Feature Articles: Taxes
Should you itemize?
Reviewed and used with special permission from the IRS by: Brenda Procter, M.S., State Specialist & Instructor, Personal Financial Planning, University of Missouri Extension
Whether to itemize deductions on your tax return depends on how much you spent on certain expenses last year. Money paid for medical care, mortgage interest, taxes, charitable contributions, casualty losses and miscellaneous deductions can reduce your taxes. If the total amount spent on those categories is more than the standard deduction, you can usually benefit by itemizing.
The standard deduction amounts are based on your filing status
and are subject to inflation adjustments each year. For 2011, they
- Single $5,800
- Married Filing Jointly or Qualifying Widow(er) $11,600
- Head of Household $8,500
- Married Filing Separately $5,800
Some taxpayers have different standard deductions. The standard deduction is more for taxpayers age 65 or older and for those who are blind. It is generally less for those who can be claimed as a dependent on some other taxpayer’s return.
When a married couple files separate returns and one spouse itemizes deductions, the other spouse must also itemize and cannot claim the standard deduction.
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.
To itemize your deductions, use Form 1040, U.S. Individual Income Tax Return, and Schedule A, Itemized Deductions.
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- Publication 17, Your Federal Income Tax (pdf)
- Schedule A (Form 1040), Itemized Deductions (pdf)
- Instructions for Schedule A, Itemized Deductions (pdf)
Source: IRS Tax Tip 2008-06
Last update: Thursday, March 08, 2012