Did you know a 7-year-old law might mean you’ll pay more in taxes in 2026?
5 tips to cut taxes even if the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act expires.
While 2026 could possibly be three Presidencies removed from 2017, a law passed that year may mean your taxes will go up in 2026 — unless Congress acts. That’s because the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), which reduced various taxes, will expire at the end of 2025.
Let’s review some of the law’s current benefits and how to save money even if provisions in the TCJA don’t get extended and taxes revert to 2017 levels.
Ways the TCJA currently saves you money
The TCJA cuts taxes by reducing some of the individual income tax rates. For instance, if you were in the 15% tax bracket before the TCJA, your tax rate dropped to 12%. If you were in the 25% tax bracket, you’re now in the 22% bracket. And if you fell in the 28% bracket, you’re now in the 24% tax bracket.
In addition to imposing lower tax rates on specific income brackets, the TCJA widened the income brackets and doubled the standard tax deduction, reducing taxes for most Americans.
Here’s an example of how federal income taxes would likely increase if the TCJA expires, according to the Tax Foundation:
“Consider a single worker who makes $60,000 per year and takes the standard deduction ($13,850 in 2023). After subtracting the standard deduction, her taxable income is reduced to $46,150, lowering her overall tax burden.
The first $11,000 is taxed at 10%, income between $11,001 and $44,725 is taxed at 12% and income between $44,726 and $46,150 is taxed at 22%. Her total federal income tax liability under the TCJA is $5,460.
Under the pre-TCJA tax rates and brackets, with a standard deduction of $8,300 and a personal exemption of $5,300, her tax liability would be $7,254 — a tax hike of $1,794.”
Though that’s a simplified example, letting the law sunset means most Americans would pay more federal income tax.
5 tips to cut taxes even if the TCJA expires
Whether Congress allows the TCJA to expire or extends some or all of its provisions, consider the following strategies to cut your income taxes.
1. Contribute to a traditional retirement account.
By contributing as much as possible to an individual retirement account (IRA), an employer-sponsored retirement plan, like a 401(k) or 403(b) or an account for the self-employed, you reduce your taxable income. That cuts your annual tax liability, helping you save more.
Traditional retirement contributions are tax-deductible, and your account growth is tax-deferred until you take distributions in retirement. There’s generally no income or age limit to contribute to a traditional account.
Taking withdrawals from a traditional retirement account before age 59.5 means paying income tax plus an additional 10% early withdrawal penalty. But once you reach age 73 or 75 (starting in 2033), you must begin taking the required minimum distributions annually.
2. Contribute to a Roth retirement account.
Instead of deferring taxes with a pre-tax traditional retirement account, you might prefer paying them now while tax rates are generally lower, using an after-tax Roth, such as a Roth IRA or 401(k). Your withdrawals in retirement are tax-free, giving you income that doesn’t have to be shared with the government.
Taking Roth withdrawals before age 59.5 means you must pay income tax on earnings plus a 10% penalty. But there are no required minimum distributions from a Roth at any age.
However, there are annual income limits to contribute to a Roth IRA. For 2024, you’re ineligible to contribute with modified adjusted gross income at or above $161,000 as a single taxpayer or at or above $240,000 if you’re married and file taxes jointly.
3. Make Roth conversions.
If you earn too much to contribute to a Roth IRA, you can take advantage of today’s lower tax rates by making Roth conversions. Doing a conversion means moving funds from a pre-tax retirement account, such as a traditional IRA, to a Roth IRA and paying tax on them.
The idea behind Roth conversions is proactively paying tax at a lower rate now than at a potentially higher rate in the future. Converting amounts that fill a relatively low tax bracket is a wise strategy that could leave you with significantly more retirement money.
4. Contribute to a health savings account.
If you have an HSA-qualified health plan, you can make tax-deductible contributions to a health savings account (HSA), reducing your taxable income. Your funds grow tax-deferred, and you can make tax-free withdrawals to pay a wide range of eligible healthcare expenses, including medical, dental, vision, hearing and alternative care costs.
Your balance rolls over from year to year with no spending deadline. But using an HSA for non-qualified expenses (such as rent or groceries) means you must pay income tax plus an additional 20% penalty on those distributions.
5. Maximize tax deductions.
If your itemized deductions — such as mortgage interest, charitable donations and a portion of your medical expenses — exceed the standard deduction, be sure to itemize them to claim your full tax benefit. For 2024, the standard deduction is $14,600 for single taxpayers and $29,200 for married couples filing jointly.
These are a few potential strategies for minimizing your tax liability. As the tax landscape changes, consider getting guidance from a tax professional based on your financial situation and goals.Graphic source
Laura Adams is a money expert and spokesperson for Finder. She’s one of the nation’s leading personal finance and business authorities. As an award-winning author and host of the top-rated Money Girl podcast since 2008, millions of readers, listeners and loyal fans benefit from her practical advice. Laura is a trusted source for media and has been featured on most major news outlets, including ABC, Bloomberg, CBS, Consumer Reports, Forbes, Fortune, FOX, Money, MSN, NBC, NPR, NY Times, USA Today, US News, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post and more. She received an MBA from the University of Florida and lives in Vero Beach, Florida. Her mission is to empower consumers to live healthy and rich lives by making the most of what they have, planning for the future and making smart money decisions every day.
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