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Itemizing vs. Standard Deduction: Six Tips to Help You Choose

When you file your tax return, you usually have a choice whether to itemize deductions or take the standard deduction. Before you choose, it’s a good idea to figure your deductions using both methods. Then choose the one that allows you to pay the lower amount of tax. The one that results in the higher deduction amount often gives you the most benefit.

The IRS offers these six tips to help you choose.

  1. Figure your itemized deductions.  Add up deductible expenses you 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. Visit and refer to Publication 17, Your Federal Income Tax for more details.

  1. Know your standard deduction.  If you don’t itemize, your basic standard deduction for depends on your filing status ( each year the numbers change, be sure to know this year’s numbers by going to ):
  • Single
  • Married Filing Jointly
  • Head of Household
  • Married Filing Separately
  • Qualifying Widow(er) ( widows and widowers with minor children)

Your standard deduction is higher if you’re 65 or older and/or blind. If someone can claim you as a dependent, that can limit the amount of your standard deduction.

  1. Check the exceptions.  Some people don’t qualify for the standard deduction and therefore should itemize. This includes married couples who file separate returns and one spouse itemizes.
  2. Use the IRS’s ITA (Interactive Tax Assistant tool) to help determine your standard deduction.
  3. 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.


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