Personal Finance


The April 15 tax deadline is about two months away, yet that’s still plenty of time to knock a few dollars off your 2019 tax bill.

The IRS declared tax season open on Jan. 27. The agency expects to receive more than 150 million individual income tax returns for the 2019 tax year.

Some 15.7 million early birds filed their returns during the week of Jan. 31, according to IRS data. Of these, 4.3 million got money back from Uncle Sam, receiving an average refund of $1,869.

If you have time to scrounge around your box of receipts and review the relevant documents you received in the mail, you may have a shot at reducing what you owe.

Here are nine tips to cut your tax bill.

1. Save for retirement

If you can put away money in an individual retirement account, you get the benefit of saving for your future and you may be able to write off the contribution.

In 2019, you can put away up to $6,000 in a traditional IRA. Throw in an extra $1,000 if you’re 50 and over.

Didn’t make these contributions last year? No worries. You have until April 15 to save the money and make it count for 2019.

2. Grow your health savings account

Build your nest egg for medical expenses and get a tax break as well.

Health savings accounts work alongside high-deductible health plans. These HSAs allow you to save on a pretax or tax-deductible basis and have the money accumulate tax-free over time.

You can withdraw the proceeds to pay for qualified medical expenses on a tax-free basis, too.

For 2019, you’re able to contribute up to $3,500 to an HSA if you have single coverage or up to $7,000 for family plans. Accountholders 55 and over can save an extra $1,000.

Just like your IRA contributions, you have until April 15 to save and collect a deduction for 2019.

3. Deduct your student loan interest

Here’s something that might make your student loan payment a little less painful.

You can deduct up to $2,500 or the amount of interest you paid during the year, whichever is the lesser. By now, your lender should have sent you those details on Form 1098-E.

You don’t have to itemize deductions to claim this write-off.

4. Legally pay your caregiver

If you’re shelling out for day care or after-school care for a child under 13, you might be able to claim a credit of up to $1,050 for one child or $2,100 for two or more kids.

“Keep records of those child-care costs,” said Andy Phillips, director of The Tax Institute at H&R Block. “You may qualify for a credit to offset some of the cost of child care.”

You need to pay your care provider on the books to claim this tax break.

5. Write off business costs

6. Write off your kid’s tuition and fees

Peter Cade | Getty Images

If your child is in college, you may deduct $4,000 a year in higher-education tuition costs and other expenses. You don’t have to itemize to claim this break.

7. Pay down mortgage insurance

Homeowners who put down less than 20% of the sales price often have to buy private mortgage insurance. If you itemize on your tax return, you can deduct the premiums you paid during the year.

8. Recover from the short sale of your home

Let’s say last year your bank foreclosed on your home or you were forced into a so-called short sale.

If your lender canceled or forgave the mortgage on your principal residence, you may exclude up to $2 million (for married filers) of that discharged debt from your gross income.

9. Tally up medical expenses

If you itemize deductions on your tax return and you had hefty medical expenses — that is, to the extent they exceed 7.5% of your 2019 adjusted gross income — you can claim the medical deduction.

Be aware that if you used an HSA to pay these expenses, you may not deduct those costs on your tax return.



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