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Expenses You Didn’t Know Were Tax Deductible

Expenses you didn't know were tax deductible

Tax deductions can help lower your tax bill and even increase your tax refund on your return. While most people are aware of common deductions like mortgage interest, charitable donations, and medical expenses, there are a plethora of lesser-known expenses that could potentially save you money on your taxes. There are several tax deductions you might not know are deductible.  

Sales Taxes 

For taxpayers who itemize deductions, you can deduct either state and local income taxes or state and local sales taxes paid throughout the year. In some tax years and states, it might make sense to itemize your deductions rather than take the standard deduction. This deduction can be particularly advantageous for residents of states with no income tax or for those who made significant purchases subject to sales tax. For example, if you made a large purchase like a vehicle or engagement ring, you could deduct sales taxes off your federal return. Or, if you live in a state that does not impose a state income tax, you could write off the sales tax you paid that year.   

Medical Expenses 

You can deduct medical expenses that exceed 7.5% of your AGI if you itemize your deductions. On the other hand, if you’re self-employed, you may be able to deduct 100% of your health insurance premiums. To qualify, you must have no other health insurance coverage. You may only deduct the amount of business income earned that year.   

Home Office Deduction 

Any space in your home used exclusively for conducting business can be deducted at $5 per square foot, up to 300 square feet. This home office deduction is meant for self-employed individuals. In other words, if you are a W-2 employee who works remotely, you do not qualify. 

Charitable Contributions

Cash donations to approved charities can be deducted for up to 50% of your AGI. However, you must be substantiated with bank statements or receipts. Non-cash donations can be deducted at fair market value. Even out-of-pocket expenses for charitable work can be deducted. For example, you can deduct the cost of gasoline to travel to complete charitable work. Alternatively, you can deduct mileage. The standard mileage rate for charitable travel in 2023 was 14 cents per mile and it will remain at this rate in 2024. 

Be sure to confirm that the charity has a tax-exempt status with the IRS before donating if you plan to claim a deduction. A few examples of approved organizations include a trust, foundation, church, synagogue, or other religious organizations, and veterans’ organizations. 

Child & Dependent Care 

If you pay a babysitter to watch your children while you work, look for work or attend school full-time, you may be able to claim the Child and Dependent Care Credit. This can also apply to care for an elderly parent. They must live with you and qualify as a dependent.   

Student Loan Interest 

If you are required to repay student loan debt, you can deduct the interest paid, up to $2,500. If your parents paid your student loan debt, the IRS views that money as a gift to you used to pay the loan. In this case, you can deduct up to $2,500 of the student loan interest they paid. That is as long as they do not claim you as a dependent on their tax return.  

College Expenses  

While most people are familiar with the deduction for tuition and fees, other educational expenses may also be deductible. This includes costs for workshops, seminars, and even certain textbooks and supplies. In addition, some states even allow you to deduct contributions made to your 529 College Savings Plan.

State Tax Deductions 

Your state may also offer its own set of unusual tax breaks. For example, Hawaii offers a tax deduction to taxpayers who maintain an “Exceptional Tree,” like the native Norfolk Pine. This deduction is up to $3,000 per tree and can be claimed once every three years. Alaska offers a deduction of up to $10,000 to offset the cost of whaling, which involves hunting whales to give the blubber and skin back to the community. New Mexico allows its residents to stop paying state income taxes once they reach 100 years old, as long as they’ve been a resident for the last six months. 

Tax Relief for Taxpayers 

Every tax situation is different. There are countless deductions and credits taxpayers can claim on their federal or state returns. Overall, the best thing to do is speak with a tax preparer about which deductions and credits you are eligible for and what substantiation might be needed to claim them. However, do remember claiming deductions without proper substantiation can lead to audits and delays in processing your return. 

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