10 Tax Breaks or Benefits You May Not Be Taking Advantage of (But Should Be)

I’m going to harbor a guess and say your tax education looked very similar to mine. It started in the fifth grade when you learned about the Boston Tea Party. Then picked back up when you started working that part-time job in high school and your parents made you watch them do your taxes. Fast forward to when you’re a real adult and count on TurboTax to show you the way.

That brief education covered the basics and gets the job done, but I’m guessing that (also like me) you wish you knew how to do your taxes in the most advantageous way possible. I dug deep and found ten tax breaks and benefits that you may not be taking advantage of. Let’s work on getting you an impressive tax return this year — so you can spend more time at that yoga studio you love with the heated floors and really fluffy towels.


1. Health Insurance Premiums

Health insurance premiums can get pretty pricey. That’s why when tax season rolls around you should be checking to see which medical care expenses for you, your spouse, or your dependents can be deducted. Payments to doctors, dentists, surgeons, chiropractors, psychiatrists, and more can qualify — but you may deduct only the amount of your total medical expenses that exceed 7.5% of your adjusted gross income.


2. Teacher Deductions

We all know teachers go above and beyond, so much so that they often buy classroom supplies out of pocket. If you’re an eligible educator, you can deduct up to $250 ($500 if married filing jointly and both spouses are eligible educators) of unreimbursed expenses such as books, supplies, and computer equipment. We can’t forget our gym teachers! They qualify too, and can deduct health and athletic supplies.


3. Charitable Gifts and Expenses

If you donated cash or property, donated to tax-exempt organizations, and meet record-keeping requirements, your charitable donations are tax deductible. Itemize your tax deductions to make a claim, and make sure to keep consistent records throughout the year. You can also make claims under certain guidelines for non-cash donations as well.


4. Education and Lifetime Learning

Another deduction you may have utilized in your college days was an education credit or deduction. But guess what? The fun doesn’t stop after college! The Lifetime Learning credit can help pay for undergraduate, graduate, and professional degree courses — including courses to acquire or improve job skills. It is worth up to $2,000 per tax return.


5. Self-Employed Social Security

If you’re self-employed, you’ll have to pay 15.3 percent of your income for social security and Medicare taxes. This means you’re paying the portions ordinarily paid by both employee and employer; however, you can claim a deduction for a portion of this when you file your tax return.


6. Child and Dependent Care Credit

If you have to pay for childcare for dependents under the age of 13 while you work or search for employment, then you’ll have access to a child care credit (up to 35 percent of qualifying expenses, depending on adjusted gross income). The credit may also apply to the cost of caring for a spouse or dependent of any age if they are incapable (physically or mentally) of self-care. To see if you qualify for this, you can take this quiz.


7. Savers Credit

This credit is for eligible contributions toward retirement plans (401(k), qualified investment retirement accounts, etc.). You’re eligible for this credit if you’re 18 years or older, are not a full-time student, and are not claimed as a dependent on another person’s return. The credits can go as high as $2,000 if filing jointly.


8. Jury Duty Income

Any jury duty pay you receive has to be reported as income; however, if you are required to give your jury duty pay to your employer because your employer pays your salary while you serve on a jury, then you can deduct the amount given to your employer as an adjustment to income. Seems fair to me!


9. Home Office

If you use a part of your home exclusively for conducting business, and it is the principal place of your business, you may qualify for a home office tax deduction.


10. Moving Expenses for Members of the Armed Forces

If you’re a member of the Armed Forces on active duty, you may be eligible to deduct moving expenses if your move was due to a military order and permanent change of station. You may be able to deduct unreimbursed moving expenses.