Tax Write-Off Checklist

by Gail Cohen

    Not everyone likes to make lists, but when it comes to filing state and federal income tax returns, keeping track of the many opportunities you have to maximize your write-offs can make a list lover of anyone. To create a tax write-off checklist for yourself, compose it when you’re not facing that post-New Year’s deadline. For example, July 4th is usually a better time to draft a tax write-off checklist than April Fool’s Day.

    Start your tax write-off checklist by including first and second mortgage interest documents, mortgage points and real estate taxes. Make a list of moving expenses if you relocated for work. Include casualty or theft losses as well. If you renovated, energy saving measures such as solar panels, waterless hot water heaters, water-saving plumbing systems and anything that’s wind driven belong on your write-off checklist. Don’t forget the one-time home buyers tax credit.

    Children give you hope, joy -- and tax write-offs. List childcare expenses such as nanny salaries and day care costs you must incur while you are at work. Add a section that covers write-offs related to medical expenses like doctors, dentists and hospital stays not covered by insurance. You might qualify for additional tax write-offs if you have children with serious or chronic conditions requiring additional care. You can also add uniforms if they are required for school. Also deductible are child support-related and adoption expenses. If your kids are older, include student loan interest and applicable school expenses on your checklist.

    Whether you design brochures at home or commute to an office, many work-related write-offs are available. Among the items to consider listing are tools, uniforms, safety clothing, equipment, union dues and professional books. The Internal Revenue Service monitors home business expenses closely, so back up your checklist with receipts and other documents that detail your home office expenses, office rental, utilities, health care costs and earnings. Certain job hunting expenses also can be written off. In addition, if you attended school to add to your skills or took advantage of Hope or Lifetime Learning programs, these write-offs belong on your list, too.

    Create a "miscellaneous" section when crafting your tax write-off checklist. Include small deductions that can add up to big write-offs, such as cash donations to charity and miles traveled to undertake volunteer work. Account for the fair market value of in-kind donations of goods. Families dealing with alcoholism, drug abuse, smoking or obesity can claim rehabilitation treatments so make sure they’re on your tax write-off list as well.

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    About the Author

    Based in Chicago, Gail Cohen has been a professional writer for more than 30 years. She has authored and co-authored 14 books and penned hundreds of articles in consumer and trade publications, including the Illinois-based "Daily Herald" newspaper. Her newest book, "The Christmas Quilt," was published in December 2011.

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