Most of the talk about possible tax legislation this year has focused on either wide-sweeping tax reform or taxes that are part of the Affordable Care Act. However, there are a few other potential tax developments for individuals to keep an eye on.
In December of 2015, Congress passed the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes Act of 2015 (PATH Act), which made a multitude of tax breaks permanent. However, there were a few valuable breaks for individuals that it extended only through 2016. The question now is whether Congress will extend them for 2017.
An education break
One break the PATH Act extended through 2016 was the above-the-line deduction for qualified tuition and related expenses for higher education. The deduction was capped at $4,000 for taxpayers whose adjusted gross income (AGI) did not exceed $65,000 ($130,000 for joint filers) or, for those beyond those amounts, $2,000 for taxpayers whose AGI did not exceed $80,000 ($160,000 for joint filers).
You could not take the American Opportunity credit, its cousin the Lifetime Learning credit, and the tuition deduction in the same year for the same student. If you were eligible for all three breaks, the American Opportunity credit would, typically, be the most valuable in terms of tax savings.
In some situations, the AGI reduction from the tuition deduction might prove more beneficial than taking the Lifetime Learning credit. For example, a lower AGI might help avoid having other tax breaks reduced or eliminated due to AGI-based phaseouts.
Mortgage-related tax breaks
Under the PATH Act, through 2016 you could treat qualified mortgage insurance premiums as interest for purposes of the mortgage interest deduction. The deduction phased out for taxpayers with AGI of $100,000 to $110,000.
The PATH Act likewise extended through 2016 the exclusion from gross income for mortgage loan forgiveness. It also modified the exclusion to apply to mortgage forgiveness that occurs in 2017 as long as it is granted pursuant to a written agreement entered into in 2016. So, even if this break is not extended, you might still be able to benefit from it on your 2017 income tax return.
Please check back with us for the latest information. In the meantime, keep in mind that, if you qualify and you have not filed your 2016 income tax return yet, you can take advantage of these breaks on that tax return. The deadline for individual extended returns is October 16, 2017.