New Year Brings New Laws

RENO, NV - As we ring in 2014, several new laws will go into effect.

1. Health Care:

One of the biggest laws affecting the nation is the Affordable Care Act. The Individual Mandate, which requires everyone to have health insurance by March 31 or pay a penalty on your 2015 taxes, starts Wednesday, January 1.

Also on Wednesday, insurance companies can't deny coverage, charge more for pre-existing conditions, or drop people if they get sick.

2. New Laws for Drivers:

Here in Nevada, the new year marks a victory for undocumented people looking to drive legally. The first applicants for the controversial Driver Authorization Cards can begin signing up after the new year.

Those applying for the cards will have to follow the same steps as everyone else to get the card. That includes taking a written test along with the driving test.

Applicants must prove they have residency here in the state, and bring proof of identification. There's also a very important step applicants need to take before they wait in line.

"If you have a document that's in a foreign language, it has to be translated by one of the authorized translators that's on our website," David Fierro, spokesperson for the Department of Motor Vehicles said.

A full list of accepted documents can be found here:

Since January 1 is a holiday, applicants will have to wait until Thursday, Jan. 2 to apply. An estimated 60,000 people are expected to apply for the cards. DMV representatives don't know how many will come withing the first few day, but as a precaution, they are asking other people who have DMV business to postpone coming if possible to help cut down on lines.

Another change for drivers; now you won't have to go to the DMV as often.

Starting in January, the driver's license renewal period is being extended.

"It will be phased in through a number of years but eventually everyone will have an 8 year license as opposed to a 4 year license," Fierro said. "Which will make it much less frequent that you have to come and also as an effort to help keep our lines down."

Those born in an odd year will have one more 4 year renewal before the change applies to them. Those born in an even year will receive the 8 year license with their next renewal. Those 65 years of age and older will still be given a 4 year license.

3. Hollywood Comes to Nevada:

With the new year comes some changes to taxes. The Silver State could soon be featured more on the silver screen. For the next three years, law makers are hoping to lure Hollywood into the state with Senate Bill 163. The bill gives tax credits to film makers who spend 60% of their budget here, or at least $500,000.

4. Mortgage Debt Forgiveness:

While some tax breaks are starting, others are ending.

One that can hit homeowners hard is the expiration of the Mortgage Debt Forgiveness Relief Act. First enacted in 2007, the tax break allowed underwater homeowners to exclude any debt forgiveness they were granted from a bank when calculating their taxable income.

That means underwater homeowners considering a short sale could be hit with an extra tax burden. For example, someone with a $100,000 mortgage who is allowed to sell for $80,000 will be expected to pay taxes on the remaining $20,000.

Representatives from the Nevada Association of Realtors say there is a chance congress will extend the act for at least a year, but the extension may not happen until later in 2014. Both Senator Heller and Senator Reid support extending the act.

5. Expiring Education Tax Breaks

A series of popular tax breaks are also set to expire at midnight, including two tax breaks that will affect education.

The first is the Educator Expense Deduction which allows teachers to write off up to $250 of out-of-pocket expenses they incur buying school supplies. It's estimated that about 3.6 million teachers took advantage of the write off in 2010.

Teachers are encouraged to buy any supplies they may need before the end of the day. That way they can take advantage of the break on their 2013 taxes.

Another expiring tax break will hurt parents and students paying for higher education. A deduction for tuition and fees of up to $4,000 is currently available to qualifying people. It's estimated that more than 2 million taxpayers claimed this break in 2010, saving more than $4 billion, according to the most recent data available.

Both of these tax breaks could be extended, but we will have to wait for Congress to meet in January. To be on the safe side, you'll need to pay your Spring 2014 tuition and fees by the end of the day.

6. Lights Out:

It will soon be lights out for incandescent light bulbs. The 40 and 60 watt bulbs are being phased out under the Energy Independence and Security Act signed into law by president George W. Bush back in 2007. Although the are going out of production, stores are allowed to continue selling the bulbs while they have them in stock.