Tips for tax time

Whether you're a rookie filling out a 1040 for the first time, or a near-retiree looking for ways to sharpen your filing skills, 'tis the season for tax tips.

Here are some pointers from the Denver-based Financial Planning Association:

*Couples: Think about filing separately. Although it's usually best to file jointly, filing individually may be worthwhile in cases where one spouse has a much larger income with lots of deductions.

*Claim your home office as a deduction. The catch: If you sell your house, you're accountable for a capital-gains tax on the percentage of the home you've claimed as your office. (The only way around this is to not claim the home-office deduction for two years prior to the sale.)

*Don't overpay Social Security. If you earned more than $72,600 working for two or more employers in 1999, you may be able to file a claim on your return for excess withholding (wages over that amount are not subject to the Social Security tax). Each employer withholds based on what you earned from them, not your combined earnings.

*Think retirement. If you didn't max out your IRA contributions, you and/or your employer can still add to it all the way up until filing time.

*If you own mutual funds, be careful not to pay taxes on your profits twice. When you sell your mutual-fund shares, add past dividends and capital gains (that you've already paid taxes on) to your original investment to determine the taxable cost basis.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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