Standard or Itemized?

Most people claim the standard deduction when they file their federal tax return. But did you know that you may lower your taxes if you itemize your deductions? Find out if you can save by doing your taxes using both methods. Usually, the bigger the deduction, the lower the tax you have to pay. You should file your tax return using the method that allows you to pay the least amount of tax.

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. 

2. Know your standard deduction.  If you don’t itemize, your basic standard deduction for 2014 depends on your filing status:     

  • Single $6,200
  • Married Filing Jointly $12,400
  • Head of Household $9,100
  • Married Filing Separately $6,200
  • Qualifying Widow(er) $12,400             

If you’re 65 or older or blind, your standard deduction is higher than these amounts. If someone can claim you as a dependent, your deduction may be limited.

3. Check the exceptions.  There are some situations where the law does not allow a person to claim the standard deduction. This rule applies if you are married filing a separate return and your spouse itemizes. In this case, you can’t claim a standard deduction. You usually will pay less tax if you itemize. 

Published: 03/17/2015

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