While 2009 has seen many Americans struggle to make mortgage payments, cut back on spending and become acquainted with the “staycation,” there are still other ways to save. You may be able to cut your 2009 tax burden with some last-minute tips, keeping some of that hard-earned money in your own pocket.

Check out the full hour of LIVE Friday, Oct. 30 as tax experts join us to give you tips on how to prepare for the end of the year

But you’ve got to act quickly – these tips will only work in 2009.

First, ask yourself two questions.

1. Did I buy a house? 

If so, the first-time homebuyer credit could put up to $8,000 back into your pocket.

 To qualify:

  • You can’t have owned a principal residence in the past three years.
  • Your modified AGI must be $75,000 or less if you’re single, or $150,000 or less if you’re married.
  • The closing and title transfer must be completed by Nov. 30. (If you can’t make the deadline, you may have another shot; bills to extend the credit are close to signature.)

Big exception: homeowners who sell the house within three years of purchase must pay the credit back.

2. Did I buy a car? 

You might qualify for the new-car sales tax deduction. You can deduct state and local sales tax paid on a new set of wheels purchased this year between Feb. 17 and Dec. 31, regardless of whether you itemize your deductions.

 The deduction is limited to the first $49,500 of a vehicle’s price, and your income as a single can’t exceed $125,000, or $250,000 as a married couple.

Here are some things to do before year-end. 

Give to charity 

Aside from your usual charitable contributions you can distribute up to $100,000 per year from your IRA directly to a qualified charity without paying any tax on the distribution. This exclusion is available if you are 70 1/2 or older.

Big note: This tax break is scheduled to expire at the end of 2009.

Go green

Thinking about buying a more energy-efficient furnace this winter? Remember there are nearly $300 million in rebates earmarked for new “green” appliances. The rebates will typically range from $50 to $250 and take effect as early as the end of this year (dates, amounts, and method of redemption will vary by state).

While there’s no deadline, when the money is gone the program will be over.  Go to and click on Tax Credits for Energy Efficiency to see if you qualify. 

Reap your losses 

Don’t forget to try and match your capital gains and losses.  If you sold something at a gain, you will owe capital gains taxes on that sale. But you probably have some losers in your portfolio that you’ve been dying to offload.

If you sell a stock, bond, or mutual fund in a taxable account for less than you paid, you can use the losses to offset any other gains you may have. Have more losses than gains? The IRS lets you deduct up to $3,000 in remaining losses from ordinary income. The rest can be used on future returns.

Prep for the Alternative Minimum Tax 

AMT is convoluted and annoying. The best way to muddle through the calculation is to plop your 2009 income into a tax preparation software package and see where you stand. 

If you are an AMT victim then you need to make some adjustments before year-end. 

The good news is that many of those tax prep programs will walk you through them step by step, but this area of our tax system is confusing, so you might want to get some professional help. 

So, while dealing with your taxes might sound almost as bad as going to your in-laws for Thanksgiving, doing a little legwork now could save you some money come April.