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Get last-minute tax breaks done soon

POSTED: December 30, 2008 12:38 a.m.

With just two days left in 2008, there are only a few things you can do that may offer potential income tax benefits.

John Nix, managing partner of the Gainesville accounting firm Bates, Carter & Co., said charitable contributions of either cash or stock must be completed by Dec. 31 in order to claim the gift on a 2008 tax return.

The same date also applies to persons who may be taking a loss from the sale of shares of stock that now are lower than the purchase price.

"Typically, if you have some capital gains that you need to offset, you might want to realize the loss that you might have in your investment portfolio," Nix said.

Regulations prohibit claiming the loss if you acquire the same stock within 30 calendar days of the sale. This is referred to a "wash sale."

The maximum loss against ordinary income that can be claimed on an individual return is $3,000.

People cannot claim a loss on the sale of a personal residence.

"You don’t get to write off the loss," Nix said.

A loss on an investment property is contingent on the depreciation schedule taken on the property, according to Nix.

In years when the stock market has been up, many stockholders use their appreciated stocks as gifts to charities. Nix said if a stock has lost value and the holder still wants to make a gift, they should sell the stock and then make the gift in cash.

"The value of the gift is the fair market value," he said.

Nix said some of his clients have opted to take a loss this year on some holdings.

"What we’ve seen this year is some people who are going ahead and realizing their losses," Nix said. "Normally, they would leave it alone hoping the stock would come back. But our firm’s clients are selling to offset some gains they had in other assets."

Nix said he encouraged persons who are making cash donations in excess of $200 to make sure the donations are received by the charitable organization by the close of business on Wednesday.

A spokeswoman for the Medical Center Foundation, the charitable arm of Northeast Georgia Health System, said this is typically a time they receive gifts from persons wishing to complete year-end donations.

It is also a hectic time for stockbrokers.

Beth Baldwin of Edward Jones said the final days of the year are almost always filled with customers who need to make transactions prior to the end-of-year tax deadlines.

"It can be a busy time," Baldwin said.



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