Tax Strategies & Credits

Avoiding Pitfalls and Answering Questions: Your 2018 Tax Season Update

Lee Reams II
Avoiding Pitfalls and Answering Questions: Your 2018 Tax Season Update

If it seems like your 2018 tax season is a bit more hectic than usual, you can at least take comfort in the fact that it's not just you. "This tax season is extremely busy," said Teresa Peete of Elaborate Enterprises, Inc. "I am getting all types of questions regarding the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act and how it will impact the bottom line of both businesses and individuals moving forward."

But the new tax legislation isn't the only major update that the 2018 tax season has brought with it. As always, avoiding the pitfalls that come with tax filing and making the most out of your situation requires you to keep a few key things in mind.

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act: Breaking It Down

Billed as a "pro-growth tax plan" and positioned by many as one of the most significant examples of tax reform in our nation's history, the Tax Cut and Jobs Act was approved by Congress on December 22, 2017 and will impact both individuals and businesses in a wide range of different ways. In addition to reducing tax rates for both businesses and individuals, the act includes a personal tax simplification process empowered by increasing the standard deduction and family tax credits, all while eliminating personal exemptions and shifting the emphasis away from itemized deductions.

If all this sounds complicated... that's because it is. "Most clients are very interested in the impact that the new tax law will have on their situations," said Peter Flournoy, CPA. "Therefore, planning opportunities abound, and I am working to educate my clients on aspects of the new tax law that will have the most impact on them."

Donel Fontil of FLG Tax Consultants agreed, saying that "people are somewhat anxious and have lots of questions." While a lot of those questions have happy answers due to the emphasis on simplicity that the new law brings with it... sadly, this isn't always the case.

Sandra Reed, CPA said that "it is rewarding to be able to tell most clients that they can expect to pay less federal tax, but also disheartening to have to tell some that they will pay more." She continued, saying, "Unfortunately, I have found that the ones that will pay more are, for the most part, retired widows living on fixed incomes -- those that really need to pay less and that don't benefit from the increased standard deduction."

This is another reason why it's always important to enlist the help of a qualified professional -- you truly never know what surprises massive new tax legislation may have in store for you until you're in the middle of the preparation process itself.

Tax Withholding Issues

Another major pitfall that may taxpayers are falling into this season takes the form of tax withholding problems, created in part due to the uncertainty surrounding the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. Reports indicate that many people reduced their tax withholding after the law passed in an effort to make the most of the upcoming rate changes, but they have essentially done so to a far greater degree than they should have.

This has led to people who are used to getting significant refunds following a trend that will absolutely land them with a "tax due" bill in 2019 if they're not careful.

Cyber Crime Is on the Rise

Perhaps the most immediate issue that taxpayers will face this year, however, takes the form of cyber crime. Tax scams are certainly nothing new, but they're absolutely on the rise -- one study estimates that spear phishing schemes and taxpayer data theft, in general, saw a massive 60% spike in January and February of 2018 compared to the same two months from just a year prior.

Much of this comes from an unfortunately common (and successful) scam called the "New Client" technique which targets tax practitioners instead of individuals. A "new client" emails a practitioner about a specific issue they're having and attaches files to the message, only those files are loaded with malware. Once a practitioner's computer has been infested, those hackers can then steal taxpayer information from all of their clients.

The Perils of the DIY Trend

Filing mistakes and other errors are always a major pitfall for taxpayers everywhere, but the 2018 tax season is unique in that it has actually served to highlight what a major problem this seems to be. Indeed, many taxpayers have foregone the help of a professional in recent years and have instead begun filing their taxes themselves. While there is certainly a wide range of different software applications designed to help make this easier than ever, "easy" doesn't always equal "better" or even "correct" -- as the following statistics go a long way toward proving.

According to one recent study, as many as 19 million people now owe the IRS a collective $391 billion. In fact, one out of about every 50 U.S. taxpayers now has a bill so large (and a problem so severe) that it actually warrants expert representation or the help of some other type of outside professional.

Since it's also true that the IRS spends most of its $11.2 billion annual budget on enforcement, this is not the type of problem one can expect to just "go away." If anything, this highlights the importance of partnering with a tax professional to file your return if you aren't completely confident in your ability to do it yourself. Even if you are, it's probably still a good idea.

The Silver Lining: It's Almost Over

While it's true that the 2018 tax season is a bit different than those of years past due in no small part to the uncertainty that the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act has created, the good news is that April 17 is right around the corner, and soon this will ALL be over for professionals and their clients alike.

"Tax season is going good this year," said Regina Buckley of Kab Bookkeeping and Tax Service, Inc. "It is busier than last year, but that's not necessarily a bad thing."

Indeed, another year is almost officially "on the books," and it will be truly exciting to turn our attention away from the proverbial rearview mirror and toward the remainder of 2018, 2019 and beyond soon enough.

Lee Reams II, writes for TaxBuzz, a tax news and advice website. Reach him at [email protected] or on LinkedIn.

share this post
Search for matches...
Lee Reams II

Lee Reams II


I am a tax and business news junkie who has spent the last 20 years developing and executing "best in class" word-of-mouth marketing campaigns for tax and accounting professionals. With TaxBuzz and CountingWorks we have taken that same commitment to quality content directly to the consumer. Keeping you up-to-date with the latest tax law changes, business growth tips and planning strategies to help you reach your best financial outcome.

Recommended Professionals

In the face of economic uncertainty, TaxBuzz is the industry's most up-to-date tax information.

Join 60,000 who get our weekly newsletter. No spam.

Need help selecting a firm?

Use our specialized search engine and get matched to the best accounting and tax firm for your needs.

Related Posts

Latest Posts