Know when to itemize deductions on your tax return

All Things Legal

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By Jane M. Winand, Legal Assistance Attorney

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 2016, they are:

  • Single: $6,300
  • Married Filing Jointly: $12,600
  • Head of Household: $9,300
  • Married Filing Separately: $6,300

Some taxpayers have different standard deductions. The standard deduction is more for taxpayers ages 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.

Stipulations for Married Filing Separately: 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.

Forms to use: To itemize your deductions, use Form 1040, U.S. Individual Income Tax Return, and Schedule A, Itemized Deductions.

When you don’t want to itemize:

Example: You are filing your federal return as Single. You paid $250 to a charity. You paid $2,000 mortgage interest. This is a total of $2,250, and would be considered your itemized deduction if you chose to itemize.

However it would be to your benefit to take the standard deduction because the government gives you an automatic deduction of $6,300 if you are not itemizing.

When you would want to itemize:

Example: You are filing your federal return as Head of Household. You have paid $880 to charity, you have paid $6,950 mortgage interest, and you have paid $2,510 for real estate tax. This is a total of $10,340.

It would be better for you to itemize your deductions because the government only gives you a standard deduction of 9,300. In addition, you want you bring your taxable income down as low as possible.

The Fort Meade Tax Center is available to assist service members, retirees and their family members with free federal and state income tax preparation and electronic filing.

The Tax Center is located at 4217 Morrison Street, first Floor, Office of the Staff Judge Advocate.

To schedule an appointment, call the Tax Center at 301-677-9366.

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