The day you’ve been dreading is approaching: Tax Day. To prepare for that ominous April deadline, start organizing your finances and look for every single tax deduction so you can write off anything you qualify for.
Whether you’re a rookie or a veteran tax filer, there’s a chance you’re missing out on some deductions. Maximize your tax return by learning about 15 little-known tax deductions and credits you’ve probably overlooked.
Last updated: April 8, 2019
Job Hunting Expenses
Were you recently on the job hunt? If so, you probably forked over a considerable amount of cash to cover outplacement agency fees or mailing copies of your resume. Little did you know, you can possibly deduct some of those expenses.
You can deduct certain job search-related expenses, according to the IRS, but there are some rules you must follow. For example, you can’t deduct these expenses if you’re looking for a job for the first time.
Pet Moving Costs
Who knew there were tax breaks for pet owners?
Believe it or not, if you’re an active-duty member of the armed forces and Fido is moving with you because of a permanent change of station, certain relocation costs could be tax deductible. For example, if your move meets IRS requirements, you might be able to deduct the cost of shipping your pets.
Self-employed taxpayers don’t get a Form W-4 and can’t take advantage of certain payroll deductions, but they can take advantage of many of the small-business tax deductions. For example, self-employed individuals who use their home as part of their business can factor in their expenses — such as deductible mortgage interest, rent, utilities and maintenance — to calculate their allowable deduction.
Self-employed individuals can also deduct the employer-equivalent portion of their self-employment tax in figuring their adjusted gross income. Check the official IRS site to find out about the best tax deductions in this category.
Child and Dependent Care Costs
If you paid for the care of a qualifying child or other dependent so that you and your spouse could work, you might qualify for the child and dependent care credit.
Tax credits are typically better than tax deductions. Whereas deductions reduce your taxable income, credits directly reduce your tax liability. So, if you didn’t know about the child and dependent care credit, find out if you qualify now.
Smoking Cessation Costs
Are you trying to kick your nicotine habit? Your participation in a smoking cessation program can be considered deductible as a medical expense. This deduction can also apply to prescription drugs used to ease nicotine withdrawal.
No, this doesn’t mean you can deduct the cost of every diet fad or trend you recently tried. Instead, this benefit is for people who have participated in a weight-loss program to combat a specific disease that their physician diagnosed.
Charitable Travel Costs
If you’re considering taking a trip to volunteer, you might be able to claim a charitable contribution deduction for travel expenses you had to incur while helping out an organization.
But be careful: The IRS makes it clear that there must be “no significant element of personal pleasure, recreation or vacation in the travel.” That doesn’t mean you can’t have fun — but you should be “on duty in a genuine and substantial sense throughout the trip.”
Breast Surgery Expenses
Although you can’t typically include unnecessary cosmetic surgery as a medical expense, some cases of breast surgery can be eligible. For example, according to the IRS, if you needed breast reconstruction surgery as part of cancer treatment, you can include the cost in your medical expenses.
Pregnancy Test Expenses
Yes, when filing your taxes you can also include the amount you paid for a pregnancy test in your medical expenses. It might seem like a small expense, but some people will shell out more cash for higher-priced tests.
And what about after you have the baby? You can also include breast pumps and supplies in medical expenses.
A wig can also be tax deductible as a medical expense. If your physician recommends the wig after you experienced hair loss due to a medical condition, the cost of the wig could be categorized as a deductible medical expense.
Sales and Income Taxes
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 to savings. On the other hand, if your state does have an income tax, you should devise the best strategy for claiming possible deductions on your tax forms by first considering any big-ticket purchases you’ve made, such as a car or boat.
Student Loan Interest
Parents with dependents who have student loan debt can deduct the interest they paid on their child’s loans throughout the year. Alternatively, if you are paying off your own student debt, you should receive Form 1098-E from your student loan lender showing how much interest you paid, so you can deduct the qualifying amount on your tax return.
Unfortunately, you can only deduct up to $2,500 of interest each year. And, if your college education paid off in the form of a job with significant income, your deduction might be limited or even eliminated.
Learn More: Is College Tuition Tax Deductible?
College Tuition and Training Costs
Still in school or taking classes to get a graduate degree or improve your job skills? You might be able to deduct some of your expenses by claiming another useful tax credit — the lifetime learning credit, which allows you up to $2,000 in the form of a tax credit if your income doesn’t exceed certain limits ($66,000 for single filers and $133,000 for a married filing jointly return in 2018). To claim the credit, you will need to file Form 8863.
Energy-Saving Home Improvements
Making your home more energy-efficient can help you score a tax credit known as the residential energy efficient property credit. Currently, you can get a 30 percent credit for qualified solar electric systems and solar water heaters. Along with saving money on your tax bill, you can do your part to help the environment by taking advantage.
Military Reserve Travel Costs
For members of the National Guard or military reservists, you can deduct partial travel expenses for attending meetings or drills more than 100 miles from home, even if you don’t itemize. You can treat all of your lodging costs and half your meal expenses as tax write-offs.
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All the information in this article is based on the latest available data on IRS.gov. Visit the IRS website for the latest updates and changes regarding the upcoming tax season.
About the Author
Barbara Friedberg, MBA, MS, brings decades of finance and investing experience. She has a Bachelor of Science degree in economics from the University of Cincinnati, a Master of Science degree in student affairs administration and counseling from Miami University, and a Master of Business Administration degree from Penn State University in finance.