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Bankrate's 2010 Tax Guide
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Getting the most from itemized deductions

An interest(ing) deduction

Every homeowner makes sure he gets that statement from the mortgage holder so that chunk of loan interest can be deducted.

But don't forget that second home or a vacation place with a mortgage. If it meets IRS guidelines for personal use during the tax year, then be sure to include interest paid on that property's loan on your Schedule A, too.

If it's a new loan, make sure you add in here any points -- money you paid the lender to get the loan. Even if the seller paid the points, you, the buyer, can write them off on your return. If you don't get a statement from your bank with information on points you paid, pull out your closing paperwork and you'll find it listed there.

Investments can help you out here, too. Did you borrow money to buy that hot stock? Interest on that loan is deductible.

Countless charitable contributions

You got the receipt from the Red Cross for your cash donation. You have that one from the Salvation Army for that extra couch you got tired of seeing in the garage.

You're done here, right? Wrong.

There are many noncash contributions that taxpayers forget to add up.

The IRS allows you to deduct the miles you drove your personal car to the soup kitchen where you volunteer each weekend. The standard mileage rate for travel done to help out a charitable organization is 14 cents per mile.

Are you a Boy Scout or Girl Scout leader? Then the cost of your uniform and its upkeep -- dry cleaning, tailoring, repair -- is deductible.

Letting the IRS share your losses

Most taxpayers think they can deduct casualty losses only if they are victims of a catastrophic natural disaster.

But you don't have to suffer through a fire, flood, hurricane, tornado or earthquake to claim a casualty deduction. Losses from theft and vandalism are eligible losses, as are any damages from an automobile accident as long as it wasn't the result of driver negligence.

Myriad miscellaneous expenses

This is a fun category, if you've got the patience -- and receipts -- to back up your spending. And you'll need the receipts because this category, like the medical one, is limited. The total of your miscellaneous deductions must be more than 2 percent of your adjusted gross income.

If you looked for a new job this year, be sure to count your job-hunting expenses here. Just remember that your job search has to be in the same field in which you're already employed. Any subscriptions to work-related publications also can be taken here, as can fees you paid for membership in a professional organization, as long as you weren't reimbursed by your employer.

Do you have a hobby that nets you a bit of extra spending money throughout the year? Any costs you had toward that hobby can be totaled up as a miscellaneous expense. But you can't deduct more than you made on the hobby.

Maybe your hobby is a bit more glitzy -- trips to Las Vegas or Atlantic City, N.J., for a little recreational gambling. If it wasn't a good year at the roulette wheel, the IRS lets you deduct your losses. These losses aren't limited by the 2 percent cap, but you can't deduct in losses more than you won.

And finally, if this whole deduction process just got too taxing for you and you paid an accountant to figure it out for you, here's a final itemizing gift from the IRS: Fees paid to professional tax preparers are deductible, too.

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