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Tax planning for 2017

With the beginning of a new presidency and with Congress in Republican control, it seems likely that there could be more changes made to the Internal Revenue Code than in an average year. There have been major tax proposals made that could result in significant changes, such as the elimination of the Estate Tax and the removal of some of the tax brackets.

Other possible changes could occur to other elements of the tax code, but some appear to be less likely to come to fruition, such as lower the rates for pass-through entities. While it sounds attractive, for it to happen, those rates would need to be lowered below the rates for individuals. The other wildcard in this equation for tax planning is whether Congress and the administration will be able to agree on the details.

While the proposals made to date, which would lessen some complexity by the reduction of the tax brackets from seven to three appear attractive, there could be problems. While such an amendment to the tax code would reduce the tax paid by individuals in the top bracket from 39.6 to 33 percent, the 39.6 percent rate only encompasses individuals in the top 1 percent of U.S. taxpayers, so most people would receive no benefit.

The current Republican tax proposals would result in a tax increase of about 2 to 5 percent for large numbers of middle-class taxpayers. These sorts of issues can lead to political difficulties that could require further changes and could lead to additional delays in legislation.

For businesses and individuals to make a viable tax plan in such an environment, the key is flexibility. Any changes should be made in such a manner as to allow further changes without prohibitive costs. Uncertainty is no excuse to fail to plan, but it should be taken into account in all of your tax planning.

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