Paycheck Chronicles

From USAA: 5 Ways to Save on Taxes - Before December 31st

From our friends at USAA:

It may seem too early to think about taxes, but you can possiblysave hundreds of dollars or more by getting your deductible ducks in arow before the year ends. As with most deductions, income restrictionsmay apply so check with the Internal Revenue Service to get details. For starters, see if you can take advantage of these five tax-saving moves:

1. Donate. Spend a Saturday morning going throughstuff you don't want. "Take those clothes and items [in good, usedcondition] to your local charitable organization right away," saysSally Herigstad, a certified public accountant and author of Help! ICan't Pay My Bills. "Be sure to get a receipt to verify the donationwas made." Popular tax-preparation software packages have charitabledonation calculators built in, making this one of the easiestdeductions you may be able to take.

2. Pay deductible expenses early. Make your Januaryhouse payment in December so the interest deduction is included in your2008 tax return. And, in December, pay your property tax that is due inJanuary (for the same reason).

3. Tax-loss harvesting. In light of this year'sstock market struggles, you may want to consider taking some of thelosers and selling them to realize the loss for tax purposes. Checkwith your tax advisor regarding your situation.

4. Put money toward retirement. If you haven'tstarted contributing to a 401(k) or similar retirement account, now'sthe time to begin. Your 401(k) contributions are not deductible, butthe money you put into them comes from pretax dollars. So, in effect,you're reducing your taxable income. If you have an IRA, don't forgetthat contributions made to Individual Retirement Accountsmay be tax deductible. And, in many cases, you can claim IRAcontributions made after Dec. 31, 2008 - right up through tax day,April 15, 2009. For 2008, taxpayers under age 50 can contribute up to$5,000; up to $6,000 for those 50 or older. For accurate informationbased on your personal financial situation, you should consult a taxprofessional or get more tax tips online from the IRS.

5. Make smart moves - now. Pondering a job move?Decide quickly if you want to deduct it from your 2008 tax return. Youcan deduct job-related moving expenses in any given year if you move atleast 50 miles from your old home and remain employed full time for atleast 39 weeks after the move. If you haven't met the time test by taxday, you can still deduct moving expenses on your 2008 return, providedyou expect to stay in the job for at least 39 weeks. But if you quit orget fired before the time period is met, you have to report it to theIRS. See IRS Publication 521for details. Military moves due to a permanent change of station alsoqualify for the deduction, but don't have to meet the distance and timerequirements, says J.J. Montanaro, a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNERpractitioner at USAA.

I really appreciate all the advice that USAA provides for us - good suggestions from smart people.

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