TAMPA (FOX 13) - Tax season is upon us but before you tackle the task make sure you are ready to maximize your return.
We want to pay our fair share. But let's be real - we also want to save wherever possible and that takes a plan.
Ajay Singh is an attorney and CPA with Hunter Business Law. He says the good news is, there are many ways to increase your return.
This simple strategy reduces how much you pay: 401K, IRA, health savings, and flexible savings account contributions reduce taxable income.
Even if you didn't follow that plan in 2017, there are still some ways to save.
Deduct mortgage interest and property taxes. If you're selling - there's a home sale exclusion giving you a tax break when you sell a primary residence, if you lived there for more than two years.
Luke Richardson, an instructor with the Lynn Pippenger School of Accountancy says,"most taxpayers don't maximize their benefits because they fail to take advantage of things that they've got."
Richardson says to go for the absolute maximum on deductions, adding only one percent of the population is audited.
"You can be aggressive. I mean you absolutely can," he says. "People think you have to be absolutely certain that is not the case."
Don't skip the deductions - and take the credits.
"If you're pursuing higher education there are tax credits for that," Richardson reminds.
The most commonly missed opportunity, he says, is the earned income credit, or EIC, for those with lower incomes.
"The IRS estimates 1 in 5 are eligible and do not take it," Richardson said.
And don't buy DIY tax software yet. The IRS has a free file program. Fill out a questionnaire online to see if you qualify.
According to Richardson, "about 70 percent are eligible and they don't know they don't have to pay."
Think about next year's taxes and all the changing rules.
Richardson says, "I would encourage you to look at paycheck over next few weeks and when you see up or down somebody's made an effort of how change next year and it's not precise."
Hiring a pro may save you in the long run, points out Ajay Singh.
"There's one thing called preparing your taxes and another thing called planning your taxes," he said.
Beating the tax man isn't about breaking rules - it's about understanding them.