Don't Overlook This One Tax Credit

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Right now, Tax Day feels a million years away, but come April, you'll be glad you did your research before filing with the IRS. Paying your taxes can be an overwhelming and annoying process, but if you play your cards right, you could save a significant chunk of change.

Almost half of people who qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit don't know about it, but it's been part of the federal tax system for nearly half a century. The exact amount you earn each year to qualify varies by a number of factors, such as whether you're married and how many children you do (or don't) have. A single person with no children earning $15,570 annually might get $529 shaved off their taxable income; a married couple with three children, filing jointly, saves $6,557 on an income of $55,952 or less.

If that's too fiddly for you, the IRS has a handy flow chart with questions you can answer for federal taxes; 29 states and the District of Columbia also offer a similar credit. For those bracing themselves for another brutal tax year, take heart — there are lots of ways you can prepare now to cushion or even turn around your filings. Freelancers who qualify for the EITC may also be able to deduct last year's tax prep fees, and everyone should make sure they understand the standard deduction.

Tax season is a morass no matter how you slice it. Still, you might discover that the IRS is kinder to you than you'd think.