Itemize or Choose the Standard Deduction

Most taxpayers claim the standard deduction when they file their federal tax return. However, some filers may be able to lower their tax bill by itemizing. Find out which way saves the most money by figuring taxes both ways.

The following six tips to help taxpayers decide:

1. Figure Your Itemized Deductions.  Taxpayers need to add up deductible expenses they paid during the year. These may include expenses such as:

  • Home mortgage interest
  • State and local income taxes or sales taxes (but not both)
  • Real estate and personal property taxes
  • Gifts to charities
  • Casualty or theft losses
  • Unreimbursed medical expenses
  • Unreimbursed employee business expenses

Special rules and limits apply.

3. Know The Standard Deduction. If a taxpayer doesn’t itemize, then the basic standard deduction for 2016 depends on their filing status. If the taxpayer is:

  • Single - $6,300
  • Married Filing Jointly - $12,600
  • Head of Household - $9,300
  • Married Filing Separately - $6,300
  • Qualifying Widow(er) - $12,600

If a taxpayer is 65 or older, or blind, the standard deduction is higher than the previous amounts. The deduction may be limited if the taxpayer can be claimed as a dependent.

4. Check the Exceptions. There are some situations where the law does not allow a person to claim the standard deduction. This rule applies if the taxpayer is married filing a separate return and their spouse itemizes. In this case, the taxpayer’s standard deduction is zero and they should itemize any deductions.

5. File the Right Forms.  For a taxpayer to itemize their deductions, they must file Form 1040 and Schedule A, Itemized Deductions. Filers can take the standard deduction on Forms 1040, 1040A or 1040EZ.

All taxpayers should keep a copy of their tax return.  Beginning in 2017, taxpayers using a software product for the first time may need their Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) amount from their prior-year tax return to verify their identity. 

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