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Tax credits are one sure way to put money in your pocket. A credit is a direct reduction of the amount of tax you owe, so it can be very valuable. Some of them are even refundable, meaning that you can get tax money back even if you didn't pay in.

Three key tax credits are often overlooked by taxpayers, and the Internal Revenue Service has no responsibility to let you know that you could claim them. So it's important to make sure you claim everything you're entitled to claim.

The child care credit can be used by those who put their small children in daycare or with a babysitter so they can attend work or school. Make sure to get documentation from your daycare provider about the total amount you paid during the year, as well as the provider's social security number or federal identification number. You'll need that number to get the credit on your tax return. The credit can be up to $1,050 per child in daycare, but the actual amount depends on your daycare expenses and your income.
The retirement savings credit is offered to encourage lower income taxpayers to contribute to retirement accounts. In addition to getting to deduct the contribution from their taxable income, taxpayers can also receive a credit of up to $2,000, so this is a great chance to double-dip legally.

Don't forget about education credits available for those taking college courses. The maximum credit is $2,000, and is calculated based on your total tuition and fees paid to a qualified educational institution in a degree-seeking program. The credit is taken by the person who claims the student as a dependent, so if your parents still claim you on their tax return, they'll get the credit.

Tracy L. Coenen, CPA, MBA, CFE performs fraud examinations and financial investigations for her company Sequence Inc. Forensic Accounting, and is the author of Essentials of Corporate Fraud.

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