By MATT BLOIS
The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act passed in December 2017 lowered tax rates, increased the standard deduction and implemented other major reforms to the tax code.
In some ways, those changes made filing taxes this year simpler for many residents of Williamson County, especially those taking the larger standard deduction. However, the reforms also created a new set of rules that tax preparers had to learn.
The Internal Revenue Service estimated it needed to create or revise more than 400 forms and publications for the 2019 tax filing season. That’s more than double the number of changes the agency has to make in a typical year.
Im Cashen, the manager of free tax preparation services through United Way in Williamson County, said it has taken some time to get used to the new forms.
“We like to review the tax return with the client after we’re done. Before, we were familiar with the 1040. We knew exactly this line means this and this line means that,” she said. “The familiarity of the forms has been more difficult to explain to people.”
Craig Ballentine, a Certified Public Account at Patterson, Hardee and Ballentine in Franklin, agreed that it has taken a lot of work to learn about the changes.
“In typical fashion a lot of the rules and regulations with the law didn’t get finalized until January in some cases,” he said. “We … did a lot of continuing education, workshops to get ready for it. That continued through January and February of this year
One of the biggest changes in the new law is the increase in the standard deduction. It almost almost doubled from $6,350 in 2017 to $12,000 in 2018. That alone makes itemized deductions unnecessary for many people.
Cashen said most people filing taxes through United Way chose the standard deduction, which can make the process of filing taxes much simpler.
“It is easier because the standard deduction basically doubled, which means most people are taking the standard deduction instead of itemizing,” she said. “That does speed up the tax process.”
The United Way provides free tax preparation services at several locations throughout the county for households that made less than $66,000 in 2018.
Cashen said the organization served more than 12,000 people in Middle Tennessee last year. She expects that number to increase by about 30 percent this year because the organization has more sites and more volunteers.
Ballentine usually works with clients who have higher incomes. For his clients, the reforms didn’t make their taxes simpler because they’re less likely to use the standard deduction.
“For them, there were changes in the code, but to say it’s simpler is just silly. There’s a lot of that rhetoric that just doesn’t translate to folks that are involved in business or real estate,” he said. “This is not a simplification of the code by any stretch of the imagination.”
Taxpayers have until April 15 to file their taxes.
The United Way provides free tax preparation for households that made less than $66,000 in 2018. There are several locations throughout the county and tax payers can make an appointment through the organization’s website.