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Tax Cuts & Jobs Act: 2018 Standard Deduction and Exemptions

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 made dramatic changes that affected pretty much every US taxpayer. This is the first article of the series of articles on the Act. I will start this series with the discussion of simple US domestic issues (such as 2018 standard deduction and personal exemptions), then gradually turn to more and more complex US domestic and international tax issues, and finish with the examination of the highly complex issues concerning E&P income recognition for US owners of foreign corporations and the new type of Subpart F income.

Today, I will focus on the 2018 standard deduction and exemptions.

Standard Deduction for the Tax Year 2017

Standard deduction is the amount of dollars by which you can reduce your adjusted gross income (“AGI”) in order to lower your taxable income and, hence, your federal income tax. The standard deduction is prescribed by Congress. If you use standard deduction, you cannot itemize your deductions (i.e. try to reduce your AGI by the amount of actual allowed itemized deductions) – you have to choose between these two options.

Standard deduction varies based on your filing status (there is an additional standard deductions of individuals over the age of 65 or who are blind).

For the tax year 2017, the standard deduction are as follows: $6,350 for single taxpayers and married couples filing separately, $12,700 for married couples filing a joint tax return and $9,350 for heads of household.

2018 Standard Deduction and Exemptions

Under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, the 2018 standard deduction will virtually double in size: $12,000 for single taxpayers and married couples filing separately, $24,000 for married couples filing a joint tax return and $18,000 for heads of household. All of these amounts will be indexed for inflation.

It is important to point out, however, that these increased standard deduction amounts will only last until 2025. Then, the standard deduction should revert to the old pre-2018 law.

Personal Exemptions & Impact of 2018 Standard Deduction

Personal exemption is an additional amount of dollars by which the Congress will allow you to reduce your AGI (already reduced by either standard deduction or itemized deductions). When IRC Section 151 was enacted in 1954, the idea behind a personal exemption was to exempt from taxation a certain minimal amount a person needs to survive at a subsistence level.

Personal exemption can be claimed for you and your qualified dependents; in case of joint tax returns, each spouse is granted a personal exemption. However, a personal exemption for a spouse can be claimed even if the spouses are filing separate tax returns, but certain requirements have to be met.

For the tax year 2017, the personal exemption amount is $4,050. The exemption is subject to a phase-out at a certain level of income.

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 repeals personal exemptions for the tax years 2018-2025. After 2025, the law reverts to the one that existed as of the tax year 2017. In other words, the increase in 2018 standard deduction will be at least partially offset by the elimination of 2018 personal exemption.

In some cases, where taxpayers claim many personal exemptions for their dependants, the elimination of personal exemptions may actually result in the increase in taxation (compared to the 2017 law) despite the increase of 2018 standard deduction. Of course, such an increase in taxation needs to take into account potential increase in child tax credit under the new law. Hence, in order to assess the full tax impact of the tax reform for large families, one needs to consider other factors in addition to just 2018 standard deduction.

El Salvador Tax Amnesty Program | International Tax Lawyer & Attorney

On October 10, 2017, the Salvadorian Congress enacted the Legislative Decree No. 804, “La Ley Transitoria para el Cumplimiento Voluntario de Obligaciones Tributarias y Aduaneras”. After noting the experience of the past El Salvador voluntary disclosure options, the Decree announced a three-month long El Salvador Tax Amnesty Program. Let’s briefly explore the main contours of this new El Salvador Tax Amnesty Program.

The Duration of El Salvador Tax Amnesty Program

The Decree specifies that the program will become effective on October 27, 2017 and it will end on January 27, 2018.

The Terms of El Salvador Tax Amnesty Program

El Salvador Tax Amnesty Program basically allows El Salvadorian taxpayers to voluntarily come forward, correctly declare their income and pay any undeclared or understated taxes. In return for doing so, all penalties, charges and interest will be waived by the tax authorities of El Salvador, la Dirección General de Impuestos Internos. This Salvadorian voluntary disclosure program compares very favorably with the IRS OVDP (which is not really an amnesty program and imposes a significant penalty for prior noncompliance).

The El Salvador Tax Amnesty Program is also very broad. The voluntary disclosure program is applicable to all taxpayers with outstanding tax liabilities that were due prior to October 27, 2017. The program covers understated taxes, undeclared taxes, withholding taxes, VAT, real estate transfer taxes and basically all other situations. The program is applicable to taxpayers irrespective of whether they ever filed their tax returns. El Salvador Tax Amnesty Program will even allow the taxpayers to simply pay their tax liability without any penalties, even if the income was already declared and taxes assessed.

Only a narrow category of taxpayers is not eligible to participate in El Salvador Tax Amnesty Program: the taxpayers already under a criminal investigation initiated by la Dirección General de Impuestos Internos and la Dirección General de Aduanas.

US Taxpayers May Participate in El Salvador Tax Amnesty Program and US Voluntary Disclosure at the Same Time

If you are a US taxpayer who has not declared his Salvadorian income in the United States and El Salvador, you may be eligible to participate in the voluntary disclosure programs of both countries at the same time.

It is important to remember, however, that these voluntary disclosures should be coordinated by your US and Salvadorian lawyers. The main reason for this coordination is a concern that an information disclosed under El Salvador Tax Amnesty Program may be automatically disclosed to the IRS by la Dirección General de Impuestos Internos, leading to an investigation that may prevent you from going through a voluntary disclosure in the United States.

Indians working on H1 Visa Need to Pay US Taxes on Indian Income

US taxes on Indian income is one of the most important topics relevant to the everyday life of Indian-Americans and Indians who reside and work in the United States. In this article, I will focus on the issue of US taxes on Indian Income earned by H1 (mostly H1B) visa holders.

US Taxes on Indian Income and US Tax Residency

Whether an Indian working in the United States needs to pay US taxes on Indian income primarily depends on whether he is a US tax resident. There are three categories of US tax residents – US citizens, US Permanent Residents (i.e. green-card holders), and the individuals who satisfied the Substantial Presence Test.

Any person who is considered to be a US tax resident is required to report his worldwide income on his US tax return and pay US taxes on this income. Hence, if an Indian working in the United States on H1 visa has Indian-source income and he satisfied the Substantial Presence Test, he would be required to pay US taxes on his Indian income, not just income earned in the United States.

US Taxes on Indian Income: the Substantial Presence Test

The Substantial Presence Test is very important in US tax law because it affects millions of foreigners who reside in or visit the United States. The Substantial Presence Test basically states that any individual who is physically present in the United States for 183 days or more within the most recent three-year period is considered to be a US tax resident.

The 183 days are calculated as follows: all days spent in the current year + one-third of the days spent in the year immediately prior to the current year + one-sixth of the days spent in the year right before the prior year (in other words, the second year before the current year) “Current year” here means the year for which you are trying to figure out whether you were a tax resident.

Failure to Pay US Taxes on Indian Income May Result in IRS Penalties and Endangerment of Your Immigration Status

Any Indian who is a US tax resident and fails to pay US taxes on Indian income runs a great risk of the imposition of IRS penalties. If the failure to pay US taxes on Indian income is combined with the failure to file information returns, such as FBARs, then his legal situation in the United States becomes extremely precarious.

Not only are the IRS penalties extremely high (such a person may owe to the IRS more than the balance on your unreported accounts), including criminal penalties with potential jail time, but his immigration status may be endangered as a result of his US tax noncompliance.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Help With Your Undisclosed Indian Income and Indian Foreign Accounts

Given these extreme risks, an Indian working in the United States on H1 visa should contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional legal and tax help as soon as possible.

We have helped numerous clients from India to reduce and even, in some cases, completely eliminate their IRS penalties and bring their US tax affairs into full compliance with US tax laws, thereby preserving their immigration status.

We can help you! Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!

Russian Taxation of Gifts to Nonresidents: Recent Changes

The Russian Ministry of Finance (“MOF”) recently issued Guidance Letter 03-04-06/64102 (dated October 31) regarding the taxation of gifts from Russian legal entities to nonresidents (i.e. the Russian taxation of gifts to nonresidents). This Letter will have a direct impact on the tax planning for Russians who are tax residents of the United States.

Russian Taxation of Gifts to Nonresidents: Russian-Source Gifts are Taxable

In the letter, the MOF stated that, under the Russian Tax Code Article 209, Section 2, the Russian-source income of individuals who are not tax residents of the Russian Federation is subject to the Russian income tax (the Russian tax residents are taxed on their worldwide income – i.e Russian-source and foreign-source income).

Furthermore, the MOF determined that gifts received by nonresidents from a Russian legal entity are considered to be Russian-source income. This means that these gifts are taxable beyond the exemption amount. According to Tax Code Article 217, section 28, the exemption amount is 4,000 Russian roubles per tax year. Hence, a gift from a Russian legal entity to a non-resident of Russia will be subject to the Russian individual income tax if it exceeds 4,000 rubles.

Russian Taxation of Gifts to Nonresidents: the Place of Gift Does Not Matter

It is important to emphasize that, in this situation, the sourcing of the gift is determined by the giftor – i.e. if the giftor is a Russian legal entity, the gift is considered as Russian-source income irrespective of the actual location of the place where the gift took place. For example, if a Russian legal entity gifts 10,000 rubles in Switzerland, the gift is still considered to be Russian-source income.

Russian Taxation of Gifts to Nonresidents: Tax Withholding Rules

The general rule is that the Russian legal entity who makes the gift to a nonresident is considered to be the withholding agent who is required to withhold from the gift and remit to the MOF the individual income tax due. However, the MOF specified that, if a gift is a non-monetary one or of such a nature that a tax cannot be withheld, then the entity must notify the Russian Federal Tax Service that it could not and did not withhold the tax (with the amount of the tax due). The nonresident would be responsible for the payment of the tax due in this case.

Impact of the Changes in the Russian Taxable of Gifts to Nonresidents on US Tax Residents

The Guidance Letter 03-04-06/64102 will have an important impact on the Russian tax and estate planning strategies with respect to US tax residents. One of the most common strategies for business succession and estate planning in Russia has been gifting of assets to children who were non-residents of Russia and US tax residents. The guidance letter directly impacts this strategy forcing the re-evaluation of the desirability of this entire course of action.

US–Hungary Totalization Agreement Enters Into Force

On September 1, 2016, the US–Hungary Totalization Agreement entered into force. In this article, I will briefly discuss the main benefits of this Agreement to US and Hungarian nations.

US–Hungary Totalization Agreement: What is a Totalization Agreement?

The Totalization Agreements are authorized by Section 233 of the Social Security Act for the purpose of eliminating the burden of dual social security taxes. In essence, these are social security agreements between two countries that protect the benefit rights of workers who have working careers in both countries and prevent such workers and their employers from paying social security taxes on the same earnings in both countries.

Usually, such a situation arises where a worker from country A works in Country B, but he is covered under the social security systems in both countries. In such cases, without a totalization agreement, the worker has to pay social security taxes to both countries A and B on the same earnings.

US–Hungary Totalization Agreement Background

The US–Hungary Totalization Agreement was signed by the United States and Hungary on February 3, 2015 and entered into force on September 1, 2016. This means that Hungary now joined 25 other countries – Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Chile, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, the Slovak Republic, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom – that have similar Totalization Agreements with the United States.

US–Hungary Totalization Agreement: Key Provisions

There are three key provisions of the US–Hungary Totalization Agreement which are relevant to Hungarian and US workers. First, protection of workers’ benefits and prevention of dual taxation. US workers who work in Hungary and are already covered under Hungarian social security system should be exempt from US social security payments, including health insurance (under FICA and SECA only), retirement insurance, survivors and disability insurance contributions. However, US–Hungary Totalization Agreement does not apply to the Medicare; US employees must still make sure that they have adequate medical insurance coverage. Similarly, Hungarian workers who work in the United States and are already covered by the US social security system should be exempt from Hungarian social security taxes.

The second key provision of the US–Hungary Totalization Agreement provides for a Certificate of Coverage. The Certificate can be used by an employee to remain covered under his home country’s social security system for up to 60 months. Additional extensions are possible upon approval by the host country.

Finally, under the US–Hungary Totalization Agreement, workers may qualify for partial US benefits or partial Hungarian benefits based on combined (or “totalized”) work credits from both countries. This means that, where there is insufficient number of periods (or credits in the United States) to claim social security benefits, the periods of contributions in one country can be added to the period of contributions in another country to qualify to these benefits.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for US Tax Issues Concerning Hungarian Assets and Income

If you have foreign accounts and other assets in Hungary and/or income from these Hungarian assets, contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional help. We have helped hundreds of clients throughout the world, including in Hungary, with their US tax issues and we can help you!