Last-minute tax filers often end up unwittingly shortchanging themselves.
For one, many people assume that itemizing their deductions -- be it property taxes, mortgage interest or charitable contributions -- is the best way to reduce their tax bill. It might not be, Wind says. Don't automatically dismiss the standard deduction, particularly if your home is paid off or if you live in a state with no income tax.
"Single people who claim the standard deduction get to reduce their taxable income by $5,800, while couples can reduce it by $11,600," he says. So depending on your circumstances, "going with the standard deduction may be better for your bottom line."
Taxpayers who do itemize also forget to claim items. "There are literally thousands of tax credits, deductions and benefits available, but you need to know where to look to claim them," Steber says. "Take some time to think about changes in your life that occurred during 2011: Did you start to provide most, if not all, of the care for an elderly parent as a dependent? Did you take a new job? Did you buy a home? All of these situations, and many others, can add up to more dollars on a tax refund, if you are eligible."
What's more, sometimes lemons -- like stocks you own that tanked -- can be turned into lemonade -- i.e., tax deductions. "In many cases, you can carry forward losses from prior years to this year's tax return," Winds says, "so don't forget about them."