4. Military reservists' travel expenses
Members of the military reserve forces and National Guard who travel more than 100 miles and stay overnight for the training exercises can deduct related expenses. This includes the cost of lodging and half the cost of meals. If you drive to the training, be sure to track your miles. You can deduct them on your 2015 return at 57.5 cents per mile, along with any parking or toll fees for driving your own car. You get this deduction whether or not you itemize; it's one of the above-the-line deductions found directly on Form 1040. But you will have to fill out Form 2106.
5. Child care credit, and more
Millions of parents claim the child and dependent care credit each year to help cover the costs of after-school day care while Mom and Dad work. But some parents overlook claiming the tax credit for child care costs during the summer. This tax break also applies to summer day camp costs. The key here is that the camp is a day-only getaway that supervises the child while the parents work. You can't claim overnight camp costs.
Remember, too, the dual nature of the credit's name: child and dependent. If you have an adult dependent who needs care so that you can work, those expenses can be claimed under this tax credit.
6. Mortgage refinance points
When you buy a house, you get to deduct the points paid on the loan on your tax return for that year of purchase. But if you refinance your home loan, you might be able to deduct those points, too, as long as you use refinanced mortgage proceeds to improve your principal residence.
7. Many medical costs
Taxpayers who itemize deductions know how difficult it often is to reach the adjusted gross income threshold required before you can claim any itemized medical expenses on Schedule A. It might be easier to clear that earnings hurdle if you look at miscellaneous medical costs. Some of these include travel expenses to and from medical treatments, insurance premiums you pay for from already-taxed income and even alcohol- or drug-abuse treatments.
Keep good records of all your medical-related expenses. They could help you clear this tax deduction hurdle. Changes made with the enactment of the Affordable Care Act mean that taxpayers age 65 or younger must have qualifying medical expenses in excess of 10% of adjusted gross income in order to deduct them.
And self-employed taxpayers take note. If you are not covered by any other employer-paid plan, for example, one carried by a spouse, you can deduct 100% of health insurance premiums as an adjustment to income in the section at the bottom of Page 1 of Form 1040.
8. Retirement tax savings
The retirement savings contribution credit was created to give moderate- and low-income taxpayers an incentive to save. When you contribute to a retirement account, either an individual retirement account (traditional or Roth) or a workplace plan, you can get a tax savings for up to 50% of the first $2,000 you put into such accounts. This means you get a $1,000 tax credit, which is a tax break that directly reduces dollar for dollar any tax you owe.
9. Educational expenses
The Internal Revenue Code offers many tax-saving options for individuals who want to further their education. The tuition and fees deduction can help you take up to $4,000 off your taxable income and is available without having to itemize.
The lifetime learning credit could provide some students (or their parents) up to a $2,000 credit.
Don't forget the American opportunity tax credit, which offers a dollar-for-dollar tax break of up to $2,500. This education tax break was created as part of the 2009 stimulus package as a short-term replacement for the Hope tax credit, and was made permanent in December 2015 with passage of the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes, or PATH, Act of 2015.
10. Energy-efficient home improvements
Tax breaks for some relatively easy energy-efficient home improvements are available under the Nonbusiness Energy Property Credit. If you haven't claimed this credit in its prior tax year incarnations (it was first available in 2005) and have made energy upgrades in 2015 (or will do so in 2016) it could be worth up to $500 in tax savings.
To claim this credit, found on part 2 of Form 5695, you must pay attention to specific spending limits, such as $150 for high-efficiency furnaces and boilers, $300 for air conditioners and heat pumps and $200 for replacement windows.
Yes, this tax break does require record keeping and filling out some work sheets. But if you qualify, it is a tax credit, giving you a dollar-for-dollar reduction of your tax bill. And when it comes to taxes, every dollar saved helps.