the-most-overlooked-tax-deductionsApril 15th is fast approaching and the time will soon come when you can no longer procrastinate and you begin the dreaded task of filing your taxes. Whether you are expecting a refund or expecting to pay, either way filing taxes is a most unpleasant task.

No-one that I know, besides my mother, likes filing taxes.

It’s one of those laborious chores that must be done and it is so confusing and overwhelming that many of us would rather do almost anything to avoid filling out the forms.

Not only is it confusing and frustrating, it can often spark arguments and cause financial stress in your relationship. After all, one of the topics most people fight about frequently is…money. Or, more often the case, a lack of money.

Rather than pay someone else to wade through my private life and investigate and question every receipt, I choose to tackle this monumental task myself. With, of course, the assistance of TaxAct.com, which is just one of many available options for the D.I.Y. tax filer.

In order to maximize your refund, or lower your tax bill, take advantage of every available (and legal) deduction possible.

In spite of the fact that Vice President Joe Biden says that paying higher taxes is the “patriotic thing for wealthier Americans” to do, I prefer to limit this particular display of patriotism.

Here are some of the more commonly overlooked tax deductions available to many Americans, some of which I claimed myself.

State Sales Tax – If you live in a state where you pay a state sales tax, you may be eligible for this deduction. This year this deduction may be overlooked as it expired at the end of 2011 and was not available for the majority of 2012.

However, after some fiscal cliff negotiations, this deduction was restored in January 2013 retroactively for 2012 and for 2013. Most tax software has a sales tax calculator you can use. Don’t overlook the additional sales tax you may be able to claim on a large purchase, such as a car, a boat, an RV, etc.

Charitable Donations – Most tax payers don’t overlook their standard charitable giving, such as giving to a church, the Red Cross, or other non-profit organizations, but there are more legal deductions available to you if you read the fine print. Travel expenses you incurred for a charity qualify for a .14 cent per mile deduction as well as tolls and parking fees.

The bags of clothing and shoes you donated to your local Salvation Army or Goodwill have some value (remember to get a receipt for fair-market value), as well as other little things such as postage stamps you purchased for your school booster club mailings. If you prepare food for your local non-profit’s feed-the-hungry soup kitchen, you can deduct the cost of ingredients.

When you look for opportunities throughout the year to give, remember to keep track of your contributions. Remember though, if your combined donations to any organization exceeds $250 you must get a written receipt from them.

Job Search Expenses – If you are feeling the recession pinch and have had your pay or benefits reduced or you were laid off, you may be in the job market for a better job. If you seek employment in the same line of work, you can deduct certain job search expenses, including meals, transportation, and lodging – if your search requires an overnight stay. Other deductible expenses include employment agency fees and printing and mailing fees for resumes and business cards.

Moving Expenses for your first job – While you cannot deduct job search expenses for your first job, you may qualify to deduct moving expenses if your first job is at least 50 miles from your home and you relocate.

Military Reservist Travel Expenses – Military Reservists may qualify for travel expenses to and from their monthly drills and annual duty. There are some restrictions, such as a minimal travel distance of 100 miles and an overnight stay, but if you qualify this could further reduce your tax liability.

Tax Preparation fees – If you paid tax preparation or filing fees last year, they may be deductible.

Student Loan Interest (if paid by mom & dad) – School loan deductions are generally only for the student who is repaying the loan, but if mom and/or dad give money to the student to pay the school loan, mom/dad may benefit from this deduction.

Additional deductions you may qualify for include Child-Care Credit, Refinancing Points, the American Opportunity Credit (college tuition), Energy Credits for Qualifying Home Improvements, and many, many more.

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The tax code is crazy and confusing, and I’m not sure anyone really understands all of it. I know I don’t. I am certainly not a tax expert and this should not be construed as tax advice.

Notice that with every deduction I said you MAY qualify for it. With each one there are qualifying circumstances, and I encourage you to consult a tax professional (or use reputable tax software) to help you navigate the turbulent water.

You may have heard someone say that there are only two absolute requirements in life. Paying taxes, and dying.  My goal is that both are as pleasant an experience as possible!

Tax time doesn’t have to drive a wedge in your relationship. Talk about your finances openly and honestly with your spouse, and use this opportunity to discuss your financial goals.

And if you overlooked some potential deductions or threw out old receipts last year, begin new habits that will pay a dividend next spring.

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