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Everyone knows the standard deductions, but there are tons of deductions of all sizes you can claim to shrink your tax bill -- or increase your refund. Next time you file taxes, think through these under-the-radar deductions that you might qualify for.
Sales taxes differ from state to state, and while it may be a bit of a hassle to collect all your receipts and add them up, it can really pay off if your total sales tax is higher than the standard deduction. Some people think they can only deduct sales taxes on large purchases; but the truth is that you can deduct all sales tax down to the penny.
Do you have to drive around for work? Even if your company reimburses you for mileage, if you used personal money to pay for any of those expenses, you can deduct them based on the percentage you used your vehicle for work purposes. Did you do any business while traveling? If travel was a necessary part of doing that business, you can deduct a portion of your airline expenses, even if your trip was 95 percent pleasure and 5 percent business.
Let's say your job requires you to remain in good health -- anything you do to maintain your health can be counted as a deduction. Whether this includes supplements, your gym membership or your monthly massage, if it directly affects your physical ability to do your job, then it is tax-deductible.
Everyone knows you can deduct charitable giving, but that's not all you may be able to deduct. If you provide a service to a non-profit for free, you can deduct the value of that service. For example, if you teach piano lessons for $30 per hour but do it for free at the local shelter, you can count those hours of time as a donation. If you have to pay a babysitter to watch your kids while you volunteer, that is also deductible.
If you have to pay for childcare in order to work -- and your work doesn't already reimburse you for the expense -- then you can qualify to deduct a healthy portion (between 20 to 35 percent) of the costs.
Beware of Dog
Do you have a canine that, besides being your pet, also serves as property protection for your business? Then you can deduct a portion of the costs from your taxes! This is especially useful for those who run a business out of their personal home. Just make sure your dog is actually scary enough to stand up to an auditor.
Beware of Cat
If you're more of a cat person, though, you're not left out. If you keep cats around your property or business to keep rodents and other unwanted pests at bay, then you could deduct a portion of the cost of food and vaccinations.
A little-known fact is that if you have a home office, you can deduct a portion of all home improvement costs on your taxes. This is based on the overall percentage of space the home office takes up, of course, but every little bit helps.
It's easy to think that this only applies to the unemployed, but that's not true. Even if you're searching for a better position in your field, you can deduct your expenses. Just keep in mind that it's only worth pursuing if your expenses exceeded 2 percent of your adjusted gross income.
Lifetime Learning Credit
This is not just for the recently graduated 20-something. If you've never used it, you can use it at any time later on to help balance out other learning costs if you decide to take a course at your local community college or if you are pursuing a post-graduate degree.
If you move at least 50 miles for a job-related reason, then you can deduct those expenses. From truck rentals to boxes to meals, make sure you keep those receipts for filing time.
No one likes doing their taxes. But, while going through all of these items will require more time for you to spend on filing, it will be more than worth it when you save the extra green.