Magazine article USA TODAY

Looking for Tax Relief? There Still Is Time

Magazine article USA TODAY

Looking for Tax Relief? There Still Is Time

Article excerpt

If you are just beginning to think about your 2011 income tax return, you have gotten a late start--but it still is not too late to cash in on some savings, advises CPA Jessica James, author of Justice for None, an insider look at Internal Revenue Service tactics in a tax fraud investigation and trial.

With "a lot of the deductions associated with the economic stimulus package disappearing after 2012," here are some tips for both 2011 and 2012 savings:

* Contribute to retirement accounts. If you have not already put money into your traditional or ROTH Individual Retirement Account for 2011, you have until April 17 to do it. If you have a Keogh or SEP (Simplified Employee Pension Individual Retirement Arrangement for businesses), and you get a filing extension to Oct. 15, you have until then to make your 2011 deposits. The maximum IRA contribution for 2011 is $5,000, or $6,000 if you are 50 or older by the end of the year. For self-employed people, the maximum for SEPs and Keoghs for 2011 is $49,000.

* Do not fear the home office deduction. In the past, many tax filers did not claim this because it was seen as an IRS red flag, but the requirements and forms have been clarified so people can do that properly--and not make mistakes that can lead to an audit. Also, the rules have been expanded so more people can claim the deduction. If you use a home office exclusively for business, even if you do not meet your clients there, you are eligible. For instance, a handyman who does his work at other people's houses can claim the deduction if he does his paperwork at his home office. …

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