Nearly 104 million people received refunds last year totaling about $283 billion. The average refund was $2,707, slightly less than the year before, according to the IRS.
As people sit down to do their taxes this year, they'll find that the standard deduction has been adjusted higher for inflation, to $11,900 for married couples filing jointly, $8,700 for heads of households and $5,950 for single taxpayers.
About two-thirds of taxpayers claim the standard deduction, according to Barbara Weltman, an author of J.K. Lasser's Tax Guide 2013.
Each personal exemption is worth $3,800 this year, up from $3,700 in 2011. Look expansively at dependents beyond your children under 19, or 24 if in college. For example, if you're paying more than half the support for your parents and their taxable income is less than the $3,800 exemption, you might be able to claim them as dependents even if they're not living in your own home.
"If a parent's only income is Social Security, chances are little or none of the Social Security will be taxable. Otherwise, very few people would get to claim a parent," said Jackie Perlman, principal tax research analyst with H&R Block's Tax Institute.
Single taxpayers with qualified children or relatives as dependents also may be able to use head of household filing status, which is more advantageous to the taxpayer.
There also are higher mileage rate deductions — 55.5 cents per mile if you use your car for business, 23 cents per mile for moving or medical issues and 14 cents a mile for charity.
Capital gains rates are unchanged from 2011 — a maximum of 15 percent for assets held more than a year.
And don't forget planning for retirement. You can contribute up to $5,000 to a traditional individual retirement account — $6,000 for people age 50 and older — and reduce their income by that amount. If you haven't made a contribution yet, there's still time. You have until April 15, the tax filing deadline.