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Tax Carnival #79: Filing season begins

MLK Day 2011

2011 marks the 25th anniversary of the Martin Luther King, Jr., federal holiday.

Mlk day of service To commemorate the holiday's quarter century mark and encourage ongoing service throughout the year, the Corporation for National and Community Service has launched the MLK 25 Challenge.

The challenge is a call to all Americans to honor Dr. King by pledging to take at least 25 actions during 2011 to make a difference for others and strengthen your community.

The actions don't have to be momentous. They could be as simple as cleaning a neighborhood park. Or, if you have the time, you could do something more, such as becoming a mentor.

The key is to give of yourself in some way to help others. Scroll down the MLK25 page for a checklist of volunteer ideas. You also can find volunteer opportunities at Serve.gov.

Tax breaks for time shared: Now I know that when you donate your time to a cause, you do so because you want to, not because you get something back.

But in many cases, you can claim some tax breaks connected with your volunteer efforts. And since they're there, you shouldn't ignore them.

You can't deduct the value of the time you spend working with a nonprofit on this MLK Day 2011 or on any other day.

But you can write off any unreimbursed expenses that are incidental to your volunteer work, as well as mileage involved with your charitable gift of time.

So as you give of your time today, and other days, be sure to keep tax records. That way, you could give back to yourself at tax-filing time.

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