From start to finish, the average taxpayer filing a Form 1040 spends 16 hours on his or her taxes—including eight hours combing through records. Yet despite that scrutiny, you could still be leaving money on the table.
"Sometimes folks just automatically assume their taxes are going to be the same as they were in the prior year," said Melissa Labant, director of tax advocacy for the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. "That is dangerous." Changes in tax law, changes in your financial situation or a combination of both can mean you're eligible for a host of breaks that you weren't before.
"The one I see that gets overlooked a lot is charitable contributions," said Labant. Consumers usually comb through their checkbook and credit card statements, but can miss cash donations and donations of physical goods. Some companies let workers donate from their paycheck, but that won't show up on your W-2, she said—you'll need to look at your year-end paystub for the total.
And volunteers might not realize they can deduct mileage driven to and from charitable activities, at 14 cents per mile.