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How to Start Tax Planning

Updated for Tax Year 2016


OVERVIEW

A little tax planning can be a big help at tax time each year.


If you want to pay the least amount of income tax each year, then it may be helpful to start doing some tax planning. Don’t worry - you don’t need an accounting degree to make some smart tax decisions. A little planning goes a long way.

Step 1: Start a filing system

Start a filing system to organize your documents. Any successful tax planning strategy requires you to maintain records of all transactions and receipts that may affect your tax return. This helps to keep track of important documents and avoid forgetting about transactions that occur months before the tax filing deadline.

Step 2: Understand tax deduction requirements

Before you get too far along in the tax year, you should evaluate all available IRS deductions and the requirements to claim them. By doing this beforehand, you can be proactive in preparing to claim a deduction at the end of the year.

For example, if you know you are heading back to school soon and will need a loan to pay your tuition, it may be better to take out a student loan rather than using a credit card. This is because you can deduct the interest that accrues on a student loan, but not on a credit card, even if used for educational purposes.

Step 3: Evaluate the tax credits offered

Tax credits offer a significant opportunity to save money on income taxes since they reduce your actual tax bill on a dollar-for-dollar basis. The types of tax credits offered each year change more frequently than deductions. Credits are often available for a limited time and cover specific types of expenses.

For example, the federal government offers taxpayers a credit that covers 30 percent of an unlimited amount of costs to purchase and install solar-energy equipment such as energy-producing solar panels. As long as the product includes a certification by the manufacturer that it satisfies government requirements, you can claim the credit.

Therefore, if you are planning to install solar panels on your roof this year, but are unaware of the credit, you could miss out on an opportunity to save money. And if you find out about the credit after you install the panels, you run the risk of being ineligible for the credit if your panels do not include a manufacturer’s certification. By knowing the requirements before you purchase the panels, you can insure you are eligible for the credit.

Step 4: Use an IRA

Use an Individual Retirement Account (IRA) instead of a savings account. Many taxpayers put their savings into a typical bank account that earns taxable interest. However, you can avoid paying tax on the interest each year by depositing money into a traditional IRA account instead where the interest will accumulate tax-free. When you do, you are also eligible to claim a deduction each year for a certain amount of contributions you make to the account.

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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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