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Nine tax tips for happier returns

With the tax deadline approaching, millions of Americans are sitting down to tackle their returns. If you're one of them, here are nine things you may have overlooked.  By CNBC's Sharon Epperson.
/ Source: CNBC

With the tax deadline approaching, millions of Americans are sitting down to tackle their returns.

If you're one of them, here are nine items you may have overlooked.

Phone tax refund
If you've paid a long-distance phone bill in the past several years, you could be due for a tax refund — thanks to recent court rulings that overturned the way calls were taxed.

To get the refund, you have to file Form 8913 (PDF file). If you don't want to dig through your old phone bills, you can just ask for the standard amount, which ranges from $30 to $60, depending on the number of exemptions you take.

Deductions for learning disabilities
If your child has a learning disability, you may qualify for considerable tax deductions.

The IRS allows parents, or caretakers of children with learning disability to write off many bills as medical expense deductions. Even tuition, tutoring, transportation and books may qualify as deductible expenses.

Keep your address up to date
Have you moved or changed your business address?

Make sure you notify the IRS so that you'll get any refunds or notices that are coming your way.

Although the IRS updates taxpayer addresses with the U.S. Postal Services change of address files, contacting the IRS directly is still a good idea.  Use Form 8822 (PDF file) to give the IRS your new location.

Adoption tax credits
Did you adopt a child in 2006? You may be eligible for over $10,000 in tax credits and other incentives.

If you finalized a domestic or foreign adoption last year, you are eligible for the credit on your 2006 federal income taxes. And if you started a special-needs adoption in 2006, you can take the credit on your taxes for that year as well.

If you're married, you generally have to file a joint return to take the adoption credit.

Work from home?
If you use a portion of your home regularly and exclusively for business, you may be able to take a home office deduction.

The percentage of your home used for business is the deductible amount.  Expenses include the business portion of real estate taxes, mortgage interest, rent, utilities, insurance,  and repairs.

Driving expenses
If you use your car for business, you may be able to claim transportation expenses. In order to deduct costs, they must be related to :

  • traveling from one work location to another within your home area
  • visiting customers
  • attending a business meeting away from your regular office
  • or getting home from a temporary workplace

And remember to hold on to your receipts.

Advice for procrastinators
For all of you last-minute filers, make sure you double check your work so don't have to file an amended return. And if you're due a refund, make sure you get the money in a timely fashion.

First, check Social Security numbers for each person listed on the form. An incorrect number could delay or reduce your refund.

Don't forget to attach all schedules that are required

And make sure you sign and date the return.

Don't forget retirement savings
It's not to late to add to your retirement fund.

You can still contribute up to $4,000 — or up to $5,000 if you're 50 or older — into a traditional Individual Retirement Account or Roth IRA (if you qualify).

Contributions to a traditional IRA may be tax deductible, depending on your income and whether you or your spouse is covered by an employer's pension plan.

Roth IRA contributions are not deductible.

Did you refinance your home?
Did you take advantage of low interest rates and refinance your home this year?

If so, you may be eligible to deduct some costs associated with your loan. For taxpayers who itemize, the points paid to obtain a home mortgage may be deductible as mortgage interest. 

Points paid to obtain an original home mortgage may be fully deductible in the year paid.