More 2009 Tax Changes

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There are even more tax law changes for 2009 coming your way:

Indexed Tax Brackets. Thanks to higher inflation in the past year, the 10%, 15%, 25%, 28%, 33% and 35% tax brackets all kick in at approximately 5% higher levels of income than in 2008.

Larger Personal Exemptions. For 2009, each personal exemption you can claim is worth $3,650, up by $150 from 2008.

Higher Standard Deductions. For 2009, the standard deduction for married couples filing a joint return rises to $11,400, up by $500 from 2008. For single filers, the amount increases to $5,700 in 2009, up by $250 over 2008. And heads of household can claim $8,350 in 2009, a jump of $350 from 2008. Non-itemizers who pay real estate taxes can claim even larger standard deductions. Joint filers can add in up to $1,000 of property taxes paid. Singles can add in up to $500 of real estate tax payments. Non-itemizers can also add any casualty losses that occurred in presidentially declared disaster areas.

Reduction in Itemized Deductions and Personal Exemptions for High-Income Taxpayers. Itemized deductions and personal exemptions are phased out as your income rises. In 2009, the reductions are a bit less painful. The cutback in itemized deductions occurs once your adjusted gross income exceeds $166,800, regardless of your filing status. Your itemized deductions are reduced by 1% of the amount by which your AGI exceeds $166,800, but you can never lose more than 80 percent of your itemized deductions. Also, your medical expenses, investment interest deduction, deductible gambling losses and any casualty and theft losses are not subject to the cut.

Personal exemptions are reduced by 2% for each $2,500 of adjusted gross income over $250,200 for married filing jointly, $208,500 for heads of households and $166,800 for singles, but the reduction cannot exceed $1,217 per exemption.

Increased Section 179 Expense Deduction. The maximum amount of equipment placed in service in 2009 that businesses can expense stays at $250,000. And the annual investment limit remains $800,000. Thus, you won’t begin to lose the benefit of expensing until you place more than $800,000 of assets in service in 2009.

Tax-free Parking for Employees. Starting in 2009, firms can pay for $230 a month of parking tax free for employees, up $10 per month from 2008. The cap on tax-free transit passes is now $230 a month as well, the same as for parking. The limit had been $115 a month in 2008.

Tax Credit for College Tuition. For 2009 and 2010, the Hope credit is replaced by a new credit of up to $2,500 per student a year for four years of college, not just the first two years. It now also covers the cost of books and begins to phase out at $80,000 of adjusted gross income for single filers and $160,000 for joint filers. If the credit is more than your income tax liability, 40% of it is refundable. Also, the full credit is allowed against the alternative minimum tax.

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