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Bankrate's 2009 Tax Guide
Tips & tools
A tax tip a day plus an array of tax tools, terms and training will help you through filing and beyond.
 
Daily tax tip
TAX TIP No. 34
No need to itemize above-the-line deductions
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We're out of designated adjustment lines as we reach the bottom of Page 1, so that's the end of the nonitemizing tax breaks, right? Wrong.

Some specialty adjustments
Although line 36 simply instructs you to total your entries on all the various adjustment lines, curious taxpayers who take a closer look at the form's instructions will find even more possible ways to whittle away some of their taxable incomes.

Sure, several of these adjustments, such as reforestation amortization or repayment of specific supplemental unemployment benefits or court costs for certain unlawful discrimination cases are for relatively limited tax situations. But a couple affect quite a few taxpayers.

Line 36 is where you enter any pay you got for serving on a jury, but then turned it over to your boss because you got your regular pay while at the courthouse.

Contributions to Archer medical savings accounts also are accounted for here. This is a health care program provided by some small businesses and also used by some self-employed workers. You can deduct a portion of these medical care contributions (fill out Form 8853 to determine the amount) on this catch-all line.

So take a moment to check all out all these other possible above-the-line deductions. Details are in the Form 1040 instruction book. If you're one of the select group of taxpayers to whom these apply, claim the amount and add the special notation spelled out in the instructions to line 36. The extra adjustments could really pay off.

Now it's time to add all these specially annotated line 36 amounts to the deductions claimed on the preceding 13 income adjustment lines. This final number goes on line 37. Once entered there, it's subtracted from the total income amount you entered on line 22. The result: your adjusted gross income.

A few also on 1040A
What if you don't want to or need to use the long Form 1040? You still get a chance to reduce your income if you file Form 1040A instead.

Four of these above-the-line adjustments -- educator expenses, IRA contributions, student loan interest and tuition and fees -- also can be claimed on lines 16 through 19 of that slightly shorter tax return.

Regardless of whether you file the long 1040 or the slightly shorter 1040A, make sure you don't overlook these tax breaks at the bottom of page one on each form. If you do, you could be giving the IRS more money than you should.

-- Updated: Feb. 23, 2009
 
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