Can I deduct sales tax paid on my new RV? How?

So you bought a new RV in 2018, maybe with your newfound riches (or a miscalculation of what they might be) resulting from the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. If you bought at a dealer, you probably paid sales tax at purchase time, and maybe even included it in the loan you took out (remember, it’s probably deductible). Can you deduct that payment on your 2018 tax return?

The State and Local Tax (SALT) Deduction

Let’s start with what qualifies: you can deduct either state and local income taxes or state and local sales tax. In most circumstances, you want to pick whichever one results in the larger deduction. If you’re in a state with only one or the other, your decision is probably pretty easy; if you have to pay both, you’ll probably need to do some figuring. In most cases, if you’re working full-time and are a resident of a state with an income tax, in most years you’ll probably choose to deduct income tax. But large purchases, like an RV, often incur enough tax to tip the balance in favor of the sales tax deduction.

What’s new for 2018?

The basics of what qualifies for the deduction haven’t changed. You can still deduct state and local sales or income tax, along with real and personal property taxes. What’s new is a cap on the sales or income tax deduction at $10,000, and the deduction for property taxes is included in the cap.

That means that if you combine state and local property taxes with either sales tax or income tax, and you get to $10,000 without your RV purchase, none of the sales tax or property tax on your new RV changes your tax bill. Even if you’re not at $10,000 in deductible state and local taxes, you still need to get to $12,000 (or $24,000 for married couples) in deductible expenses in order to be better off itemizing than simply taking the standard deduction.

If you’re going to take the deduction…

If you’re going to take the sales tax deduction, make sure you tally up as much of your purchases subject to sales tax over the course of the year. With many more merchants charging sales tax on online purchases, purchases you may make while traveling in states with higher rates than your own, and purchasing habits that may be different from the average American, you’ve likely paid a good bit of sales tax in addition to what was paid in purchasing your RV.

Of course, if your RV purchase by itself, along with property taxes paid (in total) gets you to $10,000, you needn’t go any further with the figuring–unlike years past, that sales tax on that last bottle of wine on New Years Eve won’t change the tax picture. It might change how 2019’s tax year started, but we won’t talk about that…

Focus on the Bottom Line

If your blood starts to boil at the thought of not getting a deduction for your RV’s sales tax or personal property tax, step back and figure what you would have paid under the same circumstances if the tax law hadn’t changed. Don’t look at your refund or what you owe at tax time, but the total tax paid.

If you filed form 1040 in 2017, look at line 63. If you filed form 1040-EZ, look at line 12. Compare that number to the total tax paid for 2018–there’s just one form this time around, and you’ll find total tax on line 15. Regardless of what you did or did not get to deduct, what should matter is how much you paid in total.

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