Everyday tax savings for all year long

Lady holding up money

(ARA) — Your daily expenses and activities may be earning you valuable tax breaks. From child care and retirement savings to medical expenses and hobbies, you have many opportunities to save thousands on your federal taxes.

Even if you don't qualify for a tax credit or deduction at this time, you may by the end of 2011. "The most important thing to do now is save receipts and documents," says Jessi Dolmage, spokesperson for TaxACT. "Keep the information organized and in one place to make tax time easier and faster."

Here are nine everyday ways to save on your 2011 federal tax return due April 17, 2012:

Child care expenses. Parents who work, attend school or are disabled may be able to write off child care expenses for children younger than 13. The Child and Dependent Care Credit includes before- and after-school care and day camp (overnight camp does not qualify). The credit amount depends on income, but is generally 20 to 35 percent of up to $3,000 in qualifying expenses per dependent, or $6,000 for 2 or more dependents.

Standard mileage. Instead of calculating costs of using a vehicle for business, charitable, medical or moving purposes, you can use the Internal Revenue Service's 2011 standard mileage rates. For the first half of the year, business miles are 51 cents per mile, and medical and moving miles are 19 cents. For business, medical and moving miles driven July 1, 2011 through the end of the year, you can claim 55.5 and 23.5 cents per mile. Mileage driven for charitable organizations is 14 cents per mile for all of 2011.

Home office deduction. Whether you're self-employed or an employee, direct and indirect expenses for use of your home for business purposes may be deductible. The space must be regularly used as the principal place of business or for business meetings. The deductible amount is determined by the percentage of your home used and whether your gross business income is less than your total business expenses.

IRA contributions. Depending on your adjusted gross income and whether you're covered by an employer-sponsored plan, you may deduct up to $5,000 of contributions to a traditional IRA. If you're 50 or older, you can deduct as much as $6,000. Contributions to both traditional and Roth IRAs for 2011 must be made by April 17, 2012.

Health Savings Account (HSA) contributions. Participants can take an above-the-line deduction for up to $3,050 (or $6,150 for families) in HSA contributions on 2011 federal returns.

Medical expenses. If medical and dental expenses for you, your spouse and dependents exceed 7.5 percent of your AGI, costs paid in 2011 may qualify as an itemized deduction. Expenses meeting IRS criteria may include insurance premiums, fees paid to medical professionals, prescription drugs, transportation costs and hospital services.

Charitable gifts. If you itemize deductions, you can deduct the cash amount or fair market value of the household goods donated to qualified organizations. Keep a copy of the bank record or official notification from the organization for monetary gifts. If you receive benefits in return for the contribution, you cannot deduct the value of the benefit. If your non-cash donations total $500 or more, you must file Form 8283 with your tax return.

Profitable hobbies. Are you generating income from a hobby? You may be able to deduct hobby expenses up to the amount of income generated as an itemized deduction. The IRS considers a hobby an activity you'd do even if it didn't generate income. In other words, you don't pursue the hobby in order to make money. If your hobby generates regular income, you may get bigger tax benefits from making it a business.

Mortgage interest. If you itemize, you can generally deduct the interest paid on your home mortgage(s). The deductible amount depends on the mortgage date, amount and how you use the mortgage proceeds.

More information about the above tax breaks can be found at www.irs.gov.

Tax preparation solutions provide easy and understandable means to navigate these credits and deductions. They'll even complete the forms for you. TaxACT solutions for 2011 tax returns will be available in early October, allowing you to estimate your federal and state taxes, and get year-end tax tips. Learn more at www.taxact.com.

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Upcoming Tax Dates

February 1 — Individuals who must make estimated tax payments
If you did not pay your last installment of estimated tax by January 15, you may choose (but are not required) to file your income tax return (Form 1040) for 2015 by February 1. Filing your return and paying any tax due by February 2 prevents any penalty for late payment of the last installment. If you cannot file and pay your tax by February 1, file and pay your tax by April 18.

February 1 — All Employers
Give your employees their copies of Form W2 for 2015. If an employee agreed to receive Form W2 electronically, have it posted on a website and notify the employee of the posting.

February 1 — Payers of gambling winnings
If you either paid reportable gambling winnings or withheld income tax from gambling winnings, give the winners their copies of Form W2G.

February 1 — Nonpayroll taxes
File Form 945 to report income tax withheld for 2015 on all nonpayroll items, including backup withholding and withholding on pensions, annuities, IRAs, gambling winnings, and payments of Indian gaming profits to tribal members. Deposit or pay any undeposited tax under the accuracy of deposit rules.

February 1 — Social Security, Medicare, and withheld income tax
File Form 941 for the fourth quarter of 2015. Deposit or pay any undeposited tax under the accuracy of deposit rules. If your tax liability is less than $2,500, you can pay it in full with a timely filed return. If you deposited the tax for the quarter timely, properly, and in full, you have until February 10 to file the return.

February 1 — Certain small employers
File Form 944 to report social security and Medicare taxes and withheld income tax for 2015. Deposit or pay any undeposited tax under the accuracy of deposit rules. If your tax liability is $2,500 or more for 2015 but less than $2,500 for the fourth quarter, deposit any undeposited tax or pay it in full with a timely filed return. If you deposited the tax for the year timely, properly, and in full, you have until February 10 to file the return.

February 1 — Farm employers
File Form 943 to report social security and Medicare taxes and withheld income tax for 2015. Deposit or pay any undeposited tax under the accuracy of deposit rules. If your tax liability is less than $2,500, you can pay it in full with a timely filed return. If you deposited the tax for the year timely, properly, and in full, you have until February 10 to file the return.

February 1 — Federal unemployment tax
File Form 940 for 2015. If your undeposited tax is $500 r less, you can either pay it with your return or deposit it. If it is more than $500, you must deposit it. However, if you deposited the tax for the year timely, properly, and in full, you have until February 10 to file the return.

February 1 — All businesses
Give annual information statements to recipients of certain payments you made during 2015 - Details

February 1 — Form 720 taxes
File Form 720 for the fourth quarter of 2015.

February 1 — Wagering tax
File Form 730 and pay the tax on wagers accepted during December 2015.

February 1 — Heavy highway vehicle use tax
File Form 2290 and pay the tax for vehicles first used in December 2015.

February 10 — Nonpayroll taxes
File Form 945 to report income tax withheld for 2015 on all nonpayroll items. This due date applies only if you deposited the tax for the year timely, properly, and in full.

February 10 — Social security, Medicare, and withheld income tax
File Form 941 for the fourth quarter of 2015. This due date applies only if you deposited the tax for the quarter timely, properly, and in full.

February 10 — Certain small employers
File Form 944 to report social security and Medicare taxes and withheld income tax for 2015. This due date applies only if you deposited the tax for the year timely, properly, and in full.

February 10 — Farm employers
File Form 943 to report social security and Medicare taxes and withheld income tax for 2015. This due date applies only if you deposited the tax for the year timely, properly, and in full.

February 10 — Federal unemployment tax
File Form 940 for 2015. This due date applies only if you deposited the tax for the year timely, properly, and in full.

February 10 — Employees who work for tips
If you received $20 or more in tips during January, report them to your employer - Details

February 10 — Communications and air transportation taxes under the alternative method
Deposit the tax included in amounts billed or tickets sold during the first 15 days of January.

February 12 — Regular method taxes
Deposit the tax for the last 16 days of January.

February 15 — Everyone
Federal Holiday (Washington's Birthday) - Details

February 16 — Individuals
If you claimed exemption from income tax withholding last year on the Form W-4, you must file a new Form W-4 by this date to continue your exemption for another year - Details

February 16 — All businesses
Give annual information statements to recipients of certain payments you made during 2015 - Details

February 16 — Publication 509 (2015)
All payments reported on Form 1099S, Proceeds From Real Estate Transactions. Substitute payments reported in box 8 or gross proceeds paid to an attorney reported in box 14 of Form 1099MISC.

February 16 — Social security, Medicare, and withheld income tax
If the monthly deposit rule applies, deposit the tax for payments in January.

February 16 — Nonpayroll withholding
If the monthly deposit rule applies, deposit the tax for payments in January.

February 17 — All employers
Begin withholding income tax from the pay of any employee who claimed exemption from withholding in 2015, but did not give you Form W4 to continue the exemption this year.

February 25 — Communications and air transportation taxes under the alternative method
Deposit the tax included in amounts billed or tickets sold during the last 16 days of January.

February 29 — Regular method taxes.
Deposit the tax for the first 15 days of February.

February 29 — All businesses
File information returns (for example, Forms 1099) for certain payments you made during 2015.

February 29 — Farmers & fishermen
File your 2015 income tax return (Form 1040) and pay any tax due - Details

February 29 — Payers of gambling winnings.
File Form 1096 along with Copy A of all the Forms W2G you issued for 2015. If you file Forms W2G electronically, your due date for filing them with the IRS will be extended to March 31. The due date for giving the recipient these forms remains February 1.

February 29 — All employers
File Form W3, Transmittal of Wage and Tax Statements, along with Copy A of all the Forms W2 you issued for 2015. If you file Forms W2 electronically, your due date for filing them with the SSA will be extended to March 31. The due date for giving the recipient these forms remains February 1.

February 29 — Large food and beverage establishment employers
File Form 8027, Employer's Annual Information Return of Tip Income and Allocated Tips. Use Form 8027T, Transmittal of Employer's Annual Information Return of Tip Income and Allocated Tips, to summarize and transmit Forms 8027 if you have more than one establishment. If you file Forms 8027 electronically, your due date for filing them with the IRS will be extended to March 31.

February 29 — Wagering tax
File Form 730 and pay the tax on wagers accepted during January.

February 29 — Heavy highway vehicle use tax
File Form 2290 and pay the tax for vehicles first used in January.

View More Tax Dates