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    What should travel nurses expect on the 2008 1040?

    To attract Republican votes for passage of the 2008 economic bailout bill, "extender" provisions were added for many tax benefits due to expire this year. Some of these features may benefit healthcare travelers.

    On your 2008 tax return, there are state and local sales tax deductions (for taxpayers living in "no income tax" states) and a tuition and fees deduction for higher education. Plus, the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) exemption has been raised to mitigate its effect. You already may be familiar with the "First-time Homebuyer Credit" (October 2008 "Tax Facts"). Read on for additional new features you can expect.

    A rebate by any other name still works

    In what appears to be a perverse effort to induce taxpayers to file, notices sent out by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) warned that taxpayers would lose their "Economic Stimulus Payment" (ESP), if they failed to file their 2007 tax return by December 31.

    True enough. However, if you did not receive the credit from your 2007 return, you may qualify for the 2008 "Recovery Rebate Credit" (RRC), which is calculated like the ESP, but on your 2008 return.

    Consequently, if your income went down in 2008, and/or you had a child, and/or you didn't file, you may qualify for up to $600 for yourself and $300 for your child. Check out "Fact Sheet 2009-3" at http://www.irs.gov/ for details, or you can let the IRS figure the credit for you. Congress decided that both the ESP and the RRC are tax-free.

    New help for "Short Form" filers

    If you're one of those taxpayers who don't have enough deductions to exceed the new, larger, "Standard" deductions ($5,450 for single filers), there's more good news. Two otherwise lost deductions have been moved "above the line" for those who cannot itemize on Schedule A.

    In addition, for 2008, up to $500 of property taxes for single filers ($1,000 for joint filers) can be added to your standard deduction, even if all of your itemized deductions are less than the standard.

    Also new on this year's return, disaster losses suffered in a federally declared disaster area can be added to your standard deduction, whether you itemize or not. While a loss less than $100 does not qualify, losses are not limited by the old, more restrictive 10% of adjusted gross income.

    New standard mileage rates

    The new standard mileage rate for business use (such as travel to, from, and at a temporary assignment) is up 2 cents for the first 6 months of 2008 to 50.5 cents per mile. For the second half of the year, it's up to an unprecedented 58.5 cents! Corresponding rates for medical and moving purposes are 19 cents (first 6 months) and 27 cents per mile (last 6 months).

    Some good news

    With all of the bad news generated by the economic crisis, we're fortunate that it at least resulted in some short-term good tax news for many taxpayers.

    The preceding discussion is general in nature, and should not be considered advice for any individual tax situation. You should consult with your personal tax planning professional for specific guidance relating to your unique circumstances.

    Any tax advice contained herein is not intended to be used, and cannot be used, by the recipient for the purpose of avoiding penalties that may be imposed under the Internal Revenue Code.