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Ways to Reduce A Big Fat Tax

Sunday, March 6, 2005; Page F05

1. Stub Check

• Your last paycheck stub of the year may include useful tax information not included on your W-2. Three possibilities are union dues, charitable contributions you made through an automatic payroll deduction and your employee share of medical coverage.

2. Drive, He Said

_____Tax Time 2005_____
Numbers Crunch
Singletary: A Big Refund Isn't Great News
Find the Best Deductions
Tax Ambushes For the Unwary
Steps Toward A Happier Return
Ways to Reduce A Big Fat Tax
Off-the-Shelf Programs Preserve Tax Data Security
Complete Coverage/Filing Resources

• Most taxpayers remember that they can deduct business uses of their cars, but medical and charitable uses can be deductible, too. For example, do you drive congregants to religious services? Do you deliver meals to shut-ins? Did you drive yourself or dependents for medical treatment? All of these are potential deductions, as are cab fares or parking for these purposes.

3. A Little for a Long Term

• The federal tax benefit for long-term insurance premiums is very modest, but some states, including Virginia and Maryland, allow credits or deductions.

4. Special Status

• A taxpayer can deduct medical expenses paid for someone who would have qualified as a dependent (meaning provided more than half that person's support) but for the fact that the person had too much income or failed the joint return test. As more families have older relatives in nursing homes or long-term-care facilities, this provision is increasingly useful. You may deduct only the amount by which your total medical care expenses for the year exceed 7.5 percent of your income, but care of an elderly parent may get you over that threshold, especially if you have other medical costs.

5. Moving Experience

• If you shifted to a new job, or to a new location at your old employer, that was more than 50 miles farther from home than the previous one, and you moved because of this, you may be able to deduct your moving expenses.

6. Watch Your Head

• In general, you can deduct interest on loans to buy, build or improve a home and second home. But the total indebtedness for which this deduction is allowed has a ceiling of $1.1 million, and in wealthier areas of the country, such as Washington, more taxpayers are bumping up against this restriction.

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