5 Expert Tips to Help You Tackle Your Taxes

5 Expert Tips to Help You Tackle Your Taxes

We have hints from the experts as you prepare those tax forms due April 15.

By Heather Chaet

We all know that every cent counts when running a household and that raising a family costs money. One thing you don’t want to do that affects your bank account directly is mess up when you file your taxes. “No matter what your circumstances are, correctly handling your taxes can be tricky,” says Vanessa Borges, tax agent and tax preparation supervisor. “If you're a parent, however, there are all types of special considerations when you prepare your return. Make sure you are claiming all of the benefits that are available to you as parents. There are also inherent issues to be on the lookout for, so make sure you are informed, and use a tax professional to prepare your taxes. If you are going to file them yourself, then make sure you are thorough with your research.”

Ultimately, we all want to make sure we get the best outcome every April 15. We chatted with the pros on what deductions all moms and dads should remember, as well as common tax filing mistakes folks make each year that affect their possible return.

1. Remember, even your child needs his or her Social Security number. You may have your nine digits memorized, but Junior needs to have his own number to be sure you can receive certain tax benefits. “First things first, make sure you get a Social Security number for your child,” says Borges.

“New parents are often overwhelmed by the new addition to the family and really don't have the time or the energy to research the tax benefits available to them,” she says. “The federal government offers a number of tax breaks to offset the cost of raising a child. However, you'll need a Social Security number to claim your child as a dependent on your tax return and to receive all the tax benefits that are available to you.”

2. Be sure to check out the Child and Dependent Care Credit. This is an often-overlooked credit for which you may qualify. “You can claim the expenses associated with the care of your little ones,” explains certified public accountant Lisa Greene-Lewis. “If you have children under the age of 13 and you pay someone else to take care of them, you could qualify. This credit is designed to help recover up to 35 percent of dependent care costs up to $3,000 for one child and $6,000 for two or more.”

How do you know if you qualify? “One of the requirements to claim this credit is that you were working outside of your home or were looking for work,” says Greene-Lewis. Also, if both parents work, certain summer camp and afterschool activities may be an eligible deduction under this credit, so be sure to inquire about that with a tax professional.

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3. Medical expenses may make your taxes less painful. From costs of certain procedures to health equipment you may have purchased, look over any medical-related payments you made over the year. “You can claim the amount of your medical expenses that exceeds 7.5 percent of your adjusted gross income,” says Greene-Lewis. “Double-check to see if you’re overlooking anything. Families with new babies may be able to deduct breastfeeding supplies like a breast pump.”

4. Self-employment provides particular deductions. “If you have your own business, you should understand the deductions that may be available to offset your self-employment income,” notes Gail Rosen, an accountant. “First, there is a home office deduction. Many people avoid the home office deduction and should not ignore it if they are legally entitled to it, since it can save you a lot of tax dollars.”


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Other job-related deductions include automobile expenses and start-up costs. “You have the choice of deducting expenses either using the standard mileage rate of 56 cents per mile for 2014 plus business tolls and parking or actual method,” says Rosen. “Try both methods for maximizing your deduction. Also, if you started your business in 2014, do not forget costs you incurred before 2014 that may be deductible now.”

5. Just like you tell your kids when doing homework: Check your work. As busy parents, we are often running around with less sleep and multitasking more than most folks, which could mean not always having optimum time or energy to do certain tasks, like filing taxes. Basic mistakes such as math errors, misspellings, choosing the wrong forms, and just forgetting to put your signature at the bottom before you put everything in the mail are all little things that could cost you and your family big money.

If you are filing by yourself, take extra care to look over every line item to be sure you are not making a preventable error. If you know you may not have the time to do it correctly or when in doubt, you may consider contacting a tax professional for help.

What are some deductions you are eligible to take on your taxes?

Heather Chaet documents her mini parenting successes, epic mommy fails, and everything in between for a plethora (love that word!) of publications and websites such as CafeMom, New York Family, and AdWeek. While her online persona is found at heatherchaet.com, Heather lives in New York City with her film director husband and one insanely curious, cat-obsessed daughter.

Image ©iStock.com/elenaleonova

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