27 Things You should know about the 2011 Tax Laws
Tuesday, February 1, 2011 at 10:50AM
Steve Orr

2011 is here and there is much to report. Congress has restored the estate tax, cut the payroll tax and retained and/or restored a variety of tax breaks.


Here’s a look at some recent developments in federal tax law – not just the changes for 2011-2012, but also the decisions (some quite recent) that may impact your 2010 return. This is by no means a tax planning guide, just an update on what has changed and what hasn’t.


Before we get started, some news about filing your 2010 federal return:





Here’s a look at the numerous revisions, alterations and restorations to federal tax law affecting tax years 2010, 2011 and 2012.


1 The federal income tax brackets remain at 10%, 15%, 25%, 28%, 33% and 35% for 2011-2012.


The ordinary taxable income brackets for TY 2011 are set as follows, reflecting minor COLAs:





2 The payroll tax paid by employees and the self-employed has been reduced by 2.0% in 2011.

This means many Americans will effectively get a 2% raise this year. The reduced withholding could mean as much as $2,136 in savings, as earnings up to $106,800 are subject to payroll tax. No phase-outs apply, and if taxpayers are married, both spouses can get the individual deduction.3,4

Two related notes:



3 The estate tax is back for 2011- 2012.

For this year and next, the federal estate tax is set at 35% with a $5 million individual exemption.4 Please note that:


4 The estate tax, the gift tax and the generation-skipping tax (GST) have all been reunified for 2011-2012.


They all have top rates of 35% with $5 million individual exemptions. The individual estate and gift tax exemptions are portable between married couples; the GST exemption is not. The GST has been restored for 2011; it was 0% in 2010.4,8


The annual gift tax exclusion remains at $13,000 per donor in 2011. A single taxpayer may gift up to $13,000 to an unlimited number of individuals. The lifetime exclusion (see above) is $5 million.4


In addition to the annual exclusion, an unlimited gift tax exclusion is allowed for amounts paid on behalf of a done directly to an educational organization for tuition. Likewise, amounts paid directly to health care providers also qualify for the unlimited gift tax exclusion.9


5 Tax rates on capital gains and dividends haven’t been hiked.


In 2011 and 2012, the long-term capital gains rate is


6 Traditional IRA owners who go Roth this year can’t defer income resulting from the conversion into subsequent tax years.


In 2010, you had that option; this year, you don’t. If you went Roth in 2010, you have until October 17, 2011 to choose whether you wish to divide the income from the conversion between your 2011 and 2012 federal returns.4


7 High earners won’t be bitten by “stealth income taxes” during 2011-2012.


The Pease and PEP limitations – repealed for 2010 – are now on holiday through 2012. A quick explanation if you’ve never heard of them: the Pease provision cancels out up to 80% of the amount of a taxpayer's itemized deductions if his or her AGI exceeds a certain level. In other words, you can deduct the full amount of your itemized deductions in 2011. The PEP (personal exemption phase-out) whittles away at the personal exemption benefit for taxpayers who reach certain AGI levels.4,10

8 The charitable IRA rollover is back – at least for 2011. 


In federal tax law, this is known as a Qualified Charitable Distribution – a tax-free donation of IRA proceeds to a qualifying charity or nonprofit. Given the generous $5 million individual estate tax exemption now in place, there may be less impetus to make such gifts – but nonprofits are just glad the opportunity is back.


To be tax-free, the donor must be 70½ or older and the donation has to take the form of a direct transfer (a rollover) from your IRA trustee to the qualifying charity, nonprofit foundation or nonprofit organization. (You can also make a tax-free donation of IRA proceeds to a fund held by a community foundation, but not a donor-advised fund.) You cannot claim a charitable tax deduction from this move.11


Will this opportunity stick around after 2011? We don’t know. It is set to sunset at the end of the year.



9 The Small Business Jobs Act of 2010 extended some tax breaks and put some tax changes into play for small companies in 2011.


The SBJA was passed into law during September 2010, and its recently enacted laws will affect both 2011 and 2010 federal returns. 










10 Employers must begin reporting employee health care benefits on Form W-2 in either 2011 or 2012.

This is an effect of the Affordable Care Act. For informational purposes, employers are now required to report the value of the health insurance coverage they offer to employees on W-2s. The IRS is offering employers a one-year grace period, however: it has deferred the reporting requirement for TY 2011, so this year it is optional. Reporting the value of the health care coverage to the IRS will not affect the taxable income of your employees.16

11 Landlords must abide by new IRS reporting requirements.


Prior to 2011, only full-time property managers and some lessors had to file 1099 forms with the IRS as a consequence of doing business. The Small Business Jobs Act of 2010 changed that.


Anyone who receives rental income in 2011 has to file a Form 1099 for all payments of $600 or more made to service providers – handymen, plumbers, carpenters, landscapers, electricians, any individual or company providing a service linked to your residential or commercial rental property. You don’t need to file 1099 forms for purchases of goods for your rental property, only services. Only aggregate annual payments of $600 or more for services have to be reported.


Unless Congress intervenes, such reporting will be demanded of all businesses, self-employed individuals and independent contractors come 2012.17


12 The first-time homebuyer credit is gone.


It expired at the end of September 2010. You can take advantage of the credit on your 2010 federal return if you closed escrow on a home before October 1, 2010 and had a binding contract in place prior to May 1, 2010.13


13 The personal exemption and standard deduction amounts have (barely) increased.


For 2011, the personal exemption amount increases by $50 to an even $3,700. Standard deductions are as follows for 2011:



14 The AMT has again been patched.


As part of the Tax Relief Act of 2010, the Alternative Minimum Tax exemptions were increased to these levels for 2011:



15 The self-employed may be able to use the self-employed health insurance deduction to reduce their SECA taxes in 2010.


This was a mid-year tax law change that happened as a result of the SBJA. For TY 2010, self-employed business owners may deduct the cost of health insurance for themselves and their family members as a business expense when calculating self-employment tax. (You can do this on Schedule SE, Line 3.) Prior to 2010, the self-employed could only deduct health insurance costs for income tax purposes (on Form 1040, Line 29). A worksheet on all this accompanies IRS Form 1040. The health coverage must be arranged under the umbrella of your business, and you must not be eligible to participate in an employer-sponsored health plan.18


16 If you have a Flexible Spending Account, you can no longer use your FSA funds to pay for most over-the-counter medicines.


Insulin is a notable exception to this new rule. You can still use your FSA money for non-prescription medical or medically related items like crutches, wigs, contact lens solution and other items detailed within IRS Publication 502.4


17 Investment brokers have to provide the IRS with cost-basis reporting in 2011 when it comes to the sale of certain assets.


They must report the original purchase price of stocks, REIT shares and foreign securities to the IRS in 2011 when these assets are sold. In 2012, they will have to follow new rules for cost-basis reporting for mutual funds, bonds, options and many ETFs.4


18 If you own more than $50,000 in foreign financial assets, you may be subject to a new IRS reporting requirement.


You may have to meet additional reporting and disclosure requirements in 2011 in addition to filing an FBAR (Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts). This new reporting requirement may impact hedge fund investors who previously didn’t have to file FBARs. Consult your tax advisor.4


19 The state and local sales tax deduction option is back for 2011 (and you can also claim it on your 2010 return).


Do you live where there are no local or state income taxes? Once again, you have the choice of taking a deduction for state sales taxes instead of the state income tax deduction for 2011 (and 2010).18


20 The $250 classroom supplies deduction for teachers is back for 2011 (and may be claimed for 2010).


Are you a K-12 educator who pays for classroom expenses out-of-pocket? Then you are able to take an above-the-line deduction to offset up to $250 of such costs.18


21 The higher education tuition and fees deduction is back for 2011 (and may be claimed for 2010).


The limit on this deduction is $4,000. (And if you’re reading this item, don’t forget about the American Opportunity Credit, a credit of up to $2,500 that can be used for the first four years of college and applied to the tuition costs and other higher education expenses.)18,19


22 The adoption credit is larger – and it has been made refundable.


As you file your 2010 return, note that it is now $13,170 per child as opposed to $12,150 in 2009. As it is refundable, an eligible taxpayer can qualify for the credit even if he or she doesn’t owe any federal income tax. The adoption must be documented, so that means you can’t claim this credit via eFile.18


23 The Earned Income Tax Credit eligibility limit has increased to $48,362 and the Child Tax Credit has been expanded.


The result: more middle class and working class families may qualify for these credits. The CTC is a credit of up to $1,000. Under the new laws, you can claim the CTC if a child was no older than 16 in 2010 lived at home for more than half of 2010, and is claimed as a dependent on your 2010 federal return.19


24 If you bought a home in 2008 or 2009, you may have to repay up to 100% of any federal homebuyer credits related to the purchase on your 2010 Form 1040.


This is more likely if you bought your home during 2008. Most taxpayers will merely have to repay 1/15 of their credit in 2010. Consult your tax advisor.20


25 Most unemployed individuals will have to report 100% of their 2010 federal jobless benefits as taxable income.


Not everyone who is unemployed realizes this. In 2009, the first $2,400 of federal unemployment insurance came to you tax-free. There was no such tax break offered for 2010.20


26 No more real estate tax deduction for those that don’t itemize.


This is just a reminder that you can’t claim this deduction on your 2010 federal return. The additional standard deduction for property taxes went away at the close of 2009.20


27 No more sales tax deductions for buying a new car or truck.


You won’t be able to claim these tax breaks for 2010, as they faded away at the end of 2009.20




This Special Report is an update of 2010 and 2011 tax law changes, and is not intended as a guide for the preparation of tax returns. The information contained herein is general in nature and is not intended, and should not be construed, as legal, accounting or tax advice or opinion provided by DeWaay Financial Network and Peter Montoya Inc. to recipients. No information herein was intended or written to be used by readers for the purpose of avoiding penalties that may be imposed under the Internal Revenue Code or applicable state or local tax law provisions. Readers are cautioned that this material may not be applicable to, or suitable for, their specific circumstances or needs, and may require consideration of non-tax and other tax factors if any action is to be contemplated. Readers are encouraged to consult with professional advisors for advice concerning specific matters before making any decision, and DeWaay Financial Network and Peter Montoya Inc. disclaim any responsibility for positions taken by taxpayers in their individual cases or for any misunderstanding on the part of readers. DeWaay Financial Network and Peter Montoya Inc. assume no obligation to inform readers of any changes in tax laws or other factors that could affect the information contained herein.




1 irs.gov/newsroom/article/0,,id=233910,00.html [1/4/11]

2 irs.gov/pub/irs-drop/rp-11-12.pdf [12/10]

3 bloomberg.com/news/2011-01-18/it-s-not-too-early-to-think-about-2011-taxes.html [1/18/10]

4 online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703675904576063903166546250.html [1/8/11]

5 turbotax.intuit.com/tax-tools/tax-tips/IRS-Tax-Return/Summary-of-Federal-Tax-Law-Changes-for-2010-2017/INF12041.html#2011 [1/19/11]

6 walletpop.com/2011/01/19/dont-forget-about-the-making-work-pay-credit/ [1/19/11]

7 naepc.org/journal/issue07a.web [12/20/10]

8 blogs.forbes.com/hanisarji/2011/01/02/new-year-different-rules-2011-estate-tax-gift-tax-gst-tax-rules/ [1/2/11]

9 turbotax.intuit.com/tax-tools/tax-tips/Tax-Planning-and-Checklists/The-Gift-Tax/INF12036.html [1/27/11]

10 taxpolicycenter.org/press/press-resources-pease.cfm [1/18/11]

11 ctphilanthropy.org/s_ccp/bin.asp?CID=14889&DID=45124&DOC=FILE.PDF [12/17/10]

12 money.cnn.com/2011/01/17/smallbusiness/small_business_new_tax_credits/ [1/17/11]

13 journalofaccountancy.com/Web/20113750.htm [1/14/11]

14 irs.gov/formspubs/article/0,,id=177054,00.html [10/14/10]

15 s-corp.org/2010/09/28/president-signs-big-relief/ [9/28/10]

16 irs.gov/newsroom/article/0,,id=220809,00.html [1/14/11]

17 realtor.org/wps/wcm/connect/f9c47a804427e7068bf5eb34cafa6d66/government_affairs_issue_brief_rep_rules_1099rev.pdf [1/18/11]

18 irs.gov/newsroom/article/0,,id=233927,00.html [1/4/11]

19 bloomberg.com/news/2011-01-18/children-can-mean-extra-tax-deductions-and-credits.html [1/18/11]

20 smartmoney.com/personal-finance/taxes/whats-new-on-the-2010-form-1040-1295384880669/ [1/20/11]

21 montoyaregistry.com/Financial-Market.aspx?financial-market=finding-a-tax-preparer&category=31 [1/28/11]





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