While you work: Get credit for 20% to 25% of child care costs. / Jane Sobel Klonsky / Yellowdog Productions
April 15 is around the corner, and right about now you may be searching for ways to reduce your 2012 taxes. One problem: The only thing you can still do is contribute to a deductible individual retirement account (IRA).
And even contributing to a traditional IRA might not be possible if you’re covered by a retirement plan at work. Couples need to have modified adjusted gross income of $92,000 or less (line 37 of your 1040, adding back certain items, like student-loan deductions) to take the full IRA deduction. Single filers: $58,000 or less.
If you don’t have a retirement plan, though, you can contribute up to $5,000 ($6,000 if you’re 50 or older) to a 2012 IRA and deduct that. That’s it. Still, it is important to make sure you’re taking all the deductions and credits you’re entitled to. Don’t overlook:
Charitable contributions. This is not limited to cash. You also can deduct the fair market value of items you’ve donated to charity as well as mileage incurred while performing charity work — a princely 14 cents a mile. And, no, you can’t deduct the cost of Girl Scout cookies.
Student loan interest. You can deduct the smaller of $2,500 or the amount of interest you paid in 2012. You don’t have to itemize deductions to get this tax break.
Medical and dental bills. Most medical and dental expenses not covered by insurance are deductible. But you had to be pretty sick to take advantage of this deduction: You can deduct only the expenses that are more than 7.5% of your adjusted gross income.
Job-hunting expenses. These include 55.5 cents a mile for driving to job interviews, plus parking and tolls. One hitch: Expenses incurred while finding your first job don’t qualify, but costs of moving for your first job are deductible.
Child care credit. Deductions are swell, but credits are even better: They reduce your taxes dollar-for-dollar. The child care credit is worth 20% to 25% of the cost of child care while you work.
John Waggoner is a columnist for USA TODAY’s Money section.