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When you file a tax return, you usually have a choice to make: whether to itemize deductions or take the standard deduction. You should compare both methods and use the one that gives you the greater tax benefit.
The IRS offers these six facts to help you choose.
1. Figure your itemized deductions. Add up the cost of items you paid for during the year that you might be able to deduct. Expenses could include home mortgage interest, state income taxes or sales taxes (but not both), real estate and personal property taxes, and gifts to charities. They may also include large casualty or theft losses or large medical and dental expenses that insurance did not cover. Unreimbursed employee business expenses may also be deductible.
2. Know your standard deduction. If you do not itemize, your basic standard deduction amount depends on your filing status. For 2012, the basic amounts are:
• Single = $5,950
• Married Filing Jointly = $11,900
• Head of Household = $8,700
• Married Filing Separately = $5,950
• Qualifying Widow(er) = $11,900
3. Apply other rules in some cases. Your standard deduction is higher if you are 65 or older or blind. Other rules apply if someone else can claim you as a dependent on his or her tax return. To figure your standard deduction in these cases, use the worksheet in the instructions for Form 1040, U.S. Individual Income Tax Return.
4. Check for the exceptions. Some people do not qualify for the standard deduction and should itemize. This includes married people who file a separate return and their spouse itemizes deductions. See the Form 1040 instructions for the rules about who may not claim a standard deduction.
5. Choose the best method. Compare your itemized and standard deduction amounts. You should file using the method with the larger amount.
6. File the right forms. To itemize your deductions, use Form 1040, and Schedule A, Itemized Deductions. You can take the standard deduction on Forms 1040, 1040A or 1040EZ.
For more information about allowable deductions, see Publication 17, Your Federal Income Tax, and the instructions for Schedule A. Tax forms and publications are available on the IRS website at IRS.gov You may also call 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676) to order them by mail.
Additional IRS Resources:
- Interactive Tax Assistant tool – How Much is My Standard Deduction?
- Schedule A (Form 1040), Itemized Deductions and instructions
- Form 1040, U.S. Individual Income Tax Return and instructions
- Publication 17, Your Federal Income Tax
Most taxpayers have a choice of either taking a standard deduction or itemizing their deductions. If you have a choice, you can use the method that gives you the lowest tax.
Whether to itemize deductions on your tax return depends on how much you spent on certain expenses last year. Money paid for medical care, mortgage interest, taxes, charitable contributions, casualty losses and miscellaneous deductions can reduce your taxes. If the total amount spent on those categories is more than your standard deduction, you can usually benefit by itemizing.
The standard deduction amounts are based on your filing status and are subject to inflation adjustments each year. For 2009, they are:
- $5,700 for Single
- $11,400 for Married Filing Jointly
- $8,350 for Head of Household
- $5,700 for Married Filing Separately
- $11,400 for Qualifying Widow(er)
Some taxpayers have different standard deductions The standard deduction amount depends on your filing status, whether you are 65 or older or blind and whether an exemption can be claimed for you by another taxpayer. If any of these apply, you must use the Standard Deduction Worksheet on the back of Form 1040EZ, or in the 1040A or 1040 instructions. The standard deduction amount also depends on whether you plan to claim the additional standard deduction for state and local real estate taxes or state or local excise tax on a new vehicle, and whether you have a net disaster loss from a federally declared disaster. You must file Schedule L, Standard Deduction for Certain Filers to claim these additional amounts.
Limited itemized deductions Your itemized deductions may be limited if your adjusted gross income is more than $166,800 or $83,400 if you are married filing separately. This limit applies to all itemized deductions except medical and dental expenses, casualty and theft losses of personal use and income producing property, gambling losses and investment interest expenses.
Married Filing Separately When a married couple files separate returns and one spouse itemizes deductions, the other spouse cannot claim the standard deduction and should itemize their deductions.
Some taxpayers are not eligible for the standard deduction They include nonresident aliens, dual-status aliens and individuals who file returns for periods of less than 12 months due to a change in accounting periods.
Forms to use The standard deduction can be taken on Forms 1040, 1040A or 1040EZ. If you qualify for the higher standard deduction for real estate taxes, new motor vehicle taxes, or a net disaster loss, you must attach Schedule L. To itemize your deductions, use Form 1040, U.S. Individual Income Tax Return, and Schedule A, Itemized Deductions.
These forms and instructions may be downloaded from the IRS.gov Web site or ordered by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).
As you get ready to prepare your 2009 tax return, the Internal Revenue Service wants to make sure you have all the details about tax law changes that may impact your tax return.
Here are the top five changes that may show up on your 2009 return.
1. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act
ARRA provides several tax provisions that affect tax year 2009 individual tax returns due April 15, 2010. The recovery law provides tax incentives for first-time homebuyers, people who purchased new cars, those that made their homes more energy efficient, parents and students paying for college, and people who received unemployment compensation.
2. IRA Deduction Expanded
You may be able to take an IRA deduction if you were covered by a retirement plan and your 2009 modified adjusted gross income is less than $65,000 or $109,000 if you are married filing a joint return.
3. Standard Deduction Increased for Most Taxpayers
The 2009 basic standard deductions all increased. They are:
- $11,400 for married couples filing a joint return and qualifying widows and widowers
- $5,700 for singles and married individuals filing separate returns
- $8,350 for heads of household
Taxpayers can now claim an additional standard deduction based on the state or local sales or excise taxes paid on the purchase of most new motor vehicles purchased after February 16, 2009. You can also increase your standard deduction by the state or local real estate taxes paid during the year or net disaster losses suffered from a federally declared disaster.
4. 2009 Standard Mileage Rates
The standard mileage rates changed for 2009. The standard mileage rates for business use of a vehicle:
- 55 cents per mile
The standard mileage rates for the cost of operating a vehicle for medical reasons or a deductible move:
- 24 cents per mile
The standard mileage rate for using a car to provide services to charitable organizations remains at 14 cents per mile.
5. Kiddie Tax Change
The amount of taxable investment income a child can have without it being subject to tax at the parent’s rate has increased to $1,900 for 2009.
For more information about these and other changes for tax year 2009, visit IRS.gov.
- FS-2010-4, 2009 Tax Law Changes Provide Saving Opportunities for Nearly Everyone
- The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009: Information center
- 1040 Central
- Form 1040 instructions (PDF 941K)
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