Tax season confusion: What you need to know before you file this year

Confused about how the new tax law will affect you? You’re not alone.

With the ink barely dry on a new tax law, confusion abounds on what moves to make or even what to ask a tax preparer. So what do you need to know before you collect that box of receipts and make the trip to see your accountant?

Many people may assume that with the December passage of the tax reform bill, the changes are taking effect with the forms they’re filing out over the next few months, said David Marzahl, president of the Center for Economic Progress, a Chicago nonprofit which provides free tax services for low-income individuals and families. But the 500-page law will affect taxes starting in 2018, not what’s owed for 2017.

“People need to move very cautiously as they prepare their 2017 tax returns and not be swayed by all the messaging,” Marzahl said. “For 2017, nothing has changed.”

Marzahl recommends that filers think about their 2017 returns and the tax reform changes in two separate steps: First, file your taxes with deductions you took last year, as long as nothing major has changed, like a marriage or a new baby. Once that’s done, he said, ask your tax preparer about what you can adjust to be fully prepared for the changes to come.
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