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I'm a resident of New York City. An accountant mentioned that I should consider paying state and local income tax on income earned in year 2017 before the end of 2017.

I don't remember the reasoning he gave.

What benefit might there be in doing so? Is there some general benefit to paying SALT during the year in which it was incurred? Does the Republican-led tax plan make it more beneficial to pay this in 2017?

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The current tax bill limits SALT deductions (including state income tax and property tax) to $10,000 starting in 2018. If you expect your SALT deductions to be over $10,000 next year (and thus you can't deduct some of it) or you expect the increased standard deduction in the new tax bill to be so high next year that you won't take advantage of the SALT deduction, I can think of two situations where it makes sense to pay something before the end of 2017:

  • In some states, property taxes are assessed in one year and (in whole or in part) due in the next year. According to the IRS announcement property taxes which are assessed in 2017 but due in 2018 can be paid in 2017 and deducted under in your 2017 federal income tax. If you pre-pay the payments that are due in 2018 in 2017, it will count as a deduction on your 2017 federal taxes, instead of for 2018 (when it might have been wasted).
  • If you expect to owe some amount instead of getting a refund on your state income taxes for 2017 (which you will file by April 2018), you might want to pre-pay estimated taxes to cover all your expected owed taxes, because SALT deduction is based on when the state taxes were paid, so if you paid the owed state taxes (for 2017 state taxes) in 2018 when filing taxes, then it will count for your 2018 SALT deduction (when it might be wasted); and by paying it in 2017 instead, you get it under the 2017 SALT deduction. (But note that paying more than you owe does not help, because the state tax refund you get in 2018 would count as income in 2018 for federal income tax purposes. Try to just pay close to the amount you owe.)
  • This is extremely important for people who live in high tax states (like CA, NY, OR, and HI) who sold lots of bitcoins in 2017. It can save you as much as $50,000 for every $1 million you sold. – David Schwartz Dec 17 '17 at 9:29
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"No man's life, liberty, and property are safe while Congress is in session."

The current tax bill working its way through Congress will eliminate or limit the itemized deduction for State and local income taxes. It is expected that the new rules will apply for tax years 2018 and beyond, but who knows? It might be that the rules will apply starting from the date that the President signs the bill and that payments made before the signing date are deductible but those made after the signing date (including those made with your tax return due in mid-April) will not be deductible or will have limited deductibility.

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    The conference bill has been released and I'd guess there's a 95+% chance of it becoming law. It's reasonable to take actions that make good financial sense assuming this happens, as long as the consequences of you taking that action and then it unexpectedly not becoming law aren't too bad (as I believe is the case here). – Craig W Dec 16 '17 at 20:19
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According to the Tax Foundation reading of the matter, in the final conference report (as just passed in the Senate, with a slightly altered name), there is an explicit exclusion to prepaying State and Local Taxes, except for property taxes, in 2017 for 2018's taxes.

This would mean, for example, that you cannot make an estimated income tax payment for 2018, and deduct it on your 2017 taxes.

However, property taxes are apparently excluded from this. See the conference report, about page 88:

SEC. 11042. LIMITATION ON DEDUCTION FOR STATE AND LOCAL, ETC. TAXES.

(a) In General.--Subsection (b) of section 164 is amended  by adding at the end the following new paragraph:
        ``(6) Limitation on individual deductions for 
    taxable years 2018 through 2025.--In the case of an 
    individual and a taxable year beginning after December 
    31, 2017, and before January 1, 2026--
                ``(A) foreign real property taxes shall not 
            be taken into account under subsection (a)(1), 
            and
                ``(B) the aggregate amount of taxes taken 
            into account under paragraphs (1), (2), and (3) 
            of subsection (a) and paragraph (5) of this 
            subsection for any taxable year shall not 
            exceed $10,000 ($5,000 in the case of a married 
            individual filing a separate return).
    The preceding sentence shall not apply to any foreign 
    taxes described in subsection (a)(3) or to any taxes 
    described in paragraph (1) and (2) of subsection (a) 
    which are paid or accrued in carrying on a trade or 
    business or an activity described in section 212. For 
    purposes of subparagraph (B), an amount paid in a 
    taxable year beginning before January 1, 2018, with 
    respect to a State or local income tax imposed for a 
    taxable year beginning after December 31, 2017, shall 
    be treated as paid on the last day of the taxable year 
    for which such tax is so imposed.''.
(b) Effective Date.--The amendment made by this section  shall apply to taxable years beginning after December 31, 2016.

Notice this specific detail:

    For purposes of subparagraph (B), an amount paid in a 
    taxable year beginning before January 1, 2018, with 
    respect to a State or local income tax imposed for a 
    taxable year beginning after December 31, 2017, shall 
    be treated as paid on the last day of the taxable year 
    for which such tax is so imposed.

That only applies to income taxes. Of course, it effectively applies to sales/use taxes, insomuch as you can't typically "prepay" them before you actually owe them; I suppose there could be some way to shenanigan this, but most likely the one real way to benefit in the 2017 tax year is to make your purchase in 2017. So if you're deducting sales taxes, and planning to buy a car soon, perhaps do so in 2017.

Property taxes, however, can be prepaid to your heart's content - especially in states, like mine (Illinois) which actually bill you 2017's taxes in 2018 - thus allowing you to benefit from itemized deductions and then take a standard deduction next year.

I second user102008's recommendation to also pay any actually-owed state income taxes for 2017 prior to the end of 2017; if you're not expecting a refund, it's a smart choice.

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