It's that time of year again, ladies and gentlemen: the tax man cometh. If you're very lucky, he'll make a deposit at your house rather than a withdrawal, but few of us are immune to the bite of the IRS.
Scrambling to find enough deductions is not just frustrating, but sometimes heart-stopping—discovering that you owe an exorbitant amount is practically heart-attack-inducing. That's why you need an easy, convenient list of all the possible ways to get just a little tax relief. Since high school didn't prepare any of us for the horrors of tax season, with its W-2s and Schedule Cs, it's only fair that you get a cheat sheet. It's not like your old math teacher's going to catch you or anything.
Re-Evaluate Your Dependent Situation
You probably know that you can use your children as dependents. That's pretty self-explanatory. However, you may not realize that you can claim a child as a dependent until the age of 19, provided your child isn't in school. If your child is in school, then congratulations! You can claim your studious progeny until he or she turns 24. Furthermore, you can legally claim children with permanent disabilities no matter what their age.You may not know that you can also claim parents as dependents, provided that your relationship meets a few qualifications. For instance, you have to provide over half of the financial support your dependent parent receives. That means that you can also use your mother or father's medical expenses as you itemize yours. Nor is that all. There's a wide world of dependents you can claim without getting into trouble—or being on the receiving end of an audit. Considering that most standard dependent deductions are $1,000, it's worth seeing if you can claim anyone else. Mind you, if any relatives live with you, and if you take care of or support them, they likely qualify.
Don't Forget Your Medical Deductions
Medical deductions are severely under-utilized, but that's probably because no one realizes just how much they can claim. Did you know that if your doctor says that you need to tear up your carpet and put down hypoallergenic floors because of your allergies, then it counts as a medical expense? If your spouse has an accident and you have to take her or him back and forth to various appointments, your mileage is a deduction. Batteries for hearing aids, ace bandages, and the presence of a home health aide all qualify as medical expenses. Think you might want to check your tax form again?
Skip The Standard Deduction
Everybody wants the standard deduction. After all, it's easy to claim, it's convenient, and you don't have to mess with a bunch of questions and calculations. However, the odds are relatively excellent that you'll get back more money if you take the time to itemize your list of deductions. Yes, it takes patience, and you'll have to carve out a chunk of time, but the money you receive is worth it. It's not an exaggeration to suggest that, in some cases, itemizing your deductions makes the difference between receiving a refund and getting a bill. A word to the wise, however: anytime you go the route of itemized deductions over the standard one, make sure you bring your receipts. Guesstimating works with certain aspects of your taxes, but for single items, especially large purchases, you need proof.Don't fear the tax man. Don't hibernate during tax season, either—seriously, the IRS will come and get you if you do that. There's a simple secret to doing your taxes: patience. It's a once a year chore that we all have to do, so why not take an extra hour or so to make your refund worth your while?