Topic 501 - Should I Itemize?

Generally, you must decide whether to itemize deductions or to use the standard deduction. The standard deduction is a dollar amount that reduces the amount of income on which you are taxed. You should itemize deductions if your allowable itemized deductions are greater than your standard deduction. Some taxpayers must itemize deductions because they cannot use the standard deduction.

You cannot use the standard deduction if:

  • You are married filing as married filing separately, and your spouse itemizes deductions,
  • You are filing a tax return for a period of less than 12 months because of a change in your annual accounting method, or
  • You are a nonresident alien or a dual-status alien during the year. (If you are a nonresident alien who is married to a U.S. citizen or resident at the end of the year, you can choose to be treated as a U.S. resident. If you make this choice, you can take the standard deduction. For additional information, refer to Publication 519, U.S. Tax Guide for Aliens).
In addition, an estate or trust, common trust fund, or partnership cannot use the standard deduction. For additional information, refer to Publication 501, Exemptions, Standard Deduction, and Filing Information.

You may benefit from itemizing your deductions on Form 1040, Schedule A (PDF) if you:

  • Cannot use the standard deduction
  • Had large uninsured medical and dental expenses
  • Paid interest or taxes on your home
  • Had large unreimbursed employee business expenses
  • Had large uninsured casualty or theft losses, or
  • Made large charitable contributions

You may be subject to limitations on some of your itemized deductions. Please refer to the Form 1040 Instructions (PDF) or Form 1040, Schedule A Instructions (PDF) for the limitation amounts. In addition to these limits, beginning in 2013, your total itemized deductions may be phased out (reduced) if your adjusted gross income exceeds the following threshold amounts for your filing status:

  • Single - $250,000
  • Married filing jointly or qualifying widow(er) - $300,000
  • Married filing separately - $150,000
  • Head of household - $275,000

Use the Itemized Deductions Worksheet-Line 29 in the Form 1040, Schedule A Instructions to determine if you are subject to the phaseout on itemized deductions. For more information on the difference between itemized deductions and the standard deduction, refer to the Form 1040 Instructions (PDF), or Publication 17, Your Federal Income Tax for Individuals. You may also refer to Topic 551 and Publication 501.

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Page Last Reviewed or Updated: August 19, 2014