William Byrnes' Tax, Wealth, and Risk Intelligence

William Byrnes (Texas A&M) tax & compliance articles

Six Tax Tips When Deciding to Itemize or Take the Standard Deduction

Posted by William Byrnes on April 1, 2014

2014_tf_on_individuals_small_businesses-m_1The IRS published Tax Tip 2014-29 with 6 helpful tips for deciding whether to itemize deductions or to rely upon the standard deduction.  The IRS stated that a taxpayer should calculate the available deduction using both methods and then choose the deduction method that produces the greater deduction (thus lower amount of tax).

1. Figure the itemized deductions.  Add up deductible expenses 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

2. Know the standard deduction.  If a taxpayer does not itemize, the basic standard deduction for 2013 depends on your filing status:

  • Single $6,100
  • Married Filing Jointly $12,200
  • Head of Household $8,950
  • Married Filing Separately $6,100
  • Qualifying Widow(er) $12,200

The standard deduction is higher for persons when 65 or older or blind.

3. Check the exceptions.  Some taxpayers do not qualify for the standard deduction and therefore should itemize.  This includes married couples who file separate returns and one spouse itemizes.

4. Use the IRS’s ITA tool: Interactive Tax Assistant tool to help determine your standard deduction.

5. File the right forms.  To itemize deductions, use Form 1040 and Schedule A, Itemized Deductions. Standard deduction is on Forms 1040, 1040A or 1040EZ.

6. File Electronically.  Some taxpayers are eligible for free, brand-name software to prepare and e-file the tax return. IRS Free File will do the work for you.


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