For 2011, taxpayers have the option of deducting the amount of state and local income tax that they paid during the year or, if they so elect, of deducting their state and local general sales and use taxes as an itemized deduction on their federal income tax return. This choice is currently scheduled to expire at the end of 2011.

If a taxpayer elects to deduct the sales and use tax, then the taxpayer may opt to deduct the actual sales and use taxes paid or use the amount indicated in the tables published by the IRS, alongside certain big ticket items, such as vehicles, motor homes, boats, aircraft, and mobile and prefabricated homes. The IRS tables take the state of residence, taxpayer’s income, sales and use tax rates, and family size into account.

Although the sales tax option primarily benefits taxpayers in states with no state income tax, it can also benefit taxpayers who make big-ticket purchases. Their sales tax deduction may exceed their state income tax deduction when they itemize their deductions.

Thus, if you are considering a big-ticket purchase, making the purchase prior to the end of the year may enable you to benefit from a potentially increased tax deduction. If you do plan on deducting sales tax in 2011 and you are paying state income tax estimates, you should avoid paying the fourth-quarter estimate installment until after the first of the year. Paying it in 2011 provides no additional benefit for 2011 on your federal return when electing to deduct sales and use tax.

Congress has extended this tax provision before, but at this time, there is no way of telling if it will do so again. Please give this office a call if you have concerns about how the sales tax election and purchasing big-ticket items before the end of the year might benefit you.

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