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January 25, 2014

Expired tax breaks

Wide array of tax breaks expired at end of 2013

WASHINGTON (AP) — Consider yourself forewarned.

If you didn't take advantage of a wide array of tax credits and deductions last year, it looks like you'll be out of luck in 2014.

The Congressional Research Service says there are dozens of expiring "tax extenders." Most — but not all — had been put in place or given new life as part of legislation passed by Congress at the end of 2012 to avert the fiscal cliff of automatic tax increases and spending cuts.

While the Bush-era tax cuts were made permanent, a wide array of deductions and credits were given short lifespans.

"The provisions that are scheduled to expire in 2013 are diverse in purpose, including provisions for individuals, businesses, the charitable sector, energy, community assistance, and disaster relief," CRS said in a report to Congress.

Think education, energy and state sales tax. Also, mortgage forgiveness and insurance, and a wide array of other tax breaks.

"You've got all these regularly expiring provisions," said Mark Luscombe, principal tax analyst for CCH. "Congress seems to always get around to renewing them at least retroactively," he said. But there's no guarantee.

There are a variety of reasons why Congress passes temporary, rather than permanent, tax provisions. It gives lawmakers a chance to see how they work — and affect the overall budget, according to CRS. "Temporary tax provisions may be also used to provide relief during times of economic weakness or following a natural disaster," CRS said. "Congress may also choose to enact temporary provisions for budgetary reasons."

Among the tax credits and deductions that expired last Dec. 31 affecting individuals:

EDUCATION:

—Students or their parents will no longer be able to take a maximum $4,000 deduction for tuition and required fees to attend an institution of higher education. In some cases, related expenses had included activity fees, books, supplies and equipment — but not room and board, transportation or sports, according to the Internal Revenue Service.

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