into account differences with respect to when certain items are taken into account in computing regular taxable income and alternative minimum taxable income (AMTI);
  2. subtracting the AMT exemption amount;
  3. multiplying the amount computed in step 2 by the appropriate AMT tax rates; and
  4. subtracting the AMT foreign tax credit.

Also, if you're not subject to AMT this year but you paid AMT in one or more previous years, you may be eligible to take a special minimum tax credit against your regular tax this year.

This is just a brief introduction to a complicated topic. There are subtleties and exceptions. The key takeaway is that this tax season is going to be different from last year's. Consult us today to see how it may or may not affect you.

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Our firm provides the information in this e-newsletter for general guidance only, and does not constitute the provision of legal advice, tax advice, accounting services, investment advice, or professional consulting of any kind. The information provided herein should not be used as a substitute for consultation with professional tax, accounting, legal, or other competent advisers. Before making any decision or taking any action, you should consult a professional adviser who has been provided with all pertinent facts relevant to your particular situation. Tax articles in this e-newsletter are not intended to be used, and cannot be used by any taxpayer, for the purpose of avoiding accuracy-related penalties that may be imposed on the taxpayer. The information is provided "as is," with no assurance or guarantee of completeness, accuracy, or timeliness of the information, and without warranty of any kind, express or implied, including but not limited to warranties of performance, merchantability, and fitness for a particular purpose.
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