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Tune Up Your Taxes

You can still improve your 2017 federal tax return

Wrench with the word taxes on it.


You won’t have to file with the IRS until April 17, but you can do plenty right now to ease your tax pain (tax reform or not) and get a jump on your 2018 taxes. Some top tips:

1. Fill your IRA

You can put money into an individual retirement account for 2017 up until the 1040 deadline of April 17.

Most contributions to a traditional IRA are deductible, but withdrawals are taxed; for a Roth IRA you get no deduction for contributions but can pull money out tax free in retirement. You can contribute up to $6,500 a year at age 50-plus (less to a Roth as your income rises).

2. Take your due

If you turned 70½ last year and haven’t withdrawn your required minimum distribution (RMD) from a traditional IRA or a 401(k) from a former employer, you must do so by April 1 or face a big IRS penalty. Then take a second RMD for 2018 by Dec. 31 — or get hit again.

3. Be 1099 smart

Starting a freelance business this year?

Set aside a quarter of your self-employment income for Uncle Sam, recommends Houston CPA Thomas Jackson, since you’ll owe the 15.3 percent self-employment tax on top of ordinary income taxes. “That’s always a brutal surprise at the end of the year,” he says.

4. File early

The sooner you submit your return, the sooner you’ll receive any refund. And 75 percent of filers got a refund last year, averaging $2,782. Filing early also prevents crooks from filing a fraudulent return in your name.

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