12 On Your Side: Maximizing your tax returns

Speaking of taxes, plan to pay a little bit more to shop in this part of Georgia next week.

On Jan. 1, the sales tax rate will increase by 1 percent. This will bring up the tax rate to 8 percent from 7 percent in most counties.

The tax increase is for the regional TSPLOST voters approved earlier this year.

News 12 First at Five / Thursday, Dec. 27, 2012

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Although April 15 may still seem like a long way away, it's not too early to start preparing for the tax season now. And you only have five days left to maximize your 2012 returns.

In a matter of days, your employer will be sending you your W-2, starting the madness of the tax season.

"The IRS starts accepting returns on the 22nd of January so that's when things will really start to pick up," said Matthew Terry with H&R Block.

Terry says taxpayers still have time to maximize their returns If they act before Jan. 1.

"You can make donations to IRS charitable organizations," he said.

This could include organizations like the Salvation Army.

"We rely on donations ... It's the public that has supported us all these years to make sure we are able to do what we do best," said John Sebby with the Salvation Army of Augusta.

Click here to see if a charity is approved by the IRS.

"You can pay off certain bills such as your mortgage student loan or your student tuition," Terry said.

Also consider paying off medical bills or stocking up on medical supplies, which you'll be able to write off.

Another thing to consider ... "If you have stocks that would sell that would result in a loss, you can use those losses to offset capital gains."

Doing all of this can help you gain a little bit more on your return.

Keep in mind: The government will use your numbers for this tax season to calculate your bracket under the new Health Care Reform Act.

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