Most taxpayers claim the standard deduction amount. The amounts are adjusted each tax year for inflation.

For 2012, the standard deduction for taxpayers younger than 65

 

 

 

Single $5,950
Head of household $8,700
Married filing jointly $11,900
Qualifying widow or widower $11,900
Married filing separately $5,950

Standard Deductions for Older, Visually Impaired Taxpayers

Taxpayers who are 65 or older, or who are blind, receive larger standard deduction amounts. Each is noted via a checkbox on Form 1040 and Form 1040A. The age and vision of each spouse is counted separately, meaning that an older couple could check up to four boxes. The final box count is used to figure the adjusted standard deduction amount.

For 2012, the standard deduction for taxpayers older than 65 and/or visually impaired

 

 

 

Filing status Number of boxes checked Standard deduction amount
Single 1 2 $7,400 $8,850
Married filing jointly 1 2 3 4 $13,050 $14,200 $15,350 $16,500
Married filing separately 1 2 $7,100 $8,250
Head of household 1 2 $10,150 $11,600

For standard deduction amount purposes, if your 65th birthday was Jan. 1, the Internal Revenue Service considers you age 65 for the previous tax year and you may claim the larger standard deduction.

As for vision considerations, you may qualify for the larger deduction even if you are partially blind by attaching a letter from your physician attesting to your limited vision.

Standard Deductions for Dependent Taxpayers

Sometimes you might file a return, for example, to get a refund of withheld money, even though you can be claimed as a dependent on someone else's return.

In this case, a dependent taxpayer who is younger than 65 and not blind can take as a standard deduction the greater of $950 or his or her earned income plus $300. This deduction amount, however, cannot exceed the basic standard deductions for the dependent taxpayer's filing status.

Itemized Deductions

Although most taxpayers claim the standard deduction, all taxpayers may choose to itemize deductions and claim that amount if it is larger than their allowable standard deduction amount.

You must file Form 1040 and Schedule A to itemize.

Some itemized deductions are limited based on a taxpayer's adjusted gross income, or AGI. Others are restricted to a threshold, or percentage, of the filer's adjusted gross income.

Limits on itemized deductions

 

 

Medical expenses Amount exceeding 7.5% of your adjusted gross income is deductible. Beginning with the 2013 tax year, this threshold increases to 10% for taxpayers younger than 65.
Mortgage loan interest Generally, fully deductible for loans totaling $1 million or less ($500,000 if married filing separately) on your primary residence or second home.
Home equity loan interest Generally, deductible for loans up to $100,000 ($50,000 if married filing separately) that are secured by your home.
Charitable contributions Most are fully deductible as long as the gift amount does not exceed 50% of AGI.
Casualty losses Deductible after subtracting insurance reimbursements, 10% of your AGI and $100.
Miscellaneous expenses Amount exceeding 2% of AGI is deductible.

Copyright 2013, Bankrate Inc.