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RISMEDIA, April 4, 2009-With perplexing codes and confusing forms, it’s no wonder many Americans postpone the inexorable job of preparing their taxes until the last minute. In these tough times, it’s especially important to take advantage of every tax break to which you’re entitled. For those filing with less than two weeks to go until April 15, Charles Schwab has several suggestions to help you keep more of your money:

Open a new IRA. Opening an IRA by April 15 allows you to meet the tax-deduction deadline for 2008 IRA contributions. Also remember that for 401(k) plans, participants who are recently unemployed, changing jobs or retiring, rolling your retirement savings from an old employer’s retirement plan into an IRA can help maintain the tax-deferred savings status, avoid the taxes and withdrawal penalties associated with early payouts and provide access to more investment choices and more flexible distribution options.

Manage College Expenses. A 529 College Savings Plan provides several benefits; account earnings can grow tax-deferred with Federal tax-free withdrawals and no gift tax is incurred for contributions up to $65,000 ($130,000 per married couple electing to split gifts) for each beneficiary in a single year if an election is made to treat the gift as having been made over five years.

Verify Eligibility for the Alternative Minimum Tax. The taxable income exemption amounts for the 2008 tax year have been raised to $69,950 for married couples filing jointly and $46,200 for single filers.

Confirm Required Minimum Distributions. For 2009, Congress suspended the IRS rule requiring individuals 70½ or older to take annual required minimum distributions (RMDs) from qualified retirement plans. However, for individuals who turned 70½ in 2008, the waiver does not apply to first-year 2008 RMDs made by April 1, 2009.

Plan Your Gifts. The gift tax annual exclusion amount has increased to $13,000 annually (or $26,000 for spouses splitting gifts), with a lifetime gift tax exemption of $1 million, and can be given to any number of people. Also, medical expenses and tuition gifts are unlimited if the provider is paid directly.

Plan Your Estate. The estate tax lifetime exemption amount has increased to $3.5 million ($1,455,800 equivalent credit).

Make deductible charitable gifts from your IRA. Individuals who own an IRA and are 70½ or older can still make tax-free charitable contributions of up to $100,000 directly from their IRA. Congress extended this option through the 2009 tax year.

Take Advantage of Federal Income Tax Changes. The IRS has expanded the federal income tax brackets and increased certain exemptions, deductions and credits to keep pace with inflation.

As always, be sure to check with your tax professional for specific advice.

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