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"This is my first year out on my own and as a result I am on my own for my taxes, what is the best way to earn a refund in terms of what I can and should claim on my forms? Thanks."

The way to get a refund is to have too much tax deducted from your wages during the year.

This should not be your goal. When you get a big refund, you have given the government an interest-free loan. The goal is to pay as much tax as you must, and in a timely manner, without paying extra.

You are allowed a standard deduction. If all your income is salary, you can take the standard deduction and do your taxes on 1040-EZ or the like. If you want to claim deductions, you are talking about charitable contributions, medical expenses, some investment expenses, the interest on your mortgage. You may be able to deduct your contribution to your retirement account.

Get the booklet that goes with Form 1040 and read it. You may also want to get one of the income tax help books prominantly displayed in bookstores at this time of year.
And welcome to the world of taxpaying citizens!
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