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Goodbye 2013, goodbye tax breaks

1040 tax form.
1040 tax form.
Stock photo from Commons

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It's not even midnight yet and already that dreaded annual ritual has begun - tax time.

As if doing your taxes wasn't complicated enough, Congress is repeating its yearly practice of letting popular tax breaks expire at the end of the year, just to resurrect them in time for next year's filing.

That temporary lapse in the tax breaks may not hit your wallet too hard  since they'll probably be back by the time you file next year. Still, the uncertainty is making it difficult for millions of individuals and businesses to plan what their tax liability is going to be, and some businesses and trade groups are fed up.

What if Congress doesn't end up reinstating the breaks? What if the rules change? Which are set to expire? Why does Congress go through this back and forth over tax breaks every year? How does this affect your yearly tax filing?