10 Year End Tax Savings Tips

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Get an early start to financial fitness by shaving some dollars off next year’s tax returns.

There are some unique ways to reduce your taxes if you start before the New Year (that's now).

Bob Meighan, vice president of Turbo Tax (INTU), recently gave MainStreet advice on how to starting saving for the 2009 tax season.

1. Last year the government gave out $115 billion in rebate checks, and some may not have qualified because income was too high or they had no children. Now, you may still qualify for a rebate check if you lost your job this year or had a baby.

2. The IRS now allows individuals that do not itemize to take a deduction for their property taxes. If you have property taxes the amount can be applied towards a standard deduction. Generally, mortgage deduction is the highest, but now any property taxes paid can be written off. (This tip mostly applies to retirees or people that paid off their home.)

3. If someone lost their job, and they spent money looking for a new position, those search expenses and counseling fees are tax deductible. However, if you’re looking for a job for the first time after graduation, that’s not deductible.

4. The IRS changed the rules last year: Foreclosure was usually taxable income that is now tax free.

5. Taxpayers who have mortgages or property tax bills that are due in early January may want to pay in December to accelerate the deduction. Otherwise, you would pay it in 2009 and would be unable to qualify for deduction until 2010.

6. Taxpayers who make a charitable contribution can donate using a credit card, which defers the payment. If you make a contribution now, even though you may not pay your credit card until February, you may make a deduction for 2008.

7. Individuals with investment losses can write up to $3,000 woth of losses against regular income. This tax benefit then reduces taxable income. If your wages were $75,000, after factoring your investment losses your taxable income would be $72,000.

8. First-time home buyers can receive a tax credit of up to $7,500 that reduces your tax liability dollar for dollar. However, there are some specific rules regarding this credit. It is more like an interest-free loan: You have to pay back the credit over the next 15 years.

9. Toys for Tots or Salvation Army donations are deductible. In fact, as long as it’s a charitable organization, a donation counts as a deduction. (Check with the IRS for organization types.) Next year, you may need evidence that you donated or a receipt, so it’s a good idea to take a picture if you’re contributing used items to farther substantiate your deduction.

10. Making contributions to your 401(k) before the end of the year, and contributions to your IRA up to April 15, can reduce your taxes, too.

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