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7 buzzer-beater tax return moves to save the day

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in Small Business Tax

Are you waiting until the last minute to file your tax return? Maybe you’re putting things off because you figure you’ll have to pay Uncle Sam a tidy sum. At least you can still put a good-size dent in your tax bill at this late date. Here’s a sampling of seven prime-time opportunities for tax-return procrastinators:

1. Contribute to an IRA or retirement plan. If you don’t actively participate in an employer-sponsored plan, you can deduct IRA contributions of up to $4,000 ($4,500 if you’re age 50 or over) made by April 17. Similarly, self-employed taxpayers can lower their adjusted gross income with a contribution to a SEP, SIMPLE or Keogh plan (tax return extension time included).

2. Compare state sales tax to state income tax. You can deduct either your state sales tax or state income tax. Don’t automatically assume you should deduct your state income tax. The deductible state sales tax amounts, which are listed in state-by-state IRS income tables, also allow you to add on the sales taxes paid for big-ticket items like cars and boats.

3. Offset taxable bond interest. You can deduct the amortized premium for taxable bonds on Schedule B of your Form 1040.

4. Elect out of installment-sale reporting. That is the smart tax move if you’re sitting on capital losses this year that are large enough to sop up the full amount of gains from an installment sale.

5. Write off your personal bad debts. You can deduct unrecovered amounts from personal loans that have become totally worthless. Claim the write-off as a short-term loss on Schedule D.

6. Bypass tax breaks for certain capital gains and dividends. You might give up the preferential tax rate for long-term gains if this significantly increases your deduction for investment interest expense. Compare the results first.

7. Pile up miscellaneous expenses. Most people don’t give them a second look, but you can deduct many odds and ends to the extent the total exceeds 2 percent of your AGI. The list includes job-hunting expenses, tax advisory newsletters like Research Recommendations and even your tax adviser’s fee for preparing your return.

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