Tax Strategies & Credits

The Most Overlooked Tax Deductions You Should Be Taking Every Year

The Most Overlooked Tax Deductions You Should Be Taking Every Year

Tax deductions can be complicated. Working with a good local CPA is the best way to feel confident that you’re keeping the most you can of your hard-earned money, but it’s still smart to be financially literate, too. 

Here, we assess the top most overlooked tax deductions you should be taking when you file your federal returns every year (as long as you qualify, of course!) 

Sales tax 

This tax deduction is technically available to everyone but tends to be best for those who live in the U.S. states that don’t have income tax – Alaska, Florida, Nevada, New Hampshire, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Washington, and Wyoming.

Taxpayers are required to choose between deducting state and local income taxes or state and local sales taxes. If your state charges income tax, the state and local income tax deduction is typically the best move.

If your state has no income tax, however, you can use one of two methods to determine how much sales tax you are allowed to deduct. The first option is to use the IRS table provided for your state. The second is to track all of the sales tax you paid over the course of the tax year by keeping physical receipts and digital records of purchases for online shopping.

The IRS’s Sales Tax Calculator is an invaluable tool if you are trying to better understand this deduction. 

Small, out-of-pocket charitable contributions

While most taxpayers already know that large charitable contributions are tax-deductible, it’s important to remember that you don’t have to donate thousands of dollars to benefit. Small, out-of-pocket charitable contributions can add up over the course of a year, potentially leading to lower taxes for you.

Imagine, for example, that you regularly purchase ingredients to prepare food for a soup kitchen in your town. Or, perhaps you donate designer bags to a local nonprofit organization’s purse bingo night fundraiser. Maybe you pick up canned goods for a food bank periodically when you’re at the grocery store. Any of these things – plus dozens of other everyday “good deeds” – can be considered charitable contributions when tax time rolls around.

Student loan interest

Tens of millions of Americans have student loan debt, and most are already aware that they can deduct any interest they personally pay. However, it is also possible to claim the student loan interest deduction if someone else paid your loans on your behalf at any point during the year.

The IRS does have strict regulations about who can claim the deduction, so make sure you read up on the particulars and consult with your tax professional. The IRS specifically notes:

​​Student loan interest is interest you paid during the year on a qualified student loan. It includes both required and voluntarily pre-paid interest payments. You may deduct the lesser of $2,500 or the amount of interest you actually paid during the year. The deduction is gradually reduced and eventually eliminated by phaseout when your modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) amount reaches the annual limit for your filing status.

Jury pay given to employer

Jury duty is, for some, a necessary evil and, for others – we see you, true crime junkies – a dream come true. Either way, if you’re sitting in a jury box, you’re not present at work. In some cases, employers pay their employees’ full salary while they do their civic duty but require jury fees to be remitted to the company. 

The issue here is that those fees then become taxable income. If you find yourself in this situation, you are legally allowed to deduct the amount you gave to your employer so you aren’t taxed for money that never actually belonged to you. 

The IRS offers a helpful online worksheet for anyone who turned over jury pay to their company.

Do you already take these federal deductions or are they new to you?

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Spencer Wilson

Spencer Wilson

Spencer Wilson, EA is a tax preparer based in Long Beach, CA. Spencer Wilson Financial Management Services has been serving the Greater Los Angeles Area and Orange County since 2004. <br /> We began in the heart of Naples in Long Beach and we continue to work hard offering tax preparation and planning, business accounting and bookkeeping and payroll services . <br /> We have helped many different people and businesses succeed financially and take control over their finances.

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