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2018 Paycheck Planning

2018 Paycheck Planning

A new year usually means changes to your paycheck. At the end of each year, the IRS and Social Security Administration issue new sets of tax guidelines and social security limits for the coming year. The impacts might be even more significant in 2018, following the passage of the Tax Cut and Jobs Act of 2017.

Depending on how much you earn, these new limits can impact your regular paycheck. For instance, the Social Security Administration might take a bigger bite from your salary with each check. You also might have to pay the Medicare Tax according to the Affordable Care Act rules.

Because revised tax and social security limits go into effect at the start of each new year, this is a good time for employees to take a closer look at their household budgets. After all, a smaller paycheck might change the amount of money you can stash in your investment vehicles or sink into a college fund for your children.

It is important to note that these changes are in force starting at the beginning of 2018. Make sure that you understand that these numbers impact your 2018 paycheck, but not your 2017 income tax return that you will have to file by April 15, 2018.

The return you file by April 15, 2018, will use the rules from 2017. You will use these numbers when you fill out your tax returns in April of 2018.

Here is a look at some of the more significant changes coming to your paycheck this year:

Defined contribution plans: The maximum amount you can invest in a workplace 401(k), 403(b), 457(b) or federal Thrift Savings Plan has been increased by $500 in 2018. That means that you can invest a maximum of $18,500 this year in one of these plans. The annual limit for combined employee and employer contributions, however, has risen slightly from $54,000 in 2017 to $55,000 in 2018.

Individual Retirement Accounts: The maximum amount of money you can contribute to an IRA has not changed, either. You can still contribute a maximum of $5,500 this year or $6,500 if you are 50 or older.

Defined benefit plan limits: If you are fortunate enough to receive a defined benefit plan -- commonly known as a pension -- the limit on the maximum annual benefit that you can receive in 2018 has increased by $5,000 to $220,000.

Social Security: Some things have changed. Others have not. The Social Security tax rate remains the same at 12.4 percent. This rate is evenly split between employers and employees, meaning that both pay 6.2 percent. In 2018, employees will pay Social Security taxes on up to $128,400 of their income, a fairly modest jump from 2017's $127,200. What does this mean? If you make $128,400 or more in 2018, you will pay a total of $7,960.80 this year in Social Security taxes. Double the amount to $15,921.60 if you are self-employed and have to pay the entire tax.

Social Security benefits: Since there was a slight jump in inflation during 2017, the Social Security Administration will be making a minor 2.0% increase in payments for 2018. That is the most substantial percentage increase since 2012. That will bring the maximum Social Security benefit up to $2,788 per month.

Medicare tax:Medicare tax rates remain unchanged from 2017. Recall that higher earners pay a higher rate as mandated by the federal Affordable Care Act. Under the Act, employers must withhold 0.9 percent of all employees' wages over $200,000, or $250,000 for married couples filing jointly.

Standard deductions: Tax Cut and Jobs Act of 2017 will have its most significant impact when it comes to the standard tax deductions in 2018. They will be jumping a lot for almost every individual and married couples. For single taxpayers, the standard deduction nearly doubled to $12,000 in 2018 from $6,350 in 2017. The deduction for married taxpayers filing separately also increased to those same amounts. For those married taxpayers who file jointly, the standard deduction has nearly doubled as well. It goes from $12,700 in 2017 to $24,000 in 2018. Heads of Household were not left out either. The standard deduction for this group goes from $9,350 in 2017 to $18,000 in 2018.

Flexible spending accounts: Employees can make a maximum contribution of $2,650 in 2018 to employer-sponsored health care flexible spending accounts. That number is an increase of $50 from 2017 limits.

Adoption credit: Taxpayers adopting a child with special needs can claim a $13,570 tax credit. For all other adoptions, taxpayers can take a credit for the actual amount of qualified adoption expenses, up to a limit of $13,570. This credit will gradually phase out for taxpayers with a modified adjusted gross income of $203,540 or more.

Changes such as these occur every year and are not unusual. The IRS is always tinkering with the tax code, which is why you need to take a new look at your annual budget each year. After all, if your paycheck changes, so should your budget.