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By Richard Chapo
When preparing your taxes, the goal is obviously to deduct every last penny you can. Many people are amazingly good at it. Just keep in mind you need receipts for the deductions.
Filling out and filing tax returns is really a quest to conquer the mountain. In this case, the mountain is your gross income. The IRS helpfully lets you know this by making you write it down right away and repeat it in various places on your 1040 form. How nice of them.
To conquer the mountain, you start shaving it down by claiming deductions. The more you can claim, the better off you are. Some people have lots of deductions that help in this regard. Others create lots of interesting deductions to do the same. Whatever you approach, keep in mind you need receipts to support those deductions should the IRS ask to see proof. Here is a list of common tax records you need to keep to support those deductions.
1. Mortgage Interest Payments. One of the great things about owning a home is the mortgage. Oh, wait. The great thing is the mortgage interest deduction, not the mortgage. To prove the amount you have been paying the piper, you should keep the form 1098 you receive from your lender each year. Given the fact the deduction is usually sizeable, make sure to keep it in a safe place.
2. Dependent Support. If you claim someone as a dependent, you may be in for a surprise. You need to be able to prove that you provide more than 50 percent of the support for that person. Happily married parents usually do not have problems, but the IRS likes to zing divorced parents on this issue. Keep records in the forms of receipts, checks and invoices in such a situation.
3. Home Repair Receipts. No, you do not have to show the receipts each year. The issue really comes up when you decide to sell your home. To cut your tax bill, you should claim all repairs and improvements you made since owning the home. Guess what, you need receipts to support those claims. In simple terms, save every receipt related to your home or risk losing the deductions.
4. Medical Expenses. Health care costs are out of control as we all know. If you are claiming deductions related to medical care, keep those receipts and bills.
Obviously, there are other areas where you need to keep receipts, but these are some of the more common places where people fall down on the job. In general, you should keep all the receipts for three years, but I suggest doubling that number. With home repair or improvement expenses, you need to keep them for five years after you get around to selling your home.
About the Author: Richard A. Chapo is with
– everything you need to know about taxes.