BRRR! Winter has clearly arrived In West Michigan. As I write this, we are getting a bit of a thaw, but I’m told more frigid weather is right around the corner. Seems like Mother Nature is making up for the past couple of years of milder winter weather. Enthusiasts of outdoor winter activities, enjoy!
Well, the promised tax reform is now a reality, in some shape or form. We are still digesting it, and looking for the best ways for our clients to benefit from the new rules if at all possible. There is far too much to address here, but here are a few highlights that will affect many of our clients. The standard deduction is almost doubled for both single and joint filers, making it likely that itemizing deductions may no longer be beneficial. Home equity loan interest is no longer deductible. The ability to deduct investment fees and expenses and tax prep fees is gone. The estate and gift tax credit exemption is increased from $5.4 million to $11.2 million. We now have the ability to use 529 college savings plan dollars for public, private, or parochial elementary or secondary education expenses up to $10,000. Roth recharacterizations are no longer allowed.
Check out our website, www.cpaholland.com, for more comprehensive information. Our business model, which integrates financial planning with our in-house tax professional expertise will be of tremendous value in incorporating these new tax rules into your individual financial plans!
Despite losing 118+ points during the final trading session, the DJIA ended the year at 24,719.22. close to its all-time high, and having advanced just shy of 5,000 points for an annual gain of 25.08%. That performance is the best since 2013, when the DJIA gained 26.50%.*2017 was an incredibly profitable year for investors. The Dow Jones Industrial Average reached more highs - 71 in total- than any year in history.
Not to be outdone, the S&P 500 was up 19.42%, the NASDAQ Composite +28.24%, MSCI EAFE +21.78%, MSCI Emerging Market +34.35%, and the Barclays US Aggregate Bond +3.54%.* Breathtaking returns to be sure, but not expected to repeat so strongly in 2018 in my opinion. However, with the effects of significant corporate tax rate reduction, and continuing strength in many key economic indicators including low inflation, another positive year for equity investors is a realistic expectation. Of course, unforeseen geopolitical or economic events can change this outlook. Given that 2018 is a mid-term election year, we would expect more volatility than last year with more “corrections” than in 2017. The global economy is also strong, and we continue to favor a significant portion of your equity holdings in non-US assets. In general, we strongly favor stocks over bonds, using bonds primarily as a stabilizing factor to overall portfolio volatility. That said, as always, your individual circumstances, risk tolerance, and time frame are key factors in developing an asset allocation strategy that is suitable for you!
*Source: S&P Dow Jones Market Commentary
WHAT CAN I DO TO CRACK DOWN ON ROBOCALLS?
You may not mind if a legitimate robocall provides a helpful announcement from your child's school or an appointment reminder from a doctor's office. But sadly, criminals often use robocalls to collect consumers' personal information and/or conduct various scams. Newer "spoofing" technology displays fake numbers to make it look as though calls are local, rather than coming from overseas, which could trick more people into answering the phone.
Robocalls have been illegal since 2009 (unless the telemarketer has the consumer's prior consent). In mid-2017, federal agencies announced they are ramping up enforcement by fining violators and encouraging blocking technologies. What should you do if you want to help put an end to this nuisance?
- Don't answer calls when you don't recognize the phone number. If you pick up an unwanted robocall, just hang up. Don't answer "yes" or "no" questions, provide personal information, or press a number to "opt out." Responding to the call in any way verifies that it has reached a real number and could prompt additional calls.
- Look into robocall blocking solutions that may be offered by your phone service provider. If they're available, you may need to follow specific instructions to "opt in." Otherwise, consider a mobile app or cloud-based service designed to block robocalls; some of them are free or cost just a few dollars.
- Consider registering your phone number on the National Do Not Call Registry. While taking this step can help mitigate the amount of robocalls you receive, it's only a partial solution to the problem. The Federal Trade Commission advises consumers whose numbers are on the registry but still receive unwanted calls to report robocall violations at complaints.donotcall.gov. The phone numbers provided by consumers will be released each day to companies that are working on call-blocking technologies, which largely depend on "blacklists" with numbers associated with multiple complaints.
DID YOU KNOW?
Many brokerage firms began taking advantage of a new rule a few years ago that no longer requires all 1099’s be mailed by January 31. This is to eliminate the constant problem of reissuing corrected 1099’s. Often, the brokerage firms do not have all the information needed from fund providers and others by January 31 to issue a 100% correct 1099. So, they choose to wait until all information has been reported to them so a 1099 can be sent that will hopefully not have to be reissued. This has helped tremendously with reducing the number of times people must refile income tax returns because they received a corrected 1099 after filing! March 15 is the new 1099 deadline. You will see 1099’s sent out before this date if final tax information for your account is complete. For those of you who have taken distributions from your IRA’s, those 1099R’s are still sent by January 31.
A NOTE FROM JIM
It is with mixed emotions that I must advise you that this is the final print edition of our quarterly newsletter. With today’s electronic communication technology, we find that we can get more information out to our clients more frequently and more rapidly via our website, emails, and social media than can possibly be done via the mail. Thus, the reason for the change.
Please check out our website at www.cpaholland.com for up to date postings of relevant topics that we feel will be of interest and benefit to you. On our website you can subscribe to our electronic newsletters, which are sent out monthly. If you’d rather have us add you to the list, please call Jill at 616-394-0500 and let her know you want to get our electronic communications.
Don’t forget to check out our social media pages! We post informational articles and blogs, highlights of great things to see and do in Michigan, as well as occasional giveaways.
DeLong & Brower PC- @cpaholland