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Year-End Tax Tips from an Expert

PHOTO: Donating to a charitable organization before year's end is one way to reduce the amount of taxes you pay, says tax expert Marshall Mennenga. Photo courtesy IRS.
PHOTO: Donating to a charitable organization before year's end is one way to reduce the amount of taxes you pay, says tax expert Marshall Mennenga. Photo courtesy IRS.
December 26, 2013

MADISON, Wis. – There are only a few days left in 2013, but tax expert Marshall Mennenga of Mennenga Tax and Financial Service in Madison says there are some steps people can take before 2014 arrives to not only lower their tax bill, but help others at the same time.

He suggests contributions to charitable organizations.

"Maybe you need to clean out some closets and give some clothes to Goodwill, to Saint Vinny's or many of the other organizations out there that are nonprofit organizations, that will accept your goods, your household furniture, clothes, and things like that,” he says. “Of course, the fair market value of those items is deductible."

Another suggestion is cash contributions to charitable organizations, but Mennenga says make sure to get receipts documenting the amounts. He notes there are very few tax-law changes from last year to know.

Every year, the Internal Revenue Service puts out a guide for tax preparation called Publication 17.

"Last year, it was like February 10th before it was available for distribution,” he points out. “For right now, here in late December, it's already available, so there's no major changes coming."

Mennenga says keeping good records of deductible expenses all year long is the best way to prepare for filling out the annual tax return.

Many people just throw all their receipts in a shoebox or file drawer, and then have to spend hours sorting it all out at tax time.

Another tip is not to jump the gun and try to fill in your tax return before you have everything you need – like your 1099 forms for interest and dividends.

"Wait before your do your tax return to make sure you have everything,” he adds. “Use your previous year's tax return as a guideline. Check off each one of the places you received interest from or you received dividends from.

“Or if you're a small business, make sure you have good, accurate record-keeping. Make sure you deduct everything that you're entitled to."


Tim Morrissey, Public News Service - WI