The 10 most overlooked tax deductions are presented below and can be downloaded by clicking the button below.
1. State sales taxes
This write-off makes sense primarily for those who live in states that do not impose an income tax. You must choose between deducting state and local income taxes, or state and local sales taxes. For most citizens of income-tax-states, the income tax deduction usually is a better deal. IRS has tables for residents of states with sales taxes showing how much they can deduct. But the tables aren’t the last word.
If you purchased a vehicle, boat or airplane, you get to add the state sales tax you paid to the amount shown in IRS
tables for your state, to the extent the sales tax rate you paid doesn’t exceed the state’s general sales tax rate. The same goes for home building materials you purchased. These items are easy to overlook. The IRS even has a calculator to help you figure out the deduction, which varies by your state and income level.
Beginning in 2018, your itemized deduction for state and local taxes is limited to $10,000 per year. You still will only be allowed to deduct either state and local sales tax or state and local income taxes, but not both.
2. Reinvested dividends
This isn’t really a tax deduction, but it is a subtraction that can save you a lot of money. And it’s one that many taxpayers miss. If, like most investors, you have mutual fund dividends automatically invested in extra shares, remember that each reinvestment increases your “tax basis” in the stock or mutual fund. That, in turn, reduces the amount of taxable capital gain (or increases the tax-saving loss) when you sell your shares.
Forgetting to include the reinvested dividends in your cost basis—which you subtract from the proceeds of sale to determine your gain—means overpaying your taxes. TurboTax Premier and Home & Business tax preparation solutions include a very cool tool—Cost Basis Lookup—that will figure your basis for you and make sure you get credit for every dime of reinvested dividends.
3. Out-of-pocket charitable contributions
It’s hard to overlook the big charitable gifts you made during the year by check or payroll deduction. But the little things add up, too, and you can write off out-of-pocket costs you incur while doing good deeds. Ingredients for casseroles you regularly prepare for a qualified nonprofit organization’s soup kitchen, for example, or the cost of stamps you buy for your school’s fundraiser count as a charitable contribution. If you drove your car for charity in 2018, remember to deduct 14 cents per mile.
4. Student loan interest paid by Mom and Dad
In the past, if parents paid back a student loan incurred by their children, no one got a tax break. To get a deduction, the law said that you had to be both liable for the debt and actually pay it yourself. But now there’s an exception. If Mom and Dad pay back the loan, the IRS treats it as though they gave the money to their child, who then paid the debt. So a
child who’s not claimed as a dependent can qualify to deduct up to $2,500 of student loan interest paid by Mom and Dad.
5. Moving expense to take first job
Here’s an interesting dichotomy: Job-hunting expenses incurred while looking for your first job are not deductible but moving expenses to get to that first job are. And you get this write-off even if you don’t itemize. If you moved more than 50 miles, you can deduct 23 cents per mile of the cost of getting yourself and your household goods to the new area, (plus parking fees and tolls) for driving your own vehicle. However, beginning in 2018, moving expenses are no longer deductible unless you are in the military and the move is due to military orders.
6. Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC)
Millions of lower-income people take this credit every year. However, 25% of taxpayers who are eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit fail to claim it, according to the IRS. Some people miss out on the credit because the rules can be complicated. Others simply aren’t aware that they qualify.
The EITC is a refundable tax credit—not a deduction—ranging from $519 to $6,431 for 2018. The credit is designed to supplement wages for low-to-moderate income workers. But the credit doesn’t just apply to lower income people. Tens of millions of individuals and families previously classified as “middle class”—including many white-collar workers—are now considered “low income” because they:
- lost a job
- took a pay cut
- or worked fewer hours during the year
The exact refund you receive depends on your income, marital status and family size. To get a refund from the EITC you must file a tax return, even if you don’t owe any taxes. Moreover, if you were eligible to claim the credit in the past but didn’t, you can file any time during the year to claim an EITC refund for up to three previous tax years.
7. State tax you paid last spring
Did you owe taxes when you filed your 2017 state tax return in 2018? Then remember to include that amount with your state tax itemized deduction on your 2018 return, along with state income taxes withheld from your paychecks or paid via quarterly estimated payments. Beginning in 2018, the deduction for state and local taxes is limited to $10,000 per year.
8. Refinancing mortgage points
When you buy a house, you often get to deduct points paid to obtain your mortgage all at one time. When you refinance a mortgage, however, you have to deduct the points over the life of the loan. That means you can deduct 1/30th of the points a year if it’s a 30-year mortgage—that’s $33 a year for each $1,000 of points you paid. Doesn’t seem like much, but why throw it away?
Also, in the year you pay off the loan—because you sell the house or refinance again—you get to deduct all the points not yet deducted, unless you refinance with the same lender.
9. Jury pay paid to employer
Some employers continue to pay employees’ full salary while they are doing their civic duty but ask that they turn over their jury fees to the company. The only problem is that the IRS demands that you report those fees as taxable income. If you give the money to your employer, you have a right to deduct the amount so you aren’t taxed on money that simply passes through your hands.
10. Deductions Denied to Medical Marijuana Dispensary
A nonprofit corporation that operated a medical-marijuana dispensary legally under California law was not allowed to claim deductions for business expenses on its federal return. Code Sec. 280E, which prevents any trade or business that consists of trafficking in controlled substances from deducting any business expenses, applied.
Meaning of “Consists of”
The corporation argued that a business does not “consist of” drug trafficking within the meaning of Code Sec. 280E unless its activities relate exclusively with drug trafficking (i.e., selling marijuana). Since its dispensary offered services and goods to its clients other than the sale of medical marijuana, the corporation claimed that Code Sec. 280E does not apply to any of its activities.
The court rejected this argument, noting that it had previously considered and rejected the same argument in an earlier case involving a different taxpayer. Although the phrase “consists of” in common usage refers to an exhaustive or
exclusive list, the court noted that the corporation’s interpretation would render Code Sec. 280E ineffective. For example, a drug dealer selling a single item that was not a controlled substance would not be covered by the provision. The court found that various dictionary definitions, certain usage in other Code Sections, and case law that considered the meaning of the phrase did not require an interpretation based on exclusiveness.