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Topic 501 - Should I Itemize?

There are two ways you can take deductions on your federal income tax return: you can itemize deductions or use the standard deduction. Deductions reduce the amount of your taxable income.

The standard deduction amount varies depending on your income, age, and filing status and changes each year; see How Much Is My Standard Deduction? and Topic 551 for more information.

Certain taxpayers can't use the standard deduction:

  • A married individual filing as married filing separately whose spouse itemizes deductions.
  • An individual who files a tax return for a period of less than 12 months because of a change in his or her annual accounting period.
  • An individual who was a nonresident alien or a dual-status alien during the year. However, nonresident aliens who are married to a U.S. citizen or resident alien at the end of the year and who choose to be treated as U.S. residents for tax purposes can take the standard deduction. For additional information, refer to Publication 519, U.S. Tax Guide for Aliens.
  • An estate or trust, common trust fund, or partnership; see Code Section 63(c)(6)(D).

You should itemize deductions if your allowable itemized deductions are greater than your standard deduction or if you must itemize deductions because you can't use the standard deduction.

You may be able to reduce your tax by itemizing deductions on Form 1040, Schedule A (PDF), Itemized Deductions. Itemized deductions include amounts you paid for state and local income or sales taxes, real estate taxes, personal property taxes, mortgage interest, and disaster losses. You may also include gifts to charity and part of the amount you paid for medical and dental expenses. You would usually benefit by itemizing on Form 1040, Schedule A (PDF), if you:

  • Can't use the standard deduction or the amount you can claim is limited
  • Had large uninsured medical and dental expenses
  • Paid interest or taxes on your home
  • Had large unreimbursed employee business expenses or other miscellaneous deductions
  • Had large uninsured casualty or theft losses, or
  • Made large contributions to qualified charities

Your itemized deductions may be limited and your total itemized deductions may be phased out (reduced) if your adjusted gross income for 2016 exceeds the following threshold amounts for your filing status:

  • Single - $259,400
  • Married filing jointly or qualifying widow(er) - $311,300
  • Married filing separately - $155,650
  • Head of household - $285,350

Refer to the Form 1040, Schedule A Instructions for the limitation amounts.

Use the Itemized Deductions Worksheet-Line 29 in the Form 1040, Schedule A Instructions to determine if you're 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 or Publication 17, Your Federal Income Tax for Individuals. You may also refer to Topic 551 and Publication 501, Exemptions, Standard Deduction, and Filing Information.

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Page Last Reviewed or Updated: December 30, 2016