Tax season is here and it’s time to get organized and prepared for the grueling task of filing your taxes. It’s important to be aware of all the deductions and tax credits available to you, so you don’t miss out on valuable savings — and a bigger IRS tax refund. Here are some commonly missed income tax deductions that you should be taking advantage of so that you can potentially save hundreds or thousands of dollars on your state or federal tax return.
1. Sales and Income Tax
Many filers forget to include state sales and income taxes paid as deductions. If you live in a state that doesn’t impose an income tax, tallying up all the tax you’ve paid on personal and household items can really add up in savings. On the other hand, if your state does have a state income tax, it’s usually a better strategy to claim that as a deduction on your tax forms for more savings unless you made some big-ticket purchases such as a car or boat.
2. Medical Expenses
Most tax payers are able to deduct some health care costs and medical expenses. For example, payments for doctors, hospital stays, prescriptions and other medical costs can be deducted — but only if they exceed 7.5 percent of your adjusted gross income (AGI). Keep in mind that the only expenses that are deductible are the ones not reimbursed by your insurance or some other way.
3. Charitable Donations
Out-of-pocket charitable contributions are often overlooked, especially if they were in the form of many small donations rather than a few large ones. If you’ve covered the cost of postage, baked cookies for fundraisers, donated clothes to a charity or given rides to the clients of nonprofit organizations, save your receipts for tax-preparation time. If they total more than $250, you can deduct the amount if you have documentation from your favorite nonprofit. If you provided rides or did other significant driving for a charity, you can claim 14 cents per mile as well.
4. Child Care
If you’re a working parent and your kids spend part of the day with a sitter or in child care, claim those expenses as a tax credit. If you have child care reimbursement through your place of work, you can easily overlook the additional costs you incur beyond the $5,000 or $6,000 allocated by these accounts. Don’t miss out on these significant savings; save the receipts for any sitters and after-school care.
5. Student Loan Interest
If your children are older and in college, don’t forget to deduct the interest you’ve paid on their student loans throughout the year, if applicable. Alternatively, if you’re still paying your own student loan debt, you can deduct the interest you’ve paid for the year using tax form 1098-E. You should receive this form directly from your lender.
Related: 10 Ways to Pay Off Your Student Loans in One Year
6. Job Search and Moving Expenses
Job loss and career change aren’t always a bad thing. If you were looking for a job last year and had to travel for interviews, you can deduct those job search costs up to 2 percent of your AGI. But only if you’re looking in your same field and this isn’t your first job.
If you are a first-time job seeker, however, you can claim your moving expenses if the new job is more than 50 miles from your old place of residence. You can claim the cost of moving your belongings to the new place and driving your vehicle there as well as parking and toll fees, given your employer does not reimburse you.
7. Mortgage Interest and Remodeling
If you’re a homeowner, your luck continues. If you remodeled your existing home, deduct state sales tax for building materials if you’re itemizing. If you bought your house, be sure to claim the interest paid on your mortgage points. If you’ve refinanced, you have to distribute the points of interest over the life of the new mortgage, as well.
8. Energy-Saving Home Improvements
If you’ve made your home more energy efficient, there are tax deductions for that, too. You can receive a 10 percent deduction on costs up to $500, as well as 30 percent off the cost of certain major upgrades through 2016. This is known as the Residential Energy Efficient Property Credit. The credit covers 30 percent of the installation — including labor costs — of qualified residential alternative energy equipment, like solar hot water heaters, wind turbines and geothermal heat pumps.
9. Military Travel
If you are a member of the National Guard or are a military reservist, part of your travel expenses for attending meetings or drills more than 100 miles from home and overnight stays are deductible, even if you don’t itemize. As you file taxes, you can write off all of your lodging cost and half your meal expenses — and the 2 percent AGI limit does not apply.
After years of widespread job loss, many Americans opted for self-employment — but this freedom does come at a price. Workers not only have to buy their own health insurance, but also pay a hefty self-employment tax. Make sure to deduct the cost of health insurance premiums you pay for yourself and your family, which reduces your self-employment tax. Additional 2016 tax deductions for the self-employed include contributions to a Simplified Employee Pension (SEP) IRA, which are made pre-tax, as well as the cost of business meals, ongoing education or training and business use of your home.
Always keep your receipts and documentation, so that when it comes time to file your federal taxes and state taxes, you’re prepared. Not only should you have what you need, you should also be sure not to miss out on the deductions you deserve.
Bob Lotich from SeedTime.com (formerly ChristianPF.com), a personal finance blog, contributed to the reporting for this article.