Last-minute tax tips for deductions, refunds 

The close of every tax season sees frantic filers scrambling to make the deadline. Even with the extra two days granted taxpayers this year, some will still be filing at the 11th hour. In addition, some late tax changes meant that IRS forms went out to taxpayers without reflecting the extended tax deadline. Consequently, filers should be aware of the following deductions and refunds.

» The telephone refund. The federal government is making a one-time refund this year of telephone excise tax paid on long-distance or bundled services for the period after Feb. 28, 2003, and before Aug. 1, 2006. Taxpayers can take a standard amount from $30 to $60, based on the number of exemptions, by filling out Form 8913.

» A gift for teachers. Teachers or teacher’s aides can deduct up to $250 for classroom supplies. The deduction is claimed on Form 1040, so there’s no need to itemize.

» Tuition and fees deduction. For those who are enrolled in an institution of higher learning, a deduction up to $4,000 for college tuition and related expenses can be claimed by either the parent paying for an eligible dependent or the student, if they are filing separately.

» Student loan interest. Student filers should also be aware that if their parents pay off their student loans for them, the IRS considers it as money given to the student, who then paid the debt. Therefore the student, even if they are not claimed as a dependent, can qualify to deduct up to $2,500 of student loan interest.

Some of the common last-minute mistakes people make include:

» Math errors. Taxpayers should double-check the Social Security numbers for the taxpayer, spouse, dependents and persons listed in relation to claims for the Child Care or Earned Income Tax credits. They should also check that they have correctly figured the refund or balance due, and have used the right figures from the tax table.

» Not attaching appropriate documentation.

» Not signing the tax return.

And remember, this year the filing deadline is Tuesday, not Monday, as many assume.

Jack Nuckolls is a senior tax director in the Bay Area practice of BDO Seidman, LLP.

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