Individual tax return filing changes take effect in 2019

CHICAGO -- How you file your individual tax return will change in 2019 as a result of President Trump's Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

The act was created in part to simplify the often-complicated process, but homeowners and families with children will be see changes in the new year.

Although the tax reform law lowered tax rates for most taxpayers, it doubled the standard deduction and limited or discontinued many itemized deductions.

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The IRS has warned filers all year to update their withholding to ensure money isn't owed. For those who didn't, the upcoming tax filing season may come with a bill instead of the refund check they're expecting.

"It's hugely important because a lot of people depend on that money. They get it every year," said Brandon Thomas.

"I try to save at least half of it for a rainy day," said Kristine Geer.

Taxpayers will file returns under the sweeping new tax law for the first time in 2019.

"I'm looking forward to it because of the new tax laws," said Ray Dawson. "I'm looking forward to getting better returns than I got last year."

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But experts don't expect the process to be smooth.

"I expect I will get a lot more calls as the filing deadline approaches and people who have tried to do tax returns themselves come up with a fairly ugly result. 'What do you mean I owe money?'" said Greg Mermel, a certified public accountant on Chicago's North Side.

Due to the tax law, many taxpayers' withholding went down, adding more money to their paychecks. So some taxpayer may receive a smaller refund or even have to pay the government.

The median income in Cook County is about $54,000. Mermel said a single filer with no itemized deductions with that income would see their tax refund drop about $93 from their 2017 tax return. For a married couple with that household income, their refund would be reduced by $106.

Mermel said if you do owe money, don't panic.

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"The IRS is a surprisingly lenient creditor. If you owe money and you can't pay it, the IRS is very generous about installment agreements provided you don't have a bad history with them," he said.

If you file your taxes and you owe money, tax experts said that's a good time to change your withholding going forward.

The deadline for filing your tax return is April 15, but the IRS has yet to announce when the tax filing season will start.

If the government shutdown continues it could also impact the delivery of tax refund checks, which many Americans are worried about.

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