Many Americans pay more in taxes than they are required, simply because they are unaware of the approximately 200 tax breaks in the system. The Government Accountability Office estimated that as many as two million taxpayers overpay by not itemizing their deductions. Many breaks target tiny constituencies and specific companies.
Here are 12 little known deductions and credits that you may not know about:
Charity Donations from your IRA: The early January fiscal cliff deal resuscitated an expired provision that allows people ages 70 ½ and older to donate up to $100,000 from their IRA to a qualified charity without paying taxes on the transfer.
Your Child’s Tuition or Medical Care: Parents or grandparents can pass along up to $5.12 million to their children or grandchildren over the course of their lifetime, (or $14,000) per year without incurring an inheritance tax. If parents want to give even more than that, they can get around those limits by paying for their children’s education or medical expenses.
Fostering a Pet: Foster pet owners can deduct expenses such as food, litter, vet bills, paper towels, etc. while waiting for the foster pet to be placed in a permanent home. Foster pet owners can even deduct mileage to the vet, in some cases.
Alternative Medical Treatments: The IRS allows alternative medicine including acupuncture, vitamins, herbal supplements and Christian Science to be deducted as medical care. Deductions extend to alternative forms of treatment as long as a medical practitioner prescribes them.
Private Mortgage Insurance: Another provision revived by the Fiscal Cliff deal allows taxpayers to deduct their premiums for private mortgage insurance. Many homeowners are unaware of this deduction, which can run from $50 to $220 a month on a loan of $250,000.
Moving Away for your First Job: One deduction that helps recent graduates is the one that allows you to deduct moving costs for your first full-time job. If you move at least 50 miles away from your old home, with at least 39 weeks of full-time work during your first year at a new employer, you qualify for this deduction.
Driving for Charity: If you do any driving related to charity work, it is deductible at 14 cents per mile. This deduction includes parking costs, along with other out-of-pocket expenses you incur during charity work.
Retirement Investments: Taxpayers with limited incomes can get a deduction and a tax credit for putting away money in retirement plans. Most who invest in a plan such as an IRA receive a deduction, however approximately 57 million households also qualify for a Savers Credit.
Whale Hunting with Alaskan Natives: Boat captains involved in subsistence hunting of endangered bowhead whales in Alaska can deduct up to $10,000 of their expenses. In order to qualify for this deduction, you must be hunting to provide food or materials for your family.
Stock Donations to Charity: If you donate stock rather than cash, you can receive a larger deduction on your donation. If you donate stock that has appreciated in value, you can write off the fair-market value and avoid the capital-gains tax on the stock sale.
Work Overseas: If you have worked overseas, the first $95,100 of your income is excluded from U.S. taxes. This deduction recognizes no distinction between low-tax and high-tax countries.
Harvest Your Investment Losses: If you sell an investment at a loss, such as a mutual fund, you can use the loss to offset either capital gains on other investments or their regular taxable income. Losses that you do not use now can be carried forward to offset gains future tax years.