Are You Aware Of These Tax Deductions?

By John Hemmendinger, CPA

Whether you are an experienced tax filer or a first timer, you will probably not forget obvious tax deductions such as home mortgage interest, real estate property tax and student loan interest. But there are many more areas where the tax code enables you to claim expenses as deductions from personal income that people seem to miss.

Some of them are buried deep in the language of the code, which gets bigger and more complex every year with new additions. Here are several tax deductions you should know about:

Dependent Parents

If you are taking care of aging parents and pay some or all of their medical expenses, you may be able to claim them as a deduction. The rule is that if you support your parents financially, and provide for more than 50 percent of their total expenses and the medical expenses you pay for them and yourself exceeds 7.5 percent of your adjusted gross income, you would qualify for a tax deduction.

Home energy efficiency improvements

If you made home improvements in 2010, which included installing energy efficient doors, windows, water heaters etc., you may be able to receive a tax credit of as much as $1,500 from your 2010 tax bill.


Mortgage loan origination fees

If you bought a house in 2010 you may deduct the mortgage origination fees or discount points that you paid when buying the house. The code considers all these expenses pre-paid mortgage interest which is an allowable deduction on the primary residence.

State Sales Tax

If you bought a new vehicle, boat or a plane in 2010 you may deduct the sale tax of the purchase, even if you don’t itemize your deduction. This depends on the state you live in and whether it imposes a state income tax. You must choose between deducting state and local income taxes or state and local sales taxes. The income tax, in most states, is a larger burden than the sales tax, so the income tax deduction will be more worthwhile. The IRS publishes a table that shows how much residents of various states can deduct. But that is not all. If you purchased a vehicle, a boat or a plane you can add the state sale tax you paid to the IRS deductions to the extent that the sale tax you paid doesn’t exceed the state’s general sales tax rate. The IRS has a calculator on its website to help you figure out the deduction. It all depends on your filing status and your income level. This rule has been extended to 2011 as well.

Volunteering and Philanthropy

If you do charity work, you can deduct the millage for your commute to and from your work. The IRS determent millage allowance is 14 cents per mile. The importance of charity work and volunteering manifests itself in another rule; if you need to get the services of a childcare provider while volunteering for a non-profit organization, you can deduct this expense from your taxes.


If you mentor a child, through an organization like Big Brother/Sister, Young Life etc. the tax code enables you to deduct the money you spend on the child while mentoring him/her.

Travel and Business Meals and Entertainment

If you are self-employed or a small business owner, and need to entertain your clients or prospective buyers, you can claim a deduction for 50 percent of the costs for meals and entertainment cost. However, travel expenses incurred while travelling away from your home are 100 percent deductible.

Continued Education

When itemizing your expenses think of the miscellaneous expenses that further your career and your education; subscriptions to professional publications, dues paid to organizations, investment advisory fee, tax preparation, legal fees etc.

Jury Duty pay

This is a bit tricky; if you served on a jury and received compensation from the court, it is considered taxable income. But, if you were still getting your regular salary and returned the court’s compensation, you can deduct the pay you got for the Jury Duty days from your income.

All those deduction exist in the language of the code, but you have to know what is included in the tax code and what is not.

About the Author: John Hemmendinger, CPA specializes in providing accounting and tax services to small business owners and professional practices in Cedar Knolls, NJ. For more information, go here:


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