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Itemize or take standard deduction for tax year 2017


IRS Tax Tip 2018-28

Most taxpayers claim the standard deduction when they file their federal tax return. However, some filers may be able to lower their tax bill by itemizing when they file their 2017 tax return. Before choosing to take the standard deduction or itemize, it’s a good idea to figure deductions using both methods and choose the method with the most benefit. The IRS offers the following tips to help taxpayers decide:

• Figure Itemized Deductions. Taxpayers who itemize basically add up the year’s deductible expenses to arrive at their total deduction. Deductions include: 

Home mortgage interest

State and local income taxes or sales taxes – but not both

Real estate and personal property taxes

Gifts to charities

Casualty or theft losses

Unreimbursed medical and employee business expenses above certain amounts

• Know the Standard Deduction. For taxpayers who don’t itemize, the standard deduction for 2017 depends on their filing status:   o Single — $6,350

Married Filing Jointly — $12,700

Head of Household — $9,350

Married Filing Separately — $6,350

Qualifying Widow(er) — $12,700

If a taxpayer is 65 or older, or blind, the standard deduction is more, but may be limited if another person claims that taxpayer as a dependent.

  • Use IRS Free File. Taxpayers who earned $66,000 or less in 2017 qualify to use free, brand-name software to prepare and file their federal tax returns electronically. IRS Free File software helps taxpayers determine if they should itemize. Taxpayers who can’t use Free File have other e-file options.
  • Check the Exceptions. There are some situations where the law doesn’t allow people to claim the standard deduction. This rule applies to married taxpayers who file separate returns, and either spouse itemizes. In this case, the standard deduction is zero and they should itemize any deductions.
  • Use IRS.gov Tool. Use the Interactive Tax Assistant on IRS.gov. There are several tools that can help people determine whether to itemize or take the standard deduction.  
  • File the Right Forms. For taxpayers to itemize their deductions, they must file Form 1040 and Schedule A, Itemized Deductions. Filers can take the standard deduction on Forms 1040, 1040A or 1040EZ.

More Information:

Publication 501, Exemptions, Standard Deduction, and Filing Information

Publication 17

Taxpayer Bill of Rights: #3, The Right to Pay No More than the Correct Amount of Tax

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Who will prepare your tax return? 


The Internal Revenue Service is reminding taxpayers to start thinking about who will prepare their 2016 federal tax return. The IRS began processing tax returns on Monday, January 23.

In 2016, more than 131 million individual and family tax returns were e-filed, the most accurate, safest and easiest way to file. The rest of the returns received by the IRS, numbering over 19 million, were either prepared on a computer and printed or prepared by hand then mailed.

The IRS stresses that no matter who prepares it, by signing the return, the taxpayer becomes legally responsible for the accuracy of all information included.

Free Tax Preparation 

Each year, millions of tax returns are prepared for free by taxpayers using IRS Free File or by volunteers at community organization sites nationwide.

IRS Free File lets taxpayers who earned less than $64,000 prepare and e-file a return for free. Go to IRS.gov and click on the ‘Filing’ tab for options on using commercial tax software. Those who earned more than $64,000 are still eligible for Free File Fillable Forms, the electronic version of IRS paper forms. This more basic Free File option is best for people who are comfortable preparing their own tax returns.

IRS trained and certified volunteers at thousands of Volunteer Income Tax Assistance and Tax Counseling for the Elderly (VITA and TCE) sites nationwide offer free tax preparation and e-filing.

VITA offers free tax return preparation to taxpayers who earn $54,000 or less. The TCE program is mainly for people age 60 or older and focuses on tax issues unique to seniors. AARP participates in the TCE program and helps taxpayers with low to moderate incomes.

To find the closest VITA site, visit IRS.gov and search the word “VITA.” Or download the IRS2Go app on a smart phone. Site information is also available by calling the IRS at 800-906-9887.

To locate the nearest AARP Tax-Aide site, visit aarp.org, or call 888-227-7669. There are also VITA and TCE sites that provide bilingual help for taxpayers who have limited English skills.

Many taxpayers pay for tax return preparation. By law, all paid tax preparers must have a Preparer Tax Identification Number, or PTIN. Paid preparers must sign the return and include their PTIN. The IRS offers tips to help taxpayers choose a tax return preparer wisely. The Choosing a Tax Professional page has information about tax preparer credentials and qualifications. The IRS Directory of Federal Tax Return Preparers with Credentials and Select Qualifications can help identify many preparers in your locality by type of credential or qualification.

The IRS urges taxpayers to avoid fly-by-night preparers who may not be available after this year’s April 18 due date or base fees on a percentage of the refund. The IRS also reminds taxpayers that a new law requires all refunds on returns that claim the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) or Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC) be held until Feb. 15. This change helps the IRS detect and prevent fraud.

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