The Work Opportunity Tax Credit targets high unemployment areas with an incentive: a percentage of a hire's first-year wages, up to $2,400.

Separate wage credits are also available for businesses located in one of 70 officially designated Renewal Communities and Empowerment Zones that hire local residents. Renewal Community credits are worth up to $1,500 per employee per year and Empowerment Zone credits up to $3,000 per employee per year. Participating in these programs need not change your hiring practices. It does require setting up programs to track employees, but this isn't difficult, says Trost. (Outsourcing the administrative function shouldn't cost more than 10 percent of the credit.) It's "absolutely worth it," he says. "At $1,500 per worker, if you have 10 or 15 workers, it adds up to real money." The credits are available for previous tax years, provided you have kept adequate records.

Renewal Community businesses can also take advantage of a Commercial Revitalization Deduction, an accelerated write-down of a new or rehabilitated building worth up to $10 million.

Finally, certain Empowerment Zone business owners may be able to exclude up to 60 percent of the gain when they sell stock in the business or postpone capital gains when they sell an asset.