In this series:

How to file your taxes: step by step
Check if you need to file
Gather your documents
Get credits and deductions
File your return
Get your refund
Pay taxes on time
Be ready to file taxes next year

How they work

You can claim credits and deductions when you file your tax return to lower your tax. Make sure you get all the credits and deductions you qualify for. If you have qualified dependents, you may be eligible for certain credits and deductions.

Claim credits 

A credit is an amount you subtract from the tax you owe. This can lower your tax payment or increase your refund. Some credits are refundable — they can give you money back even if you don't owe any tax. 

To claim credits, answer questions in your tax filing software. If you file a paper return, you’ll need to complete a form and attach it. 

Here are credits you can claim: 

Take deductions 

A deduction is an amount you subtract from your income when you file so you don’t pay tax on it. By lowering your income, deductions lower your tax. 

You need documents to show expenses or losses you want to deduct. Your tax software will calculate deductions for you and enter them in the right forms. If you file a paper return, your deductions go on Form 1040 and may require extra forms. 

Standard vs. itemized deductions 

Most people take the standard deduction, which lets you subtract a set amount from your income based on your filing status

If your deductible expenses and losses are more than the standard deduction, you can save money by deducting them one-by-one from your income (itemizing). Tax software can walk you through your expenses and losses to show the option that gives you the lowest tax. 

Some people, including nonresidents and partial-year filers, can’t take the standard deduction

Standard deduction amounts 

The standard deduction for 2023 is: 

  • $13,850 for single or married filing separately 

  • $27,700 for married couples filing jointly or qualifying surviving spouse 

  • $20,800 for head of household 

Find the standard deduction if you’re: 

If you’re married filing separately, you can’t take the standard deduction if your spouse itemizes. You must both choose the same method.  

Deductible expenses 

You can deduct these expenses whether you take the standard deduction or itemize:

If you itemize, you can deduct these expenses:

Get answers to questions on itemized deductions and the standard deduction