Wednesday 17 December 2014

It's almost hassle-free to claim tax refunds

Christine Kiely

Published 12/01/2014 | 02:30

US Tax Form 1040
Tax

IDEAL with people every day who are surprised when they find out how much money they can get back in tax refunds and credits. Tax can be complex so a lot of people don't know what they're entitled to. I believe that there are still thousands of euro of tax refunds going unclaimed each year.

The biggest mistake people make is thinking that it's too much hassle to apply for a tax refund or to claim a tax credit. There is a common misconception that the Revenue purposely makes it difficult for people -- this isn't the case. To find out how much tax reliefs and credits you're entitled to, all you need to have at hand is your PPS number and some personal details. Depending on your circumstances, you may also need to have some receipts handy.

Here are five steps you can take to make sure you don't lose out on what you're entitled to.

1 Don't wait! You usually have a certain amount of time to claim tax reliefs and credits. For example, if you have just run up a raft of hospital or doctor bills, you have four years to claim tax relief.

Once the deadlines pass, you have no recourse -- and you may have missed out on hundreds -- or sometimes thousands -- of euro.

2 Get advice on your tax relief entitlements. If you are a PAYE worker and you visit the doctor, you are probably entitled to some sort of refund.

If you have worked abroad at any stage, you may also be entitled to claim a refund.

3 Too many families discard important receipts that make it easier for them to claim back tax.

Most people can claim tax relief on medical expenses. As you can claim back one-fifth of the cost of certain medical expenses, this relief can put a lot of money back into your pocket. However, the relief cannot be claimed unless you have remembered to keep all your receipts.

Medical receipts are the most common documents to be binned. If you could just keep a shoe box into which you throw doctors bills, pharmacy receipts and so on, it will make it much easier at the end of the year to claim some tax back.

You must also hold on to any receipts for which you claim tax relief on medical expenses for six years -- in case Revenue decides to check the validity of your claim within that time.

4 Though it has been curtailed in recent years, you can still get tax relief on tuition fees. This entitles you to claim back one-fifth of the cost of certain fees.

Under a change introduced for the 2011 tax year, full-time students cannot claim the relief for the first €2,000 of fees.

Tax relief can, however, be claimed on the balance up to €7,000.

Similarly, for part-time students, you could not claim tax relief on the first €1,000 of fees in 2011. These amounts were increased to €2,250 for full-time courses and €1,250 for part-time courses in the 2012/2013 academic year.

5 If you're renting a property, you can reduce your tax bill by claiming your rent credit. This credit has been reduced to €200 for a single person under the age of 55 and is set to be phased out by the end of 2017. Some taxpayers still have an opportunity to claim the rent credit back to 2009 and should take advantage of this.

Christine Kiely is senior tax consultant at taxback.com

Irish Independent

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