Now that tax season is over, did you have to pay taxes instead of getting a refund? You’re definitely not alone, and there will probably be a repeat performance next year.
There are several things you can do to increase your chance for a refund and you don’t have to be a tax accountant to take advantage of these deductions. The key is to start planning now, and not wait until the end of the year. Below is a list of what you should do.
Contribute to a 401K or IRA
Most people think the only reason to contribute to a retirement fund is to ensure financial independence as you age, but it can also have short-term tax benefits. Most of the time the money you put towards your 401K and IRA are tax-deductible and are not included in your taxable income.
Donate to a Charity
Charitable donations or expenses tied to volunteering can all be itemized and deducted from your income at tax time. Just remember to save all receipts and keep track of all the miles you travel on behalf of a charity or the organization you are volunteering for. These miles will be deductible at 14 cents per mile for 2018.
Buy a Primary Residence
There’s a clear tax benefit to owning a home. The interest you pay on your mortgage is all tax deductible. For the first several years, mortgage payments go towards interest, which will radically decrease your adjusted gross income at tax time. Think about paying January 2019’s mortgage payment in December to get the maximum tax benefit in April.
Invest in Solar Energy
If you’re making a list of home improvements, consider adding solar panels to that list. Solar will earn homeowners up to 30% of their installation costs in tax credits. I would hurry because those credits will decrease after 2019.
Claim Education Credits
Student loan interest and/or tuition can be used as a tax deduction. Current students can also access the American Opportunity Credit, which covers up to $2,500 annually for four years, and the Lifetime Learning Credit, which can cover up to $2,000 per tax return.
Start A Home Business
Starting and maintaining a business in your home will give you a new source of income, but more importantly, allow you to take deductions on all income that is generated from the business. These specific deductions may include business expenses, portions of your mortgage, utilities, repairs, and even the startup costs for the business.
Medical or Dental Expenses
Many of your medical and dental expenses are tax-deductible as is the transportation and parking costs.
Open a Flexible Spending Plan
Many employers offer flexible spending plans that will let their employees contribute towards their annual medical expenses. These medical contributions generally do not count towards taxable income.
If you find yourself in the hunt for a new job this coming year, remember you can write off some of the expenses associated with finding new employment. These write-offs include clothing, travel, food, etc. And, these expenses are deductible even if employment is not found within the tax year.
Make Estimated Payments
As is often said, the best defense is a good offense. If you’re concerned that your deductions will not cover you appropriately for the tax year, it will be advantageous to make quarterly payments that you and your tax accountant think will cover your income that is not subject to withholding tax.
Start a Family
Child tax credits are still included in the new tax reform bill. In fact, they have been increased from $1,000 per child to $2,000.
Find Every Available Tax Credit
We’ve named many tax credits in this article, but there are many more that can be utilized. Some of these include childcare costs for low-income households and adoption. Keep in mind that tax credits are more valued than simple deductions because they can reduce your taxable income on a dollar-for-dollar basis.
The tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 that was signed into law in December provided a major overhaul to the previous tax law. This law will affect your tax planning for 2018 so it will be important to have a pro do your taxes. No matter how much you think you know or how much research you do, a professional will be able to identify those tax deductions and tax credits that will be beneficial to you. A professional will also help you stay organized and minimize your tax obligation.
Remember, be a wise taxpayer and learn how to make money out of your tax return.