It’s that time of year again, and if you haven’t filed your taxes yet, you’re not alone. Luckily, you’ve still got time to make sure you’re getting all the money back that you possibly can — and we’ve got tips to show you how. Tax laws change annually, which means this time around, you may be eligible for higher deductions — and who doesn’t want to save money on their taxes? Keep reading for smart ways to keep hundreds in your pocket, and even get free tax prep assistance.
If you’re a caregiver, tap ‘hidden’ savings.
The standard deduction (the amount you subtract from your total taxable income, allowing you to be taxed on less than what you earn) depends on a few factors. “If you file a single or separate return, have one dependent, and pay more than 50 percent of the household bills, you qualify as ‘head of household,’ letting you take a deduction of $18,800 — that’s $6,250 more than a standard single filer,” says Barbara Weltman, author of J.K. Lasser’s 1001 Deductions & Tax Breaks 2022 (Buy from Amazon for $21.29). Also, if you pay a nurse or relative to care for a dependent, you may qualify for a credit, which increased from $3,000 to $8,000 in 2021.
If you’re over 65, grab your discount.
Congratulations on reaching this milestone birthday! One great gift? You qualify for a “senior bonus” on your standard deduction: $1,700 if filing singly or as head of household, and $1,350 if married and filing jointly, separately or as a widow. “You may also qualify for a credit ranging from $3,750 to $7,500, depending on your income, says credit expert Chris Morgan. “This isn’t mentioned on Form 1040, so many folks don’t know they’re eligible.”
Retired? The age you must start withdrawing the annual “required minimum distributions” from retirement accounts to avoid a penalty just increased from 70.5 to 72!
If you made donations, do those deductions.
Charitable giving increased by more than five percent last year. And while you already know that you can deduct cash you donated, you may not realize you can also deduct the cost of materials used to make something you gave to a worthy cause — say, the yarn used to knit mittens or the ingredients for a charity bake sale. Says Weltman, “If you itemize your deductions, rather than use the standard deduction, these small purchases can really add up.” Also smart: If you drove for a charitable reason, like shuttling seniors or veterans to their doctor appointments, you can deduct 14 cents for every mile.
If you want free tax prep, visit these resources.
Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) offers free tax preparation for folks ages 60 and older. “It’s a great resource if you’re retired or nearing retirement and are trying to figure out how that changes your filings,” says Weltman. Find a TEC location by typing in your zip code here.
The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program run by the IRS provides free tax preparation to those who make less than $57,000 per year, as well as qualifying seniors. Just type in your zip code here.
The IRS offers a “Free File” program online for active military. “It guides you through the sections and does the math for you,” says Weltman. Learn more here, and file your taxes quickly and at no cost for your peace of mind.
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This article originally appeared in our print magazine, First For Women.