Ridgewood NJ, the new year ushers in some changes in New Jersey laws that might affect you. From a slight bump in the minimum wage, and an opportunity for adopted people to obtain their original birth certificates. Bergen residents and retirees will be most affected by a phasing out the estate tax and expanding tax deductions on retirement income which help to soften the state’s anti-business and anti-work reputation and may even begin to stem the flight of people out of the state.
The big news for most is the 23-cent per-gallon rise in the gasoline tax that took effect on Nov. 1 to replenish a depleted Transportation Trust Fund, known by some critics as the Transportation Slush Fund.
Here are eight major changes for 2017:
1. Phasing out the estate tax
About 3,500 estates, worth at least $675,000, are subject to the estate tax each year. But starting this month, the state will impose the tax on estates worth $2 million or more. The entire tax would end after Jan. 1, 2018.
2. Expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit
The Earned Income Tax Credit for low-income workers get a boost from 30 percent of the federal level to 35 percent. The expansion will benefit about 600,000 New Jerseyans, who will pocket about $200 more from the tax return, Whiten said.
Eligibility depends on income and number of qualifying children. The income limit is about $14,800 for a single, childless adult, and $53,000 for a married couple with three or more children.
3. Reducing the sales tax
The sales tax will decrease from 7 percent to 6.875 percent on Jan. 1, and then from 6.875 percent to 6.625 percent on Jan. 1, 2018. Legislative leaders said Christie was adamant about enacting a sales tax cut when he agreed to raise the gas tax but it may not be noticed by most consumers unless you are making a major purchase.
4. Expanding tax deduction for retirees
A married couple filing their taxes jointly can currently exclude their first $20,000 in retirement income from state income taxes. But beginning in 2017 and phased in over four years, that amount will ultimately increase to $100,000 for joint filers, $75,000 for individuals and $50,000 for married couples.
5. Tax deduction for veterans
The tax deal introduced a $3,000 tax deduction for veterans. The law defines veterans as those who are “honorable discharged or released under honorable circumstances from active duty in the Armed Forces of the United states, a reserve component thereof, or the National Guard of New Jersey in a federal active duty status.”
6. Opening birth certificates sealed at adoption
The state Health Department will begin fulfilling requests from adopted people to obtain their original birth certificates containing information about their parents.
Birth parents could have requested to have their named blacked-out if they filed a redaction form before Dec. 31. At any time, they may submit a contact preference form stating whether they wish to have no contact with their child, contact through an intermediary, or unfettered contact. Birth parents who request no contact must also must complete a family history form seeking medical, cultural and social history information about the birth parent.
More information about the law is available on the health department’s website, or by calling 866-649-8726.
7. Eliminating bail for some non-violent offenders
One in 12 defendants remains in jail because a bail of $2,500 is too high.
Starting in January, fewer people who commit minor offenses will be held on bail and detained. And if a person is held in jail, prosecutors will have 90 days to seek an indictment from a grand jury, and must bring a person to trial with 120 days.
8. Raising the minimum wage, nominally
New Jersey’s minimum wage will go up six cents on Jan. 1 to $8.44 an hour, according to the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development.
It will be New Jerseyans’ first increase since January 2015, when it rose from $8.25 an hour to the current $8.38. The minimum wage did not increase this year because there was no rise in the state’s cost of living.