Overview Standard Tax Deductions

The IRS allows you to deduct basic living expenses on your personal income tax return. One option is to list exactly how much you spend on the various personal deductions that the tax law allows, or itemizing. The other option is to take the standard deduction, which is a pre-determined amount based on your family situation and other factors. A deduction reduces the amount of your income that gets taxed, so you want to choose the highest deduction to reduce your taxable income as much as possible.

For a single individual filing taxes, the standard deduction is $5,150. For a married couple filing one tax return or for a qualifying widow(er), the amount is $10,300. For the head of household filing status, the standard deduction is $7,550. Children and other dependents are not included in the standard deduction, because they are included in a separate section.

You receive additional amounts to this standard deduction if you are over 65 or blind. When you are filling out your individual federal tax return, it will ask you to check boxes to count how many of these characteristics apply. Then if you or your spouse are over 65 or blind, look in the instructions for the standard deduction chart for a worksheet.

To use the chart, you need to know your filing status and how many boxes you checked on line 39. Then, you match your information to a listed standard deduction. There is no need to do any sort of math. Do take advantage of the 1040 instructions when filling out your taxes, as it provides many worksheets to simplify all of the math involved.

Usually, one tax return is filed per family. The taxpayer gets a separate deduction for everyone they count as a dependent-usually their children. This deduction is supposed to be the basic living expenses for that dependent, so if the dependent also files their own tax return, they need to fill out the dependent standard deduction worksheet. As long as the dependent makes over a certain amount of money, they can take the standard deduction too.

The standard deduction is usually higher than most people’s itemized deductions and much simpler for both the taxpayer and the IRS. You should check if your itemized deductions are higher than your standard deduction, to be sure that you save the most money possible on your tax return. However, since the standard deduction is usually higher, unless you have especially high itemized deductions possible, you can get away with just picking the standard deduction. Go to the IRS website and search for “1040 instructions” for worksheets and tax return information.