With the '95 tax year now behind you (unless you filed for an extension), it's a good time to start thinking of ways to trim your tax bill for next April. Here are some suggestions:
1. Buy tax-free bonds and bond funds only if they put more money in your pocket than taxable securities of comparable quality and maturity. To know which is best for you, divide the tax-free yield by 1 minus your federal tax bracket.If you're in the 31 percent bracket, the divisor would be 0.69 (1 minus 0.31).
2. Keep a careful record of all stock and mutual fund purchases - including those made through dividend reinvestment - to avoid overpaying taxes when you sell.
3. When you redeem mutual fund shares, tell the fund exactly which shares to sell.
Be sure to ask the fund for written confirmation of your request.
4. If you refinance a home mortgage, you can write off part of the points you paid.
5. Donate appreciated assets, not cash. If you donate stock, mutual fund shares or other property that you have owned for more than a year, you get to deduct the full market value but don't have to pay tax on the gain that has built up.
6. It's always been a good idea for home buyers to get sellers to pay points on the buyer's mortgage. It's an even better deal now: Buyers can deduct the points even when the seller pays them.
7. Change your W-4 form if you got a big tax refund this year. That will cut the amount withheld by your employer and put more cash in your pocket.