We all have to pay our fair share of taxes, but let's not pay too much. Here are some tips:
1. Overlooked mileage deductions
There are two great mileage deductions that many people overlook. First, the IRS allows you to deduct mileage if the drive is "primarily for, and essential to,” medical care. This one’s tremendously helpful if you need frequent medical treatments outside the home, such as physical therapy, regular blood work, or even chemotherapy. For 2009, the medical mileage deduction is 24 cents per mile.
Also, if you work with a charity, be sure you take a deduction for the miles you drive related to your charity work. For 2009, the mileage rate remains unchanged at 14 cents per mile. If this little-used tax break applies to you, take advantage of it!
2. Tax deductions even if you DON’T itemize
If you don’t itemize deductions on your income tax return, you’ll want to pay attention to the following goody.
It used to be that if you wanted to deduct your home’s property taxes from your income, you had to itemize (using Schedule A). But a new law passed in 2008 lets you increase your standard deduction by the amount of real property tax you could have claimed if you did itemize -- up to $500 ($1,000 on a joint return).
3. Overlooked deduction on new vehicles
If you bought a new vehicle between February 17 and December 31, 2009, you can deduct the sales and excise taxes that you paid up to a maximum purchase price of $49,500. Even better, you can take this deduction whether you itemize or take the standard deduction. If you take the standard deduction, use Schedule L to claim your deduction.
4. Overlooked state tax deduction
If you paid any state income taxes in the Spring because you owed taxes when you filed your returns, remember to count it towards your 2009 state income tax deduction.
5. Tax deductions for “going green”
If you made an effort to “go green” in 2009, Uncle Sam wants to reward you by putting a few extra dollars in your pocket. Unlike deductions against your income, these are actual tax credits ... and tax credits are directly subtracted from the tax you owe!
First, you can get a tax credit of up to 30% of your cost for energy efficient heating and cooling products such as HVAC systems, solar water heaters and geothermal heat pumps.
Plus, you can get a tax credit in 2009 and 2010 of 30% on up to $1,500 dollars of energy-saving home improvements. If you made any improvements to make your home more energy efficient, such as replacing windows, insulating your attic, adding storm doors, etc., don’t overlook this tax credit.
6. Overlooked tax deductions when you sell your home
If you were lucky enough to sell your home last year, you have some tax deductions coming to you. You can deduct the costs associated with selling your home, including the commission you paid your real estate agent, any legal fees, and closing costs.
7. Overlooked tax deduction for homeowners
If you took out a first mortgage or refinanced after January 1, 2007 and are paying private mortgage insurance (PMI), that expense is now deductible. Simply use Line 13 on Schedule A -- the same form that you use to deduct mortgage interest and property taxes.
Your lender should make this easy by telling you the amount of your PMI premium in Box 4 of your Form 1098.
This deduction is scheduled to disappear after 2010, so make the most of it while it lasts!
8. Overlooked tax deductions for investors
Funny how so many investors can be SO careful with how they invest their money, yet careless when it comes to deducting investment-related expenses on their taxes. Be sure to write off any and all investment publications to which you subscribe. And don’t forget other expenses, such as your financial advisor’s annual fees, mileage for visits to your broker or financial advisor, safety deposit boxes and other investment fees that you may pay directly.
9. Deductions for those out of work
If you were unemployed in 2009, don’t overlook valuable tax deductions that can lower your tax bill. For starters, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (better known as the “stimulus package”) made the first $2,400 you receive in unemployment benefits tax free.
In addition, if you looked for a job in 2009 in the same field as the one that you lost, you might be able to deduct your job search expenses. Even if you didn’t get the job, your expenses may still be deductible. Possible deductions include employment agency fees, resume preparation, advertising, postage, long-distance phone calls, and travel. You can claim these job-seeking expenses as long as the amount of all miscellaneous itemized tax deductions is more than 2% of your adjusted gross income (AGI).
10. Tax credit for working parents
Don’t skip this one ... it’s really a tax credit and not a deduction. If you pay for childcare, including daycare or nanny services, you can reduce your taxes up to $3,000 for a single child or up to $6,000 for two or more children under the age of 13.
The amount of the credit ranges from 20 to 35% of your child care costs, depending on your gross income. For example, if your income is $43,000 or more, you can claim a 20% credit on your childcare costs. So if you have one child and you spend $8,000 a year in childcare costs, you can save 20% off the first $3,000 -- or $600.
As always, certain “rules” apply, so be sure to check with your tax advisor.
One last thing: Overlooked deduction for tax prep
Don’t forget to deduct ANY costs pertaining to tax planning. These are easy to forget because they really fall under the category of “miscellaneous” itemized expenses.
You can write off your tax preparation fees, plus portions of any legal or accounting fees related to your taxes. Meaning if you sat down with an attorney to review your estate, and you spent a part of that time reviewing the tax implications, that time would be tax deductible.
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