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Some filing changes facing taxpayers this year

Some changes in tax law that may affect you as you file your 2008 return:

Personal exemption

—Each personal or dependent exemption is now worth $3,500, up $100 from 2007.

Standard deduction

For people who don’t itemize, the standard deduction for 2008 has increased to:

—$10,900 for married couples filing a joint return, and qualifying widows and widowers.

—$5,450 for singles and married individuals filing separate returns.

—$8,000 for heads of household.

On state or local real estate taxes, the maximum deduction is $500, or $1,000 for joint filers.

Net disaster losses from a federally declared disaster can increase the standard deduction.

Alternative minimum tax exemption rises to:

—$69,950 for a married couple filing a joint return and qualifying widows and widowers.

—$34,975 for a married person filing separately, up from $33,125.

—$46,200 for singles and heads of household, up from $44,350.

Under current law, these exemption amounts will drop to $45,000, $22,500 and $33,750, respectively, in 2009. Form 6251 and the AMT Calculator provide more information.

First-time homebuyer credit

—Up to $7,500 for purchase of a principal residence between April 9, 2008, and June 30, 2009.

—To qualify, you must be a first-time home buyer or have not owned a home during the previous three years.

—The credit is actually an interest-free loan and must be paid back over 15 years.

Earned Income Tax Credit

The maximum earned income tax credit was raised to:

—$4,824 for people with two or more qualifying children.

—$2,917 for those with one child.

—$438 for people with no children.

Maximum income levels also are up:

—$41,646 for those with two or more children.

—$36,995 for people with one child.

—$15,880 for those with no children.

Capital Gains Tax

The 5 percent capital gains tax is reduced to zero for people with taxable income below:

—$65,100, if married filing jointly or qualifying widow or widower.

—$32,550, if single or married filing separately.

—$43,650, if head of household.


—If you’re covered by a retirement plan at work, the maximum modified adjusted gross income you can have and still take a deduction for IRA contributions rose to $63,000 — $105,000 if married filing jointly. The maximum deduction is $5,000, $6,000 if you were 50 or older by the end of 2008.

—In 2009, the income limits increase again, to $65,000 or $109,000 on a joint return.

—The limit on elective deferrals to a traditional or safe harbor 401(k) plan is $15,500 for 2008 and $16,500 for 2009.

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