10 Tips for Getting the Biggest Tax Refund


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Deduct All Donations

If you give generously to charitable organizations throughout the year, you can deduct the value of those donations from your taxable income, which could increase your refund check. Not only can you deduct cash donations to qualified charitable nonprofit organizations (including churches and other religious groups), but you can deduct the cash value of physical donations like clothing, electronics, art or real estate. You can even deduct the mileage used to drive your car as a volunteer for a charitable organization.

To be able to deduct charitable donations, though, you need to itemize your deductions. In the past, around 30 percent of taxpayers chose to itemize their deductions rather than taking the lump-sum standard deduction offered by the IRS, but that number is expected to drop significantly now that the standard deduction has nearly been doubled to $12,000 for individuals and $24,000 for married couples filing jointly [source: Tax Policy Center].

Still, if you make significant charitable donations in a single tax year, it may be worth itemizing. Keep in mind that tax-deductible donations must be made to a nonprofit that can prove its 501(c)(3) tax status. Most legitimate charities state clearly on their websites or in their literature that they're 501(c)(3) nonprofits, so it's usually simple to verify.

Another requirement is that you must keep a receipt. Again, legitimate nonprofits have systems in place to ensure that they'll give you receipts for any and all donations. You also can't technically give all of your money away to charity and expect it to be tax-deductible. In general, you can only deduct up to 50 percent of your adjusted gross income in charitable donations. As with all financial planning and tax decisions, it might be best to see a professional accountant to be sure you don't exceed the maximum.