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

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.

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Standard Deduction vs. Itemizing: Seven Facts to Help You Choose

Issue Number:    IRS Tax Tip 2012-43

Each year, millions of taxpayers choose whether to take the standard deduction or to itemize their deductions. The following seven facts from the IRS can help you choose the method that gives you the lowest tax.

1. Qualifying expenses – Whether to itemize deductions on your tax return depends on how much you spent on certain expenses last year. If the total amount you spent on qualifying medical care, mortgage interest, taxes, charitable contributions, casualty losses and miscellaneous deductions is more than your standard deduction, you can usually benefit by itemizing.

2. Standard deduction amounts -Your standard deduction is based on your filing status and is subject to inflation adjustments each year. For 2011, the amounts are:
        Single     $5,800
        Married Filing Jointly   $11,600
        Head of Household   $8,500
        Married Filing Separately  $5,800
        Qualifying Widow(er)  $11,600

3. 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 another taxpayer can claim an exemption for you. If any of these apply, use the Standard Deduction Worksheet on the back of Form 1040EZ, or in the 1040A or 1040 instructions.

4. Limited itemized deductions – Your itemized deductions are no longer limited because of your adjusted gross income.

5. Married filing separately – When a married couple files separate returns and one spouse itemizes deductions, the other spouse cannot claim the standard deduction and therefore must itemize to claim their allowable deductions.

6. 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.

7. Forms to use – The standard deduction can be taken on Forms 1040, 1040A or 1040EZ. 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 website at www.irs.gov or ordered by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).

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