THE HELP DESK The Help Desk: Top Tips

Tax credit cheat sheet

This tax filing season you want to be sure to get all the breaks and credits you can. Gerri gives her timely tips.

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By Gerri Willis, CNN personal finance editor

For more information on managing your largest investment, check out Gerri Willis' 'Home Rich,' now in bookstores.

NEW YORK ( -- Here are some tax credits you don't want to miss. Now, keep in mind that a tax credit is a dollar-for-dollar reduction in your tax liability as opposed to a deduction, which lowers your taxable income.

1. $8,000 first-time homebuyer tax credit

You can claim the credit on your 2008 or 2009 tax return if you buy a house this year before Dec. 1, 2009.

There are income limitations here. This credit phases out for joint filers with income of more than $150,000 and single filers with income above $75,000.

2. Real estate deduction for non-itemizers

You can deduct up to $500 for individuals and $1,000 for married couples filing jointly. In the past these deductions were only available for itemizers.

3. Second chance at stimulus payment

If you didn't receive the full amount of economic stimulus payment last year -- $600 for singles, $1,200 for married couples, plus $300 for each qualifying child -- you may qualify for the remainder as a tax credit on your 2008 returns.

This might have happened if your financial situation was different in 2008 from 2007. For example you may have lost your job; perhaps you had a baby or adopted a child last year, and you would be eligible for the $300 credit.

4. Flood victims can file later

Victims of severe flooding in Minnesota and North Dakota have an extra 30 days, until May 15, to file their 2008 individual tax returns and pay any taxes due.  To top of page

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