6 last minute tips to save on taxes

When it comes to an income tax refund, many people look at it as a windfall – unexpected money that can be used for fun. Truly, though you could be investing or saving your money and putting it to better use, but the amount of this refund is determined by the numbers that are generated from the previous year. If you would still like to receive a large refund, now’s the time to start thinking about what you can do to maximize the amount you will receive.

Here are some of the more common strategies that you can implement before the end of the year:

  1.  Retirement Plan Contributions – If you want to reduce your taxable income, you should make the maximum allowable contribution to your traditional retirement plan.  In some cases, for small business owners and others who make the maximum allowable lump-sum contribution to their plans for the year, this deduction can be fairly large. Contributions to a Roth account may be the best way to go, but traditional plan contributions afford a deduction that can make a large difference in the amount of income that must be declared. Taxpayers that may be in a lower tax bracket can still claim a retirement savings credit for their contributions to an employer-sponsored plan or an IRA.
  2. Charitable donations —  If you’re close to being able to itemize your deductions you should consider making either a cash or property donation to a qualified charity before years’ end. Charitable donations can increase your refund by hundreds of dollars, depending on the amount donated.
  3. Miscellaneous Deductions – You will definitely want to check with your tax professional because there are many miscellaneous deductions you haven’t even considered. Did you know that gambling losses are deductible (on par with winnings), and that investment expenses associated with IRA fees can be deducted if they exceed a percentage of your adjusted gross income?
  4. Education expenses – Parents who pay for their child’s tuition for college are usually eligible for education tax credits. Individuals who have depleted their savings to cover tuition expenses need to discuss this with their accounting professional as well. Credits for higher education expenses can reduce your tax bill, sometimes by thousands of dollars.
  5. Good record keeping – It may seem elementary, but good record keeping is essential to maximizing your tax deductions. You need to keep records of all charitable contributions, other deductions and anything else you have that can increase your income tax refund. Keep copies of all receipts and documentations; the IRS requires this in order to accept the deductions on the return.
  6. Capital losses  — If you’re a short term investor, this might be a great time to cut your losses in the stock market. Trade losing stocks or bonds for similar type investments that could offer potential gains and realize the losses on the returns. Doing this can provide a maximum reduction of up to $3,000 of your reportable income, or reduce your reported income.

These are just a few of the ways you may be able to increase your tax refund. Remember, though the refund is just that – money that was withheld from your paycheck during the year that you might have been able to use, save or invest.

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