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Financial Moves to Make Now

BOSTON (TheStreet -- As 2009 draws to a close, a few last-minute financial moves could cut your tax bill, shore-up your retirement savings and boost your investments.

"Most taxpayers don't start thinking about taxes until after the New Year," says Mark Steber, chief tax officer for Jackson Hewitt Tax Service (JTX). "The truth is, simple steps taken in these final weeks of 2009 can put them in a better position when it comes time to file."

Among the well-publicized provisos made available in 2009 were the $8,000 credit for first-time homebuyers and the Making Work Pay credit. Other popular tax benefits were also expanded, including the Earned Income Tax Credit and deductions for related to energy-saving home improvements.

Medical costs can be defrayed through taxes, but to qualify, expenses must add up to 7.5% of your adjusted gross income. "If you are borderline to meeting the necessary threshold, consider expediting some medical expenses for the following year," Steber says.

Bridge the gap by moving any doctor and dentist appointments scheduled for early next year to December. If you're self employed, health insurance premiums are considered paid in the year they are charged to your credit card. If your cash flow allows, consider paying premiums for the following year up front.

"If you are not vulnerable to the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT), consider paying your fourth-quarter 2009 estimated state income taxes, plus any estimated balance due, by Dec. 31 so you can take the deduction on your 2009 taxes," says Rande Spiegelman, vice president of financial planning at Charles Schwab's (SCHW ) Center for Financial Research. "[You can also] prepay property taxes. Many counties bill taxpayers twice, in November and February. If you pay your February installment by Dec. 31, you can take it as a deduction on your 2009 return. Again, watch out for the AMT, which disallows these deductions."

Stock quotes in this article: SCHW, JTX 

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