10 year-end tax moves to make
If you're close to that limit, look at ways to get over the hurdle in the next few weeks. Have you been putting off elective surgery? Schedule the procedure before the year's end to bump up your medical bills to the deductibility threshold.
If you're not close enough to make that cut-off, you still can save if you have a flexible medical spending account, or FSA, at work. Don't forget to use it up by year's end. You can spend the FSA money on over-the-counter drugs such as pain relievers, as well as things such as a first-aid kit or blood pressure cuff. All might come in handy if your holidays are particularly stressful.
Some companies, but not all, give you a grace period to use up the FSA balance early next year. If your employer doesn't, make sure you spend those dollars by Dec. 31.
7. Make miscellaneous payments While you're spending medical money, consider upping your miscellaneous payments. You can claim these costs, such as union or professional dues, job-related educational expenses and subscriptions to business publications, on your Schedule A, too.
But like the medical claims, miscellaneous costs also must exceed a percentage of your adjusted income to count. In this case, it's 2 percent.
If you're near the threshold this December, prepay some of these expenses. Buy the uniform you were going to get in January, extend your business journal subscription another year, pay the registration fee for that job-related computer class you plan to take in February.
8. Get in the giving mood A gift to your favorite charity in December can produce happy tax returns, too. As long as you itemize, you can deduct your donations; this will reduce your taxable income and lower your tax bill.
You have until Dec. 31 to get the check in the mail. You also can put your pledge on your credit card by year's end. Using plastic also could help out holiday money management. Your charged donation will count for 2008 tax purposes, but you won't have to pay the bill until next year.
A few other points to remember in this end-of-year giving rush:
- Make sure the nonprofit has IRS approval. The agency tracks worthy charities in Publication 78, which you can search online.
- Get substantiation for your gift. If the IRS ever questions your claim, you must be able to produce a receipt or record (canceled check or charge card statement) verifying your donation of any amount, not just those of $250 or more.
- If you donate household goods, they must be in good or better condition or the IRS could later disallow the claim.
- Auto donations have special deduction rules, depending upon how the charity uses the vehicle. You should get a statement from the nonprofit detailing its plans for the vehicle and how much you can deduct.