Legal Secrets to Reducing Your Taxes

“There’s more opportunities in general for self-employed workers and business owners,” says Luke Sotir, a financial professional with Equitable Advisors in the greater Boston area.

However, there are still a number of ways for wage earners to lower their tax liability.

Tax credits and deductions change regularly though, and the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 eliminated some popular deductions and limited others.

“Certainly, it’s a moving target,” says David Snider, founder and CEO of New York City-based Harness Wealth.

As of right now, here are 15 ways to reduce how much you owe for the 2020 tax year:

Contribute to a Retirement Account

Retirement account contributions are a top tax-reduction tool, as they serve two purposes.

Contributions to traditional 401(k) and IRA accounts can be deducted from your taxable income and, as a result, reduce the amount of federal tax you owe. These funds also grow tax-free until retirement. If you start early, saving money in these accounts can help secure your retirement.

“Even if you haven’t executed that plan by the end of the year, you still have time,” says John Maceovsky, managing director for accounting firm CBIZ MHM in Tampa Bay, Florida.

While contributions to workplace 401(k) accounts must be made by the end of the calendar year, tax-deductible contributions can be made to traditional IRAs up until the April 15 tax-filing deadline.

Open a Health Savings Account

If you have an eligible high-deductible medical plan, contribute to a health savings account. Contributions to these accounts offer an immediate tax deduction, grow tax-deferred and can be withdrawn tax-free for qualified medical expenses. Any balance left at the end of the year can roll over indefinitely, similar to the assets in a retirement account.

Use Your Side Hustle to Claim Business Deductions

Self-employed individuals (full time or part time) are eligible for scores of tax deductions. That means your freelance projects or side gig as a ride-share driver could land you considerable tax savings.

A few of the business deductions available include business-related vehicle mileage, shipping, advertising, website fees, percentage of home internet charges used for business, professional publications, dues, memberships, business-related travel, office supplies and any expenses incurred to run your business. If you pay for your own health, dental or long-term care insurance, those premiums may be deductible too.

Just be sure to maintain proper records, says Robbin E. Caruso, a CPA and partner at accounting firm Prager Metis in Cranbury, New Jersey. She has seen many people lose their deductions for that reason.

“They are disallowed because taxpayers didn’t keep the right documentation,” she says. Be sure to keep receipts, mileage logs or other records that you can produce in the event of an audit.

Claim a Home Office Deduction

If you work for yourself or have a side business, don’t be afraid to take the home office deduction.

To qualify for the deduction, the space must be used regularly and exclusively for business purposes. For instance, if an extra bedroom is used exclusively as a home office and it constitutes one-fifth of your apartment’s living space, you can deduct one-fifth of rent and utility fees.

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