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5 tax breaks you shouldn't forget

If you went to college, hired child care or moved, you may be able to deduct at least some of your expenses. See other lesser-known deductions you don't want to overlook.

By MSN Money Partner Apr 10, 2012 11:40AM
This post is by Kimberly Lankford of Kiplinger's Personal Finance magazine

With the tax-filing deadline coming up soon, I'm still getting a lot of questions from people about potential tax breaks. Before you file, see if you’re eligible for the following deductions and tax credits.


Tax breaks for college costs


The American Opportunity tax credit can lower your tax bill by up to $2,500 if you spend at least $4,000 in tuition, required fees, books and course materials for the year. It applies to the first four years of postsecondary education.

To qualify, you must have a modified adjusted gross income of less than $160,000 if you are married filing jointly, or $80,000 if you are single (the credit phases out completely at $180,000 for married couples and $90,000 for single filers). (Post continues after video.)

The Lifetime Learning Credit applies to all years of postsecondary education (including graduate school) and can lower your tax bill by up to $2,000 per return. To qualify for the full credit, your modified adjusted gross income must be less than $100,000 if you are married filing jointly or $50,000 if you are single. The size of the credit phases out until your income reaches $120,000 if you are married filing jointly or $60,000 if single.


Extra credit for saving


If you contributed to a traditional or Roth IRA, a 401k or another retirement savings plan, you may qualify for the retirement savers’ tax credit, which can reduce your tax bill by up to $1,000 per person. To claim the savers’ credit for 2011, your adjusted gross income must be $28,250 or less if you’re single, $42,375 or less if you file your tax return as a head of household, or $56,500 or less if you are married filing jointly.


Credit for child care


If you have kids under age 13 and pay for care while you work, you could qualify for the child-care tax credit. You can count up to $3,000 in child care expenses for one child or up to $6,000 for two or more children.


The size of the credit gradually shrinks as your income increases. Families who earn less than $15,000 can claim a credit for 35% of qualifying expenses; families who earn more than $43,000 can get a credit for 20% of eligible costs. Expenses that count toward the credit include day care, preschool, before-school and after-school care, summer day camp and a nanny or other baby sitter.


You may also be able to take a credit worth up to $200 if you’ve maxed out the money from your flexible-spending account to pay for child care and you have two or more children and spent more than $6,000 on their care.


Out-of-pocket charitable deductions


Most people remember to deduct checks they paid to charity if they itemize. But you can also deduct the expenses you incurred in helping out a charity, such as the cost of ingredients for a dish for a soup kitchen, stamps for a mailing, copying and car mileage (14 cents a mile). And don’t forget to count any money you’ve had transferred automatically from your paychecks to charity.


Moving expenses


If you move because of a job, you may be able to deduct your moving expenses even if you don’t itemize. To qualify, you must be moving at least 50 miles farther from your old home.


You can write off the cost of hiring movers (or renting a moving truck), plus the cost of one-way travel to your new home for everyone in your household. Deductible expenses include airfare, train costs or car mileage (for 2011, 19 cents a mile from January through June and 23.5 cents a mile from July through December).


More from Kiplinger and MSN Money:



Apr 17, 2012 12:21PM
The LL Credit does not only apply to the first 4 years.  You can use it over a "lifetime."  You're thinking of the American Opportunity Credit, which is a better credit to use in your first 4 years of college (you can't use both simultaneously).  Also, you can only go back 3 years to amend your taxes to retrieve any overlooked credits or make any other revisions.
Apr 17, 2012 10:43AM

Is the Lifetime Learning Credit only good for the first 4 years of post-secondary education as well?


Apr 17, 2012 10:21AM
Lifetime Learning Credit ?  How far back can I go to claim this? I went to college from 1992 thru 1998  for my bachelors and Masters.
Apr 17, 2012 10:01AM
what if I was helped by 9/11 fund.?and what if I use the money from state uinsurance fund.
Apr 17, 2012 6:04AM
Id like to know why the disaster tax break didnt apply to me.  I was in Japan during the tsunami and nuke meltdown.  Yet the tax break was for only steside people.
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