5 Smart Tax Breaks You May Not Know About

5 Smart Tax Breaks You May Not Know About

You’ve likely spent the past few weeks scouting out the perfect presents for friends, family and co-workers—and those efforts to check absolutely everyone off your list may have left you slightly strapped for cash.

Luckily, the end of the year also marks the end of the tax season—which means you've still got time to recoup some costs by nabbing as many tax breaks as possible before you file.

In fact, there may be a couple of choice deductions or credits that you could be claiming but you aren't because you didn't realize you were eligible for them. MarketWatch tax columnist Bill Bischoff rounded up five tax breaks that may be flying under your radar.

1. Back-to-school tax credits. Did you take some professional classes this year to stay up-to-date on your job skills and keep your resume fresh? Find out if you’re eligible for the American Opportunity tax credit, worth up to $2,500 per student, or the Lifetime Learning tax credit, which covers up to $2,000 per household.

2. Deductions for helping out family. Of course, you’ve been helping to financially support your relatives out of the goodness of your heart. But we bet you won’t object if we can put some money back in your pocket. You may be able to take a personal exemption deduction, which is $3,950 for 2014, if you've been supplying more than half of a relative's support for the year and they make below a certain income threshold.

3. Job-hunting write-offs. Job-searching can be a real slog, but it turns out there’s a silver lining: If you’re looking for a new gig in your current field, you may be able to deduct expenses like headhunter fees, travel costs to and from interviews, and resume prep.

4. Rental property losses. If the rental property you own is losing money, or if you sold property at a loss, you may be eligible for certain tax breaks. For example, you can depreciate the cost of residential buildings over many years, which means you could spread out your tax breaks over time—enabling you to get them even during years when your property increases in value.

5. Appealing a property tax assessment. There’s a good chance you’re paying property taxes on assessed values that are way too high. But it’s actually pretty easy to appeal an assessment, potentially saving thousands of dollars, especially if you own a vacation home or rental property. Do your research on the sale prices of homes comparable to yours and approach your local appeal board, or hire a property-tax consultant to make the appeal for you.

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