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Early start eases tax time pain

Early start eases tax time pain

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BLOOMINGTON - The estimated 1.8 million Illinoisans who filed their taxes on Monday can kick up their feet and admire another year of victoriously squeaking in ahead of the deadline. Wrong. Now is the time to make next year a little easier.

Change your tax withholdings if you owed the IRS money. Or create a better record-keeping system if your refund was less than desired. Remember the list of tax deductions is long and varied, covering everything from baby-sitting expenses to the cost to drive out of town to visit the doctor.

"If there's ever any question whether something is tax deductible, write it down and ask a tax preparer," said Marilyn Spohn, co-owner of Spohn Tax Advisory Group in Normal. "If you keep a running log, it's very easy to get the deductions together at the end of the year. It's amazing how some of this adds up."

Spohn created a list of common deductions that people need to start documenting. Save your receipts for:

Baby sitters

If you work, child-care expenses during your hours of employment may be tax deductible. You'll need the baby sitter's full name, address and Social Security number.

Out-of-pocket medical expenses

No matter your age, out-of-pocket medical expenses for a variety of treatments are deductible - dental work, physical therapy, anti-smoking medication, hospital visits, X-rays, long-term care insurance payments, eye doctor visits, weight-loss programs prescribed by a doctor, even travel expenses for visiting the doctor and more.

Mortgage payments

Mortgage interest, real estate taxes and sometimes prepayment penalties are tax deductible. If selling a home, be sure to keep home-improvement receipts. They'll offset some of the income gains on the home you sold.

Business expenses

Any business expenses, including costs associated with training or further education, are tax deductible as long as they're not reimbursed by an employer.

Sue Hales, a spokeswoman for the Internal Revenue Service, also suggests revamping your paycheck withholdings if you owed money or received an unusually large refund.

"The idea is to get that number as close to zero as possible," she said.

To do so, taxpayers can fill out a W-4 form at www.irs.gov. They'll need their most recent pay stubs and most recent tax returns.

The IRS expected nearly 1.8 million Illinoisans to file on the Monday deadline, Hales said. The agency expected nearly 290,000 Illinoisans to file for an extension, she added.

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