Michael P. Rudy and Associates - mrcpa.net

The Top 10 Overlooked Tax Deductions

The top 10 overlooked deductions Each year, thousands pay too much in taxes because they didn’t think of deducting job hunting expenses or donations to charity. Read this list before you file.


Accelerate Deductions and Defer Income
It sometimes makes sense to accelerate deductions and defer income. There are plenty of income items and expenses you may be able to control. Consider deferring bonuses, consulting income or self-employment income. On the deduction side, you may be able to accelerate state and local income taxes, interest payments and real estate taxes.

Leverage Retirement Account Tax Savings
It’s not too late to increase contributions to a retirement account. Traditional retirement accounts like a 401(k) or individual retirement accounts (IRAs) still offer some of the best tax savings. Contributions reduce taxable income at the time that you make them, and you don’t pay taxes until you take the money out at retirement. The 2016 contribution limits are $18,000 for a 401(k) and $5,500 for an IRA (not including catch-up contributions for those 50 years of age and older).

Pay off debt with a home equity loan rather than credit cards. Personal interest is not deductible. Credit card interest, at rates ranging from 18% to 21%, is usually personal interest (unless it’s used for business or investment purposes). You can’t deduct it. Pay off any credit card debt with a home equity loan or through a home equity credit line. The interest on that loan is deductible. Home equity debt is any debt secured by your house. The money can be used to pay off your credit card debt, for vacations, or anything else you want. The interest on up to $100,000 of debt is deductible as home equity interest. In addition to home equity interest, you can deduct the interest paid on debt to acquire or purchase your house. By shifting from credit card debt to home equity debt, you not only convert nondeductible interest into interest or expenses you can write off, but you’ll probably pay a much lower interest rate.

Contribute old clothes, furniture and other items to charity. Everybody knows that if you contribute cash to a charity, you get a deduction. You can also deduct the wholesale fair market value of non-cash contributions to your church, synagogue, Goodwill or any other qualified charitable organization. You can also deduct your mileage — at a rate of 14 cents a mile — if you use your car for charitable purposes. Make sure you get a receipt. The receipt usually will say something like three bags of clothes, without any value given. But don’t leave without it. Think of that receipt as green paper with pictures of dead presidents. If you’re in the 28% bracket, a $1,000 contribution of old clothes means $280 in your pocket. You wouldn’t walk out of a store without your change, so don’t forget your receipt.
Bunch your deductions. Many deductions, such as medical expenses (see discussion below) and miscellaneous deductions, require you to overcome a “floor” or minimum. In the case of miscellaneous deductions, only those expenses that exceed 2% of your adjusted gross income can be deducted. For medical deductions, it’s 10%, or 7.5% for seniors 65 & older. This offers some potential strategy to get the best bang for your deduction dollars.

Let the IRS subsidize your job search. Job hunting expenses are deductible. If you’re out of work, or even if you’re still employed but looking for a new job, all of your job hunting expenses are deductible as miscellaneous itemized deductions. Such expenses would include resumes, phone calls, postage, travel costs (If you’re driving, you can deduct 32.5 cents for travel.) and any other expenses related to your attempt to get a new job. Creativity here can be rewarding. For example, if you take a friend to lunch in an attempt to use him as a reference or referral, you can use the cost of the lunch as a job-hunting expense.

Investment & tax planning/preparation expenses. Investment expenses also are allowed as miscellaneous deductions. Such expenses would include investment publications, payment for investment advice, calls to your broker and any other expenses related to the production of investment income. Rather than buy your investment newspapers and magazines at the newsstand, subscribe to them and use your check as the receipt. If you use your computer for investment purposes (more than just tracking a few stocks), or subscribe to an Internet service for investment purposes, those expenses also become deductible. Tax-related professional fees are deductible. Tax preparation fees are deductible. Books and other tax writings are deductible. If you’re self-employed, tax preparation fees can be deducted as business expenses, potentially not only reducing your income tax but your Social Security and Medicare taxes as well.

Keep receipts on any business supplies or business-related gifts you make. Pens, paper, a calculator, special tools, a computer and even a briefcase used in business are deductible. If your job requires you to travel, a business suitcase would also be deductible. The key here is to relate the item to your business. For example, as a writer, my computer and the cost of Internet access are deductible because I use them in my business. The key here is that you use the items in the business, not that you necessarily need them. So long as the items are reasonable and appropriate to use in your business, they don’t have to be absolutely “needed.” If there’s any doubt, have your employer write a letter saying that such items are required for your position and attach that letter to your tax return. If you’re audited, the IRS may ask for such a letter. The best way to win an audit is to avoid it.

Remember that not only medical expenses, but any special equipment or treatments you receive, are deductible. For example, when a friends son, Josh, was born, he had a hip problem for which his doctor prescribed swimming as an exercise. He could have joined a swim club and deducted the expenses. Instead, he put a pool in his backyard. Let’s assume the pool cost $25,000, but it only increased the value of my property by $15,000. The other $10,000 was deductible as a medical expense. Capital expenditures are deductible to the extent their cost exceeds the added value to your property. If you have arthritis or any other medical condition that can be helped by a sauna or a whirlpool, those items are deductible. Upkeep for these items would also qualify as deductible medical expenses. If you use your car for trips to the doctor, keep a record and deduct 10 cents a mile for tax purposes. Let’s get creative. It has been established that the cost of significant dental work is less expensive in Europe than in the United States. Therefore, even with adding the transportation cost, you could pay less for expensive dental work overseas than here domestically. On that basis, the courts have ruled that such transportation costs are allowable as medical deductions. If you have a condition like a bad back and your doctor says you need a daily massage or other type of treatment, it can come from someone other than a licensed physician. The service costs are deductible, but I would strongly advise that you get a written note from your doctor saying you need those services as proof for the IRS.

Self-employed owners can deduct the costs of hiring their children as workers. Hire your children. You’re giving them money anyway. If your business is unincorporated and they’re under 18, you won’t be liable for any Social Security or Medicare taxes. Moreover, for 2000, you can pay each child as much as $6,400 (each child gets a $4,400 standard deduction plus $2,000 in an IRA), deduct the sum in full, and they pay zero taxes. If you’re in the 31% bracket and hire two minor children, you save $3,968 in taxes ($6,400 x 2 x .31). This technique has been allowed for children as young as seven years old. Not only does this technique save income taxes, it reduces your liability for Social Security and Medicare taxes on your net income. This could save you an additional $1,958.40 ($6,400 x 2 x .153).

Some of the above techniques are aggressive, but all of them are legal — backed up with court cases, revenue rulings and the like. If they’re appropriate for you, use them. Otherwise, you’re making a nondeductible contribution to the IRS. Please contact us or seek advise from a professional tax adviser to ensure you take full and proper advantage of these and other tax savings methods.