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Last-Minute Tax Tips

4 last-minute breaks and blunders to look out for before you file your '09 return

Hold off on licking that stamp and dropping your tax return in the mail just yet. We asked Cindy Hockenberry, a spokesperson for the National Association of Tax Professionals, to tell us where guys tend to make their biggest return-draining mistakes.

Tuition Costs
Whether you're going to school full- or part-time, make sure the government gives you credit for it. The American Opportunity Credit provides breaks for undergraduate tuition. The Lifetime Learning Credit can also yield significant savings for part-time students.

401(k) Withdrawals
Watch out for penalties. "During the recession, many people yanked money out of their 401(k) without realizing it counts toward taxable income," Hockenberry warns. If you withdrew some cash and didn't replace the money within 60 days, expect a penalty.

Going Green
Installing energy-efficient windows, doors, insulation or siding can earn you credits of up to $1,500. And if you haven't got around to starting your project yet, you're still in luck. Many rebates last through 2010.

Buying a Home
To help revive the housing market, Uncle Sam offers up to $8,000 for first-timers who bought a home in '09, $6,500 for existing homeowners. If you stay in the home for at least 36 months, that cash is yours to keep.

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