Most taxpayers have a choice of either taking a standard deduction
or itemizing their deductions. The standard deduction is a dollar
amount that reduces the amount of income on which you are taxed. It is
a benefit that eliminates the need for many taxpayers to itemize
actual deductions, such as medical expenses, charitable contributions,
and taxes, on Schedule A of Form 1040. The standard deduction is
higher for taxpayers who are 65 or older or blind. If you have a
choice, you should use the method that gives you the lower tax.
You benefit from the standard deduction if your standard deduction
is more than the total of your allowable itemized deductions.
Persons not eligible for the standard deduction.
Your standard deduction is zero and you should itemize
any deductions you have if:
- You are married and filing a separate return, and your
spouse itemizes deductions,
- You are filing a tax return for a short tax year because of
a change in your annual accounting period, or
- You are a nonresident or dual-status alien during the year.
You are considered a dual-status alien if you were both a nonresident
and resident 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. (See Publication 519.)
If you make this choice, you can
take the standard deduction.
If an exemption for you can be claimed on another person's return
(such as your parents' return), your standard deduction may be
limited. See Standard Deduction for Dependents, later.
Standard Deduction Amount
The standard deduction amount depends on your filing status,
whether you are 65 or older or blind, and whether an exemption can be
claimed for you by another taxpayer. The standard deduction amounts
for most taxpayers are shown in Table 7.
The amount of the standard deduction for a decedent's final tax
return is the same as it would have been had the decedent continued to
live. However, if the decedent was not 65 or older at the time of
death, the higher standard deduction for age cannot be claimed.
Higher Standard Deduction for Age (65 or Older)
If you do not itemize deductions, you are entitled to a higher
standard deduction if you are age 65 or older at the end of the year.
You are considered 65 on the day before your 65th birthday. Therefore,
you can take a higher standard deduction for 2000 if your 65th
birthday was on or before January 1, 2001.
Use Table 8 to figure the standard deduction amount.
Higher Standard Deduction for Blindness
If you are blind on the last day of the year and you do not itemize
deductions, you are entitled to a higher standard deduction. Use
Table 8. You qualify for this benefit if you are totally or
If you are partly blind, you must get a certified statement from an
eye doctor or registered optometrist that:
- You cannot see better than 20/200 in the better eye with
glasses or contact lenses, or
- Your field of vision is not more than 20 degrees.
If your eye condition will never improve beyond these limits, the
statement should include this fact. You must keep the statement in
If your vision can be corrected beyond these limits only by contact
lenses that you can wear only briefly because of pain, infection, or
ulcers, you can take the higher standard deduction for blindness if
you otherwise qualify.
Spouse 65 or Older or Blind
You can take the higher standard deduction if your spouse is age 65
or older or blind and:
- You file a joint return, or
- You file a separate return and can claim an exemption for
your spouse because your spouse had no gross income and an exemption
for your spouse could not be claimed by another taxpayer.
You cannot claim the higher standard deduction for an individual
other than yourself and your spouse.
The following examples illustrate how to determine your standard
deduction using Tables 7 and 8.
Larry, 46, and Donna, 33, are filing a joint return for 2000.
Neither is blind. They decide not to itemize their deductions. They
use Table 7. Their standard deduction is $7,350.
Assume the same facts as in Example 1, except that Larry is blind
at the end of 2000. Larry and Donna use Table 8. Their
standard deduction is $8,200.
Bill and Terry are filing a joint return for 2000. Both are over
age 65. Neither is blind. If they do not itemize deductions, they use
Table 8. Their standard deduction is $9,050.
The standard deduction for an individual for whom an exemption can
be claimed on another person's tax return is generally limited to the
greater of (a) $700, or (b) the individual's earned income for the
year plus $250 (but not more than the regular standard deduction
amount, generally $4,400).
However, if the individual is 65 or older or blind, the standard
deduction may be higher.
If an exemption for you can be claimed on someone else's return,
use Table 9 to determine your standard deduction.
Earned income defined.
Earned income is salaries, wages, tips, professional fees and other
amounts received as pay for work you actually perform.
For purposes of the standard deduction, earned income also includes
any part of a scholarship or fellowship grant that you must include in
your gross income. See Publication 520
for more information on what
qualifies as a scholarship or fellowship grant.
Michael is single. His parents claim an exemption for him on their
2000 tax return. He has interest income of $780 and wages of $150. He
has no itemized deductions. Michael uses Table 9 to find
his standard deduction. He enters $150 (his earned income) on line 1,
$400 ($150 plus $250) on line 3, $700 (the larger of $400 and $700) on
line 5, and $4,400 on line 6. The amount of his standard deduction, on
line 7a, is $700 (the smaller of $700 and $4,400).
Joe, a 22-year-old full-time college student, is claimed on his
parents' 2000 tax return. Joe is married and files a separate return.
His wife does not itemize deductions on her separate return.
Joe has $1,500 in interest income and wages of $3,600. He has no
itemized deductions. Joe finds his standard deduction by using
Table 9. He enters his earned income, $3,600, on line 1.
He adds lines 1 and 2 and enters $3,850 on line 3. On line 5 he enters
$3,850, the larger of lines 3 and 4. Since Joe is married filing a
separate return, he enters $3,675 on line 6. On line 7a he enters
$3,675 as his standard deduction because it is smaller than $3,850,
the amount on line 5.
Amy, who is single, is claimed on her parents' 2000 tax return. She
is 18 years old and blind. She has interest income of $1,300 and wages
of $2,900. She has no itemized deductions. Amy uses Table 9
to find her standard deduction. She enters her wages of $2,900
on line 1. She adds lines 1 and 2 and enters $3,150 on line 3. On line
5 she enters $3,150, the larger of lines 3 and 4. Since she is single,
Amy enters $4,400 on line 6. She enters $3,150 on line 7a. This is the
smaller of the amounts on lines 5 and 6. Because she checked one box
in the top part of the worksheet, she enters $1,100 on line 7b. She
then adds the amounts on lines 7a and 7b and enters her standard
deduction of $4,250 on line 7c.
Who Should Itemize
You should itemize deductions if your total deductions are more
than the standard deduction amount. Also, you should itemize if you do
not qualify for the standard deduction, as discussed earlier under
Persons not eligible for the standard deduction.
You should first figure your itemized deductions and compare that
amount to your standard deduction to make sure you are using the
method that gives you the greater benefit.
You may be subject to a limit on some of your itemized deductions
if your adjusted gross income (AGI) is more than $128,950 ($64,475 if
you are married filing separately). See the instructions for Schedule
A (Form 1040), line 28, for more information on figuring the correct
amount of your itemized deductions.
When to itemize.
You may benefit from itemizing your deductions on Schedule A (Form
1040) if you:
- Do not qualify for the standard deduction, or the amount you
can claim is limited,
- Had large uninsured medical and dental expenses during the
- Paid interest and taxes on your home,
- Had large unreimbursed employee business expenses or other
- Had large uninsured casualty or theft losses,
- Made large contributions to qualified charities, or
- Have total itemized deductions that are more than the
standard deduction to which you otherwise are entitled.
If you decide to itemize your deductions, complete Schedule A and
attach it to your Form 1040. Enter the amount from Schedule A, line
28, on Form 1040, line 36.
Itemizing for state tax or other purposes.
If you choose to itemize even though your itemized deductions are
less than the amount of your standard deduction, write "IE"
(itemized elected) next to line 36 (Form 1040).
Changing your mind.
If you do not itemize your deductions and later find that you
should have itemized -- or if you itemize your deductions and
later find you should not have -- you can change your return by
filing Form 1040X.
Married persons who filed separate returns.
You can change methods of taking deductions only if you and your
spouse both make the same changes. Both of you must file a consent to
assessment for any additional tax either one may owe as a result of
You and your spouse can use the method that gives you the lower
total tax, even though one of you may pay more tax than you would have
paid by using the other method. You both must use the same method of
claiming deductions. If one itemizes deductions, the other should
itemize because he or she will not qualify for the standard deduction
(see Persons not eligible for the standard deduction,
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