2018 tax news from H&R Block

December 28, 2018 : Annelise Wiens

Taxes are life. Sure, they’re numbers and dollars, but they all represent life: children being born or adopted into a family, buying a new house, getting a new job or starting a business, moving, retiring, even health insurance and medical bills can end up on a tax return. So going through finances, maybe to make final end-of-year tax moves, may be an opportunity to reminisce on the year that’s past. Another way to let taxes jumpstart those memories is a look back at the top tax stories from 2018.

Tax reform tops top tax stories

Like life, taxes change all the time. But in 2018, taxes changed more than they had in 30 years. Although tax reform passed late in 2017, most of it did not go into effect until 2018, and most people won’t see the full impact until they file their 2018 tax return early in 2019.

Tax reform’s impact on individuals

Most people are still wondering exactly how tax reform would impact them. So in February, H&R Block announced it would give its clients a personalized forward look review to show them how tax reform will impact them (H&R Block personalizes analysis of tax reform impact). After the April tax deadline, H&R Block offered everyone a free tax reform checkup (Bigger paychecks or bigger refund? Free H&R Block tax reform checkup helps taxpayers get the outcome they want). And in November, H&R Block released its analysis of who will be most at risk of getting a smaller refund or even having a balance due for 2018 (New tools, analysis show who will have bigger paychecks, smaller tax refund for this year).

Tax reform’s impact on paychecks and withholding

Tax reform not only will impact refunds in 2019, but it has also impacted paychecks in 2018. The IRS updated withholding tables for employers to calculate how much tax to withhold from employees’ paychecks, and made reviewing and updating a W-4 more important. Although it was important to fill out a W-4 to avoid tax reform surprises, an H&R Block survey in December showed only 46 percent feel prepared to update their withholding on their own.

Adapting to tax reform with new tax planning strategies

While people weren’t always sure how tax reform would impact them, others were ready to start adapting their tax and financial strategies to the new law. For example, people who expected to be impacted by the $10,000 state and local tax deduction limit wanted to know how they could adapt to the tax reform’s limits in the highest taxed states or the elimination of the deduction for unreimbursed business expenses.

New forms to go with new tax code

Tax reform wasn’t the only change; the IRS also announced a new 1040 form in July (Four things taxpayers need to know about the new 1040 for 2018).

Not all tax is about tax reform

Other tax stories dominated the year as well. There are the things that happen every year: the common tax mistake that leaves roughly $1 billion in refunds unclaimed each year and the last-minute rush to file by the April deadline as the clock winds down on tax-filing procrastination.

But there are some surprises too, like cat food expenses and other unusual tax benefits, how Oscar attendees and award winners and Olympic winners are taxed, and what baseball shows for taxpayers with income from multiple states.

It’s all about people

With 10,000 tax offices across the country, 2018 is another chance to tell the stories of H&R Block associates and franchisees, both in offices nationwide and in the downtown Kansas City, Missouri world headquarters.

H&R Block associates and franchisees in local offices nationwide

For example, after missing a job interview, a veteran and the hiring manager became friends and still work together. This veteran, Chris Stout, now runs a nonprofit, Veterans Community Project, and his H&R Block hiring manager Jacque Doan serves on its board.

Jesse and Doris Willard got their start in taxes as teens in California and went through a few ups and downs on the road to owning their own H&R Block franchise (After a bust, a tax franchise business boom).

The money Shelley Hotchkiss, district general manager for H&R Block, raised climbing 40 flights for the American Lung Association made her the top individual fundraiser for the St. Louis event. That distinction earned her the honor of throwing out the first pitch at a St. Louis Cardinals game (Raising money for charity, step by step).

After CNBC followed him around for an 11-hour day during tax season, Kwame Matthews, senior tax specialist, showed the behind-the-scenes action of a tax office outside of tax season. As Matthews said, “Taxes are every single day” (BlockStar: Kwame Matthews is a team leader and H&R Block tax expert).

H&R Block associates in downtown Kansas City headquarters

Not all H&R Block associates are tax professionals. Some are data scientists, working to make filing taxes better, in offices and online. Others work in experience design, distilling the tax code in a way that makes online tax preparation delightful for DIYers. Some are inventors, who get their ideas patented and earn rewards from H&R Block.

And others, not surprisingly, know taxes inside and out – so much so, they’ve earned the moniker “Navy SEALs of taxes” from CEO Jeff Jones. As executive director of The Tax Institute, Kathy Pickering leads this team, which supports H&R Block clients in offices and online.

Serving H&R Block’s communities

There is an H&R Block within five miles of most Americans, which means H&R Block and its associates and franchisees are part of most communities across the nation. For H&R Block, 2018 was a year for providing help and hope in these communities, for example:

Leadership changes and transformation at H&R Block

In February, H&R Block hired Tiffany Scalzitti Monroe as chief people officer, and Vinoo Vijay joined H&R Block as chief marketing officer in April. In October, H&R Block president and CEO Jeff Jones marked his first anniversary on the job. Monroe set out to elevate H&R Block’s talent and culture, and in October, H&R Block announced upfront, transparent prices for all tax prep.

Stay in the loop for 2019

To keep up with the top tax stories of 2019, follow @HRBlockNews.

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Annelise Wiens

Annelise Wiens

Editor and Producer

As the newsroom editor, Annelise Wiens is interested in more than just tax and industry news, but the stories of H&R Block's 80,000 associates, their communities and H&R Block's world headquarters in Kansas City, Missouri. Wiens joined H&R Block in 2014 from a public relations agency, where she worked with clients in the financial services industry. Before that, she worked as a communicator for a senior member of the United States House of Representatives. She graduated from Biola University in La Mirada, CA with a bachelor's degree in history.

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