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Tax news you can use

 

Tax laws keep changing, but don't be the last to know about them. Here's the latest filing scoop.

10 new tax laws you need to know

The major new laws of 2005 were prompted by Mother Nature.

The violent hurricane season wreaked havoc on millions of coastal residents, motivating lawmakers to enact measures to help out the storm victims. In the process, they also added some storm-related breaks for the rest of the country's taxpayers.

The Internal Revenue Service also issued a couple of rulings that many taxpayers will welcome, such as increased mileage deduction rates and an easier way to put off the inevitable task of filing.

But other changes, most notably the new tax definition of a child, will cause some filers extra effort and potentially costly headaches.

There's also one welcome change that's due simply to the calendar. This year, April 15 falls on a Saturday, pushing the filing deadline to the next business day, Monday, April 17.

Now that you have all that spare time, let's put it to use by looking at 10 tax changes that could make a difference on your 2005 return and to your 2006 tax planning.

Tax help for hurricane victims
There are myriad hurricane-related new tax provisions to help the millions of 2005 storm victims. The changes include ways for people to cover their immediate living expenses, pay longer-term recovery costs and take advantage of other benefits on their tax returns.

The measures apply to specially designated areas: the Gulf Opportunity, or GO, Zone, the Rita GO Zone, the Wilma GO Zone and separate disaster areas for these three hurricanes, affecting residents in Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas.

The various new laws and geographic eligibility standards mean that storm victims will have to do extra work to make sure they find and utilize tax benefits specific to their situations. The Internal Revenue Service has a Web page with details, but here are some of the major provisions and how they could help.

Checklist
At right are the biggest changes in the tax code that can make a difference for people filing their 2005 returns -- or doing their 2006 tax planning. Some will help you save money, others will cost you, in headaches and paperwork, if not in cash.
10 big tax law changes
1. Easier access to retirement money
2. Greater casualty loss deduction
3. Education breaks for some students
4. Additional personal exemption
5. Enhanced donation and driving breaks
6. Accounting for car contributions
7. Environmentally friendly auto tax breaks
8. Uniform definition of a child
9. Increased IRA contribution amounts
10. Changes in the filing process
-- Posted: Jan. 23, 2006
 
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