Tax breaks, credits to remember for 2010

LOS ANGELES From incentives for education to extra credit for going green to buying a house, I'm going to show you some of the adjustments you can make to your taxes that are in your best interest.

Ashley Stevenson already owns her own company and is now getting ready to own a home, too. It's a house she fell in love with on the spot.

"It has a lot of great architecture inside, archways in the doorways and stuff and vaulted ceilings," described Stevenson.

Something else she loves is the tax credit from last year that has been extended to cover first time home buyers for part of this year, too.

"You have until April 30 to purchase the home or to make contract on the home. You need to have settled in that home by June 30 and that credit is up to $8,000. That's for individuals who are married filing jointly. If you file separately, it's going to be half that amount," explained James Dupree, an IRS spokesperson.

And you can choose to use the credit in either 2009 or 2010. Long-term homeowners on the move get a credit too, as long as they've lived in their current house for five of the last eight years. Investment and vacation homes don't count. And it still pays to go green with energy efficient heaters, air conditioning, windows and appliances, among other things.

"Up to 30 percent of the cost of installing energy efficient changes to your property, up to $1,500 this year is available," said Dupree.

But you have to claim it for the year that you made the purchases. If you're paying for college for yourself or a dependent, the hope credit is up to $2,500. Also, don't forget about scams. Remember that the real IRS won't send you e-mails, so don't open any you might receive.

"It could infect your computer with a virus. It can send you or transport you to a Web site that looks like the IRS Web site that isn't the real IRS Web site. You can forward these phony e-mails to," explained Dupree. "These are identity thieves. They're looking for banking information. They'll ask you for credit card information."

Here's another heads up from the IRS. If you hire someone to file your taxes, be sure it's someone who will be around past April in case there's a problem, and never sign a blank tax form for them to fill out. Ultimately, you are responsible for the information they send in.

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