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The #1 Most Overlooked Tax Deduction Could Save You $1,000

by - March 21, 2013 - 17 Comments

Believe it or not, the government will pay you to save….

I’m serious. Check this out.

It’s called the “Saver’s Credit” and it’s one of the most valuable tax credits available, but sadly it’s one of the most overlooked.

If you’re a low or middle income worker, you can take a tax credit if you contribute to a 401k, a Roth IRA, or a traditional IRA. Up to $1,000!

Not only do a lot of people forget about this credit, but tragically too many low-income workers take a pass on the benefits of retirement investing because of the financial strain that they perceive the saving will have on their tight budgets. But, keep reading and I’ll show you how to make saving a little easier…

First, “How do you qualify for the Saver’s Credit?”

Like any tax credit, you need to be able to jump through the qualification hoops to take advantage of the benefits. Obviously, you’ll need to file taxes and save some money in an IRA or employer-sponsored retirement account, like a 401k.

The credit is for mid-to-low income earners and the amount of the credit is determined by your income. The income limits for 2014 are $60,000 for married filing jointly, $45,000 for head of household and $30,000 for single filers. Your income also determines the % of your retirement investment that will be credited to your tax bill (see table below) and the maximum amount of the credit cannot exceed $1,000 for single filers and $2,000 for joint filers.

For example, a single filer earning $17,000 and investing $2,000 in a Roth IRA would receive a credit for 50% of their contributions ($1,000).

Saver's Credit

Now, “How do I claim the credit”

– First, thing you want to do is open a retirement account (my preference is a ROTH IRA). You can open this with any brokerage firm, but I’m partial to Lending Club, because they give me the best interest rate (last year I earned 14%).

– Next, make your deposit. The IRS actually gives taxpayers up until April 15, 2015 to make contributions to IRA accounts and recognize those investments on their 2014 taxes. Pretty cool, huh?

– And lastly, you want to file a FORM 8880 with the IRS. If you’re using a tax service like TurboTax (it’s free this year if you’re just filing your personal tax return!), then it’s even easier to file this form.

Remember: This is a credit, not a deduction.

It is important to note that the benefit that the government is offering is not a deduction, but a credit. On the scale of great tax breaks, tax credits are the most beneficial for taxpayers. That’s because while deductions merely lower how much income you report for taxes, a tax credit is a dollar-for-dollar reduction of the actual tax bill that you pay. So, if you owed $1,000 in taxes, paid $1,000 out of your paycheck all year and your credit is $1,000, you will be getting $1,000 back from the IRS for a tax refund.

Another way to take advantage of the credit (besides a hefty refund check) is to use the credit in a way that the government pays up to 50% of your retirement contribution. If you struggle to come up with the money to open a qualifying retirement account, the Saver’s Credit gives you the opportunity to increase your exemptions on your W2 and lower the taxes you pay out of your paycheck. It’s like getting a pay raise, because you can reduce the amount that comes out of your paycheck for taxes by the amount of the credit you’d receive. Just make sure that the “pay raise” is going into your retirement account and not your bank account or you’ll get a hefty tax bill instead of free money.

How to Make Saving a Little Easier

Now, I know for a lot of us, saving up $1,000 or more can be a little tricky. But consider this: you only need to make an extra $2.74/day throughout the year to save up $1,000. And if you make less than the limits above, the government will chip in the other $1,000.

If you’re new to the blog, I’d suggest you poke around in the archives, because there are tons of ways to make an extra $2.74/day. Maybe try InboxDollars which will pay you to take surveys, listen to music, etc? Or check out our list of companies that are giving away free cash?

Good luck Penny Hoarders!

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  • Larry

    Thanks for this tip! I just went from owing over $600 to an almost $500 refund!

    • The Penny Hoarder

      Oh! That’s wonderful! You just put a big smile on my face…


  • http://www.20sfinances.com 20’s Finances

    I am in the middle of figuring out if it is worth reclassifying my roth to a traditional ira to increase my savings credit. Oh, the hoops can be a pain, but when it means a possible extra 1k, why not, right?

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  • Dave

    Actually you have until 4/17 this year, due to the 15th falling on a weekend and Monday is a holiday in Washinton D.C.

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  • http://www.raymondduke.com Raymond Duke

    Question – If I already filed my taxes is it possible to amend them to get this credit?

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  • http://www.savespendsplurge.com save. spend. splurge.

    Wish we had that in Canada too. :)

  • kamiko

    yup, another credit only given to people in the lower class, not to the middle class who pay the major brunt of the taxes. go figure. ~rolls eyes~

    • Richard Gardner

      Keep in mind, your premise is exactly why it’s a very low threshold. They want to encourage people who have the most modest means to begin to learn how to save. “The Fed” doesn’t want middle class workers to have an easy way out of paying a higher amount because as you say that is where the lion’s share of revenues come from.

  • Steve


    I was hoping you could help me out. I am filing jointly with my wife. We made under 57k last year (she didn’t work). I have already fully funded a traditional IRA for 2013 ($5500). She was planning to fully fund one as well. I was planning to file using TurboTax online. Are we eligible for the tax credit? I was to get all I can back. This will be the last year I will qualify for this type of deduction.



    • Kyle Taylor

      Hi Steve –

      I’m definitely not a tax professional, so take all of this with a grain of salt. But, from my understating it appears that you’re just slightly inside the income limits. It’s 59K for a married couple. That being said, you’ll only qualify for a small piece of the credit since you’re bumping up against the limit. Also, if one of you made substantially more than the other, you might try plugging in 2 scenarios into TurboTax (married filing jointly, and married filing separately). It may allow one of you to take the full savings credit. However, they’re are sometimes negative consequences to filing separately, so you’ll really just need to play with on Turbotax to see which scenario is best.

      Hope that helps!


  • Brian

    What if you have a 401k with a company you no longer work for?

  • Jeff

    What an idiot! Who would be able to contribute $2k to a retirement savings account if they were only making $17k??????

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