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Although tax season may seem like light years away, there are steps you can take now to bump up your refund.
To get more money back from Uncle Sam, consider putting in the extra work to itemize your deductions. According to the most recent IRS data from 2009, about 45 million Americans claimed more than $1 trillion in deductions by itemizing on their 1040s. Meanwhile, an estimated 92 million taxpayers claimed $700 million through standard deductions--but some who took the easy way out might have cost themselves.
To help you get the most from your tax return, U.S. News consulted four certified public accountants: Steven Albert of Glass Jacobson in Owings Mills, Md., Melissa Labant of the American Institute of CPAs, Dennis Newman of Sharrard, McGee, & Co. in Greensboro, N.C., and Sandy Stolar of EisnerAmper LLP in New York City. They identified the deductions taxpayers most frequently miss:
Medical and dental care expenses. Currently, individuals are allowed to deduct medical and dental expenses on their tax return if the costs exceed 7.5 percent of their adjusted gross income (AGI), but that threshold will be increased next year to 10 percent as a result of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Eligible medical deductions are expenses incurred under a doctor's prescription. In other words, "if you just want to take vitamins, you can't deduct that," notes Albert.
People often forget to deduct travel expenses incurred to receive medical care, says Stolar. If you can't make the trip on your own, a portion of a companion's lodging expenses may be eligible for a medical deduction as well.