April is almost here and that means taxes are due soon. If you still need to file your return, don't worry; you might be able to use this time to review your finances and decide if itemizing your deductions this year will net you a better deal. It could be the difference between owing Uncle Sam and getting a refund from him.

Should You Itemize Your Deductions?

Basically, when you decide whether to itemize deductions, you're gauging whether doing so would allow you to reduce your taxable income by more than taking the standard deduction. For those filing 2014 taxes, the current standard deductions are:

  • Single: $6,200
  • Married filing separately: $6,200
  • Married filing jointly: $12,400
  • Head of household: $9,100
When my husband and I filed our taxes in 2011, we found out that it was better for us to itemize our deductions. It was a small difference, but we got a slightly bigger refund for it. That money was used to top off our car fund and pay down student loans — both big goals for us around that time.

If you have an eagle eye, you can identify all the deductions you might qualify for yourself, or go with other options like using tax preparation software, a tax preparation office, or even an independent CPA for another pair of eyes to make sure you don't miss a deduction.

What kind of deductions should you look out for? Here are a couple of big deductions you might be able to claim:

  • Mortgage interest. If you have a mortgage and you pay interest on it, then go ahead and use this deduction to set off these costs.
  • Casualty loss. If you experienced a disaster last year, check to see if you can take a casualty loss deduction.
  • Medical expenses. If you're medical expenses exceeded 10 percent of your adjusted gross income, you might be able to deduct them on your taxes. Here is a list of medical deductions you can take advantage of.
  • Job hunting costs. You might be able to qualify for a job search tax deduction if you looked for a job in 2014.
  • Student loans. Did you know you might be able to deduct the interest you paid on student loans? Check with the IRS to see if you can take this deduction.
  • Home office expenses. Depending on how you run your business, you might be able to deduct your business expenses.
If any of the above apply, it might be more advantageous for you to itemize your deductions, especially if multiple deductions in this list apply to your financial situation. That said, don’t try to get creative with your tax deductions; you don’t want to risk an audit. Instead, focus on what you can take and plan ahead for next year’s taxes.

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