Preparing and filing your tax return can be daunting, especially when trying to determine which deductions you qualify for and choosing between taking the standard deduction and itemizing. It is a difficult decision to make, but ultimately you will want to go the route that will result in you having the lowest possible tax liability.
Standard Deduction Amounts for 2011
Standard deductions for the 2011 tax year have increased slightly from 2010 rates. The new standard deduction amounts are as follows:
- Single filers: $5,800.00
- Head of Household: $8,500.00
- Married Filing Jointly: $11,600.00
- Married Filing Separately: $5,800.00
- Qualifying Widows or Widowers: $11,400.00
- Dependents: Ranges from $950.00 – $5,800.00.
Determining Whether to Claim the Standard Deduction
When preparing your tax return, you must choose between taking the standard deduction and itemizing your deductions. Before deciding, it is best to calculate a rough estimate of what you will be able to deduct if you choose to itemize. Items that are generally tax-deductible on your tax return include the amount paid on mortgage interest, some medical care expenses, charitable donations, some moving expenses and more. When you total your expenses, if the resulting amount is higher than the standard deduction, then you most likely will be better off taking the time to itemize your tax return.
Many people, regardless of whether or not itemizing their deductions may give them a better tax break, prefer to take the standard deduction. The main reason in their line of thinking is simply that it is easier since it does not require you to worry about which deductions you might be able to claim or to keep track of receipts for deductions, etc.
Does Everyone Qualify for the Standard Deduction?
Although most people are eligible to take the standard deduction, there are some individuals will not qualify for it. According to the IRS website, the following individuals do not qualify for the standard tax deduction:
- Non-resident aliens
- Dual status aliens
- Any individual who files his tax return for a time period of fewer than 12 months due to a change in accounting periods.
Standard Deduction for Married Couples Filing Separately
If you are a married couple and decide to file separate returns, you must both either claim the standard deduction or itemize your tax returns. In other words, if one of you decides to claim the standard deduction, then the other cannot itemize his or her tax return.
Which Forms Can Be Used When Claiming the Standard Deduction?
If you determine that the standard deduction is the way to go, then you will have a few options when filing your return. You can choose from Form 1040, Form 1040A or Form 1040EZ. It may also be in your best interest to consult a tax expert to be sure that you are selecting the most beneficial option for your unique situation.