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Best Investments for Boosting Your Tax Refund

Updated for Tax Year 2016


OVERVIEW

If you're like most taxpayers, you're expecting a tax refund this year. More than 80% of filers got money back from the IRS for tax year 2015, with an average refund amount of more than $3,000. If you want to boost your tax refund, consider investing in your retirement or your home before filing your taxes.


Retirement Contributions Lead to Bigger Tax Refunds

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Favorable tax provisions for retirement planning make investing in your nest egg one of the best ways to boost your tax refund. The IRS even allows you to benefit twice when it comes to a traditional individual retirement account, or IRA. This unique opportunity allows you to both deduct up to a certain limit and get a refundable credit if you earned less than a certain amount of money.

Here's how to take advantage of the same retirement contribution twice to maximize your tax refund:

  • Take the deduction for a traditional IRA, which is limited to $5,500 as of tax year 2016 (or $6,500 for filers ages 50 and up).
  • You can then get an additional credit of up to $1,000, or $2,000 if filing jointly, when you contribute to an IRA or certain other qualified plans. This tax benefit is known as the Saver's Credit, also called the Retirement Savings Contribution Credit.

If you are eligible, you can open a traditional IRA and claim the credit for the previous year up until the upcoming tax deadline, which typically falls around April 15.

Roth IRAs work a bit differently when it comes to boosting your tax refund. You can't deduct Roth IRA contributions, but they do qualify for the Saver's Tax Credit.

Other retirement plans that qualify for the credit include:

  • 401(k)
  • 403(b)
  • SIMPLE IRA
  • SARSEP, or Salary Reduction Simplified Employee Pension Plan

"It's nice to know I can get a tax credit just for saving for retirement, since it's something I should be doing anyway,” says Marie Olivie, taxpayer of San Diego, CA. “It motivates me to put a little bit more aside for my golden years, because I know I'll see results soon in the form of a bigger refund check."

Tax credits boost your refund more so than deductions, but they aren't available to filers at all income levels. They tend to favor taxpayers with low and moderate incomes.

  • For tax year 2016, single taxpayers can earn no more than $30,750; heads of household no more than $46,125; and married taxpayers who filed jointly no more than $61,500 to take advantage of the credit.

By answering a few simple questions when filing your tax return with TurboTax, you'll receive recommendations for credits and deductions that are specific to your income and situation, boosting your tax refund.

Get Some Credit for Being Energy Efficient

Energy-saving improvements to your home pay off in a couple of ways: You save money over time through low or no energy bills and you get to take advantage of tax credits.

  • For example, through the Residential Energy Efficient Property Credit, you can invest in an alternative energy system and claim 30% of the cost of the system through 2019.
  • After that, you can still claim a reduced percentage of the cost through 2021. The credit applies only to your primary residence and second home, not to rental or investment real estate.

Improvements that the credit covers include qualified:

  • solar electric systems
  • solar water heaters
  • small wind energy turbines
  • fuel cell property
  • geothermal heat pumps

If you installed qualified energy efficient insulation, roofing, windows, or doors in your primary residence in 2016, you may also qualify for a Nonbusiness Energy Property Credit. Although it doesn’t offer as much as the Residential Energy Efficient Property Credit, the qualifying improvements are more basic and affordable.

The credit is limited to $500 over your lifetime, and you can claim up to 10% of the cost of doors and windows(not including installation costs) for years to come. Make sure that your windows and doors have a manufacturer's certification statement to qualify for the credit.

Remember, with TurboTax, we’ll ask you simple questions and fill out the right tax forms for you to maximize your tax deductions.

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The above article is intended to provide generalized financial information designed to educate a broad segment of the public; it does not give personalized tax, investment, legal, or other business and professional advice. Before taking any action, you should always seek the assistance of a professional who knows your particular situation for advice on taxes, your investments, the law, or any other business and professional matters that affect you and/or your business.


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