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Tax Deduction Cheat Sheet – How to Save Money On Taxes

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Every taxpayer seeks ways to save on taxes. That’s why understanding tax deductions is crucial. These deductions lower your taxable income, reducing the amount you owe. Yet, with countless potential deductions, many go unnoticed.

This tax deduction cheat sheet offers clarity. Whether you’re a seasoned tax preparer or a freelancer navigating business expenses, this guide demystifies what’s “tax deductible” and how to benefit from it.

Ready to explore our tax deduction cheat sheet? Let’s dive deep and ensure you’re not leaving any money on the tax table.

Tax Deduction Cheat Sheet: The Basics

Tax deductions operate by diminishing the amount of your income that’s considered taxable. Think of them as discounts on your taxable income.

Before we break down the various types of deductions available, let’s clarify some fundamental concepts:

How Tax Deductions Work

When you have deductions, they reduce your taxable income. If, for instance, you earn $60,000 annually and accrue $12,000 in deductions, you’ll only be taxed on $48,000. This means a smaller tax bill at the end of the year.

To further understand tax deductions, it’s essential to differentiate between deductions, credits, and exemptions. Let’s break down these distinctions:

  • Deductions: As we’ve highlighted, these reduce the amount of money on which you’re taxed.
  • Credits: Think of credits as direct, dollar-for-dollar reductions off your tax bill. If you’re eligible for a $2,000 tax credit, that’s $2,000 less you owe to the government.
  • Exemptions: Exemptions used to be specific amounts you could deduct for yourself, your spouse, and each of your dependents. However, following recent tax reforms, personal exemptions have been phased out, but other types still exist.

Another pivotal term to familiarize yourself with is “tax deductible.”

“Tax Deductible” Expenses

When an expense is termed “tax deductible,” it signifies that you can subtract its cost from your total income, thus lowering the amount upon which your tax is based. While it doesn’t erase your tax, it certainly lessens the base it’s calculated on.

With these foundational principles in mind, you’re better equipped to identify and leverage the tax deductions for which you qualify.

Remember, every deduction, no matter how small, can accumulate into substantial savings over time.

Tax Deduction Cheat Sheet: Commonly Overlooked Deductions

As taxpayers, it’s easy to miss out on some valuable deductions, especially when they aren’t as widely advertised or discussed. Yet, these overlooked deductions can lead to significant savings. This section of our tax deduction cheat sheet sheds light on some of the most commonly missed ones:

Tax Deduction Cheat Sheet:

Home Office Deduction

With the rise of remote work, this has become more relevant. If you use a part of your home exclusively for business, you might be eligible. This can include a portion of rent, utilities, and even repairs.

It’s important to emphasize the “exclusive use” clause. A home office that doubles as a guest room, for instance, might not qualify. The square footage of the office space in relation to the total home size is typically the basis for calculating the deduction.

Medical Expenses Not Covered by Insurance

Unexpected medical bills can be a burden, but many don’t realize some of these costs are deductible. If your medical expenses exceed 7.5% of your adjusted gross income, you can claim them.

These deductions aren’t just limited to hospital bills or doctor’s fees. It can encompass a range of out-of-pocket expenses, from prescription medications to certain medical aids or equipment.

Student Loan Interest

Education is an investment, but it often comes with debt.

However, there’s good news:

You might be able to deduct up to $2,500 of paid student loan interest annually, depending on your income.

It’s worth noting that this deduction is an above-the-line deduction, meaning you don’t need to itemize to claim it.

Even if your parents are making the payments on a loan that’s in your name, you can claim this deduction.

Charitable Donations

Beyond cash donations, did you know you can also deduct expenses like mileage driven for charitable service or the value of goods donated to charity?

When most think of charitable deductions, cash contributions come to mind. But in-kind donations, like clothing or household items, can also be deducted based on their fair market value.

Business Deductions – Tax Deduction Cheat Sheet

Beyond understanding your industry, it’s also important you know the potential tax savings at your disposal. If you’re a business owner or freelancer, these deductions can significantly impact your bottom line. In this section of our tax deduction cheat sheet, we’ll delve into some pivotal ones:

Business Income Deduction

Qualified Business Income Deduction

One of the newer and more impactful deductions, this allows eligible taxpayers to deduct up to 20% of their qualified business income. It’s designed mainly for pass-through entities like LLCs, S-Corps, and sole proprietorships.

Pro Tip: Our LLC formation checklist and best LLC services guide are excellent starting points if you’re looking to learn more about LLCs.

Business Expenses

The key here is to remember that to be deductible, an expense must be both ordinary (common in your trade) and necessary (helpful and appropriate for your trade). This can include:

  • Advertising costs
  • Office supplies and expenses
  • Utilities
  • Business-related subscriptions

Self-Employment Tax

If you work for yourself, you’re familiar with the self-employment tax. But did you know you can deduct the employer-equivalent portion of your self-employment tax when calculating your adjusted gross income?

Here’s what it means:

While self-employed individuals are responsible for both the employee and employer portions of Social Security and Medicare taxes, they’re permitted to deduct the employer portion.

It’s similar to the way traditional employers aren’t taxed on their matching contributions. This valuable deduction can be claimed directly on your tax return, with no need to itemize.

Business Use of Car

If you use your car for business, specific costs can be deducted. This doesn’t include commuting but does encompass traveling to clients, meetings, or other business-related ventures.

There are two methods to calculate this deduction:

The standard mileage rate, which changes yearly, or actual expenses like fuel, repairs, and insurance.

Whichever method you choose, accurate record-keeping is crucial to validate your claims and maximize your deduction.

Business-Related Travel and Meals

Trips taken exclusively for business purposes can be deductible. This includes transportation, lodging, and 50% of your meal expenses.

However, it’s important to differentiate between business and leisure. If a trip combines both, only the business-related portions are deductible.

Tools and Supplies

Items that last less than a year and are used in your business can often be deducted in the year they’re purchased.

Think of items like office supplies, software subscriptions, or even job-specific materials. These short-term assets are distinct from larger, long-term equipment, allowing businesses to quickly reclaim a portion of their costs.

Also Read:

Property and Real Estate Deductions – Tax Deduction Cheat Sheet

Real estate and property-related expenses form a sizable portion of many taxpayers’ annual expenses, making the related deductions incredibly valuable. Our tax deduction cheat sheet uncovers some deductions you shouldn’t miss:

Property and Real Estate Tax Deductions

Mortgage Interest

For many, this is a primary deduction. If you’ve taken out a loan to buy, build, or improve your home, the interest you pay on that loan may well be deductible.

This deduction essentially recognizes the financial challenges of homeownership. Especially in the early years of a mortgage when interest payments are at their highest, this deduction can offer considerable tax relief.

Property Taxes

Local property taxes, often a substantial expense, can be deducted. This includes taxes paid for real estate and other personal property.

It’s worth highlighting that this deduction, combined with the mortgage interest deduction, is capped at $10,000 for most taxpayers due to recent tax reforms.

For those in high-tax states or with multiple properties, understanding this cap is crucial to accurately estimate potential deductions.

Energy-Efficient Home Improvements

If you’ve made specific energy-saving home improvements, such as installing solar panels or energy-efficient windows, there are credits available. These can offset the costs and benefit the environment simultaneously.

These credits don’t just reward homeowners for green initiatives but also stimulate the broader adoption of sustainable technologies. It’s a win-win, providing financial incentives while promoting environmental responsibility.

Rental Property Expenses

If you rent out property, many associated expenses are deductible. This can include the following:

  • Advertising for tenants
  • Property management fees
  • Travel related to property management

Being a landlord comes with responsibilities and costs. The tax code acknowledges this, allowing business property owners to offset some of these costs.

Pro Tip: Considering starting a rental business? Here are dozens of rental business ideas you could explore.

Family and Personal Deductions – Tax Deduction Cheat Sheet

While businesses and properties offer a variety of tax-saving opportunities, there are numerous deductions linked to personal and familial responsibilities that taxpayers often overlook. These can significantly alleviate financial burdens for families.

This section of our tax deduction cheat sheet highlights some key ones to consider:

Family and Personal Tax Deductions

Child Tax Credit

Raising a child comes with numerous expenses. The Child Tax Credit offers relief by allowing eligible parents to reduce their tax bill by up to $2,000 for each qualifying child.

What’s especially significant about this credit is its potential refundability. If the credit amount exceeds the total tax owed, families might receive a refund for the remaining amount. This can make a significant difference for families managing tight budgets.

Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC)

Designed for low to moderate-income earners, EITC can result in a substantial tax refund. The amount varies based on income and the number of children in the household.

EITC is one of the most impactful credits for boosting the incomes of working families, especially those with children. It’s not merely a reduction in tax but can often result in a direct financial boost through a larger refund.

Adoption Credit

Adopting a child is a commendable act but can be financially taxing. The adoption credit can help offset some of these costs, covering adoption fees, legal fees, and even traveling expenses related to the adoption process.

It’s worth noting that this credit isn’t just for international or private adoptions. Even adopting from the foster care system, which might have lower upfront costs, can still come with eligible expenses that the credit can cover.

Alimony Payments

Following tax reforms, alimony payments for divorce or separation agreements executed or modified after December 31, 2018, are no longer deductible by the payer or included in the recipient’s income.

This significant shift in tax treatment has implications for divorce negotiations and settlement agreements. Previously, the deduction often played a role in how alimony amounts were determined, given the tax relief it provided to the payer.

Education Deductions and Credits – Tax Deduction Cheat Sheet

Education is a pathway to personal and professional growth, but it often comes with a hefty price tag. Fortunately, the tax code provides several deductions and credits, featured in our tax deduction cheat sheet, to help offset some of these costs.

Let’s explore some primary educational tax-saving opportunities:

Education Tax Deductions and Credits

Tuition and Fees Deduction

This deduction can reduce the amount of income subject to tax by up to $4,000. It’s designed for taxpayers who are paying post-secondary tuition and fees for themselves, a spouse, or a dependent.

Notably, this deduction is particularly beneficial for those who might not qualify for other education credits because of income restrictions or other factors. It serves as a catch-all, providing relief for many facing the rising costs of higher education.

American Opportunity Credit

Aimed at undergraduate students and those footing the bill, this credit can cover 100% of the first $2,000 of qualified education expenses and 25% of the next $2,000. That’s a total benefit of up to $2,500 annually.

It’s worth highlighting that this credit isn’t just restricted to tuition. It also covers course materials, making it invaluable for students whose course requirements come with hefty textbook or equipment costs.

Lifetime Learning Credit

Unlike the American Opportunity Credit, this isn’t restricted to undergraduate expenses. It offers a credit of up to $2,000 per tax return for post-secondary education tuition, fees, and even courses to acquire or improve job skills.

Deductions for Investors – Tax Deduction Cheat Sheet

Investing is an integral part of wealth-building and financial planning. However, alongside potential profits, come costs and income taxes.

The silver lining?

The tax code provides specific deductions for investors to mitigate these costs.

This section of our tax deduction cheat sheet highlights some of these deductions:

Tax Deductions for Investors

Investment Interest Expenses

If you’ve borrowed money to invest in taxable investments, the interest on that loan may be deductible. However, the deduction is capped at your net investment income.

Capital Losses

Not all investments pan out. If you sell an investment at a loss, you can use that loss to offset capital gains. If losses exceed gains, you can deduct up to $3,000 ($1,500 if married filing separately) against other income.

Dividend Reinvestment

Many investors choose to reinvest dividends. When calculating the cost basis for a sale, don’t forget to include these reinvested amounts. This increases the basis and can reduce taxable gains or amplify a loss.

Tax Deduction Cheat Sheet: Tips for Maximizing Deductions

The key to capitalizing on tax deductions is not just knowledge, but also a proactive approach. As we wrap up our comprehensive tax deduction cheat sheet, here are some actionable tips to ensure you’re making the most of every deduction opportunity:

1. Keep Thorough Records

Without detailed records of expenses, you risk missing out on eligible deductions. The IRS might also request these records in the event of an audit. Adopt a consistent system for storing all receipts, invoices, and financial statements.

2. Stay Updated on Tax Laws

Staying updated can mean the difference between leveraging a new deduction or unknowingly violating a new rule. Make it a habit to keep yourself informed. This could be through subscribing to tax-related newsletters, joining relevant forums, or periodically consulting with a tax advisor.

3. Use Tax Software or Consult a Professional

While personal diligence is commendable, leveraging technology or professional expertise often reveals overlooked deductions.

Updated tax software guides users through potential deductions, ensuring nothing is missed. On the other hand, a tax professional brings a wealth of experience tailored to various financial scenarios.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1. What deductions can I claim without receipts?

A. While it’s always recommended to keep receipts for all expenses, certain deductions like the standard deduction, student loan interest, and some IRA contributions don’t specifically require receipts. However, always maintain as much documentation as possible.

Q2. Who qualifies for the 20% pass-through deduction?

A. The 20% pass-through deduction, also known as the Qualified Business Income (QBI) Deduction, is mainly for self-employed individuals, sole proprietors, and owners of S corporations, LLCs, or partnerships. However, there are income thresholds and limitations, especially for specified businesses.

Q3. How do you calculate tax?

A. Tax is calculated based on your taxable income, which is your total income minus deductions and exemptions. This adjusted amount is then taxed at various rates depending on the income tax bracket you fall into. Additionally, remember to consider tax credits, which can further reduce your tax liability.

Q4. What can I claim a tax deduction on?

A. You can claim deductions on a variety of expenses, depending on your situation. Common deductions include mortgage interest, student loan interest, medical expenses, charitable donations, and certain business-related expenses. You’ll find several other deductions in our tax deduction cheat sheet.

Q5. What is the $500 tax deduction?

A. The $500 tax deduction typically refers to the tax credit available for energy-efficient home improvements under certain tax provisions. If you’ve made qualifying improvements, like adding insulation or energy-efficient windows, you might be eligible for this credit.


From the freelancer understanding business nuances to the homeowner seeking property deductions, every bit of information is an opportunity to keep more of your hard-earned money.

As we wrap up this tax deduction cheat sheet guide, take advantage of the insights provided. Approach each tax season with confidence, ensuring that no stone is left unturned and no deduction is overlooked.

With our tax deduction cheat sheet by your side, both tax deductions and the tax filing process become easy paths to navigate. Here’s to making smarter, more informed financial decisions!

Brett Shapiro

Brett Shapiro

Brett is an entrepreneur with over a decade of experience in establishing and running successful businesses. Over the course of good career he has established over 10 successful businesses and SBHQ is his latest project. With SBHQ he aims to provide all the useful resources a small business owner may need to create a successful business.


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