Should I prepay my property taxes?

Ask NJMoneyHelp

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Q. Today I prepaid half of 2018’s property taxes to maximize my deductions this year since I won’t be able to deduct the full amount next year. Since I will likely be subject to the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT), I don’t know how much sense this makes. That’s why I only prepaid half. What do you think?
— Trying to save

A. Lots of taxpayers in New Jersey will find themselves in a position like yours: paying high taxes that they can no longer fully deduct under the new tax plan.

There’s been confusion on this issue.

“The tax bill specifically addresses that you cannot prepay your 2018 income tax,” said Gail Rosen, a certified public accountant with Wilkin & Guttenplan in Martinsville. “It does not mention whether a pre-payment of real estate taxes would be allowed as a tax deduction in 2017 – thus it is not in black and white what is permissible.”

She said it is a reasonable position to prepay real estate taxes, but not guaranteed.

A taxpayer can decide to pay 2018 real estate taxes by Dec. 31, 2017, with the bigger question being how much 2018 real estate taxes they feel comfortable paying, Rosen said.

“In New Jersey, homeowners have your first two quarters’ bills for 2018,” she said. “Logically, they have a position to pay those quarters since you have the bills.”

It would be more aggressive to pay the entire year of 2018 real estate taxes in advance, Rosen said, but it would be up to each taxpayer to decide how aggressive they wish to be given that the permissibility of either of these options is not guaranteed.

She said you might want to wait until closer to the end of the year to make prepayments of real estate taxes just in case Congress or the IRS attempts to close this planning opportunity prior to year-end.

We’re a little worried that you made a move without knowing for sure how the tax law might impact you.

“Any time I play a game with my kids where I don’t know the rules, I lose,” said Jerry Lynch, a certified financial planner with JFL Total Wealth Management in Boonton. “So I learned: Don’t play games where you don’t know the rules.”

Lynch noted if you do have an issue with AMT, there is no benefit because you wouldn’t get the deduction, he said.

He also offers a little advice to you on the side:

“The best reason to use a CPA is not because they can do your taxes,” Lynch said. “The best reason is that when you have a tax question, you have someone to ask questions prior to making a decision that impacts your taxes.”

Email your questions to moc.p1529624402leHye1529624402noMJN1529624402@ksA1529624402.

NJMoneyHelp.com presents certain general financial planning principles and advice, but should never be viewed as a substitute for obtaining advice from a personal professional advisor who understands your unique individual circumstances.