As a taxpayer, you have a couple of choices when it comes to filing your upcoming return: You can take the standard deduction, or itemize deductions in the hopes of snagging a better deal on your taxes. If you opt for the former, you won't need to sink tons of time into calculating your various expenses and figuring out what each individual deduction you're entitled to is worth. Rather, you'll simply take a deduction based on your filing status. For example, single filers can claim a $6,350 standard deduction on their 2017 returns, while joint filers get a standard deduction of $12,700.
Now one thing you should know about the "standard deduction versus itemize" debate is that the overwhelming majority of tax filers go with the former, mostly because it ends up being the most lucrative. The danger of taking the standard deduction, however, is potentially losing out on extra tax savings that may come with itemizing.
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But there's some good news: The IRS allows taxpayers to claim a number of deductions without actually itemizing on their returns. These deductions are known as adjustments to income or above-the-line deductions, since they appear on Form 1040 above your adjusted gross income. If you'd rather not itemize this year (meaning, on your 2017 return), here are a few key tax breaks you might benefit from nonetheless.
1. IRA contributions
Many workers who don't have access to an employer-sponsored 401(k) opt to save in an IRA instead. If you're one of them, and neither you nor your spouse is covered by a retirement plan at work, then you'll get to deduct whatever contribution you made last year from your income. Keep in mind that it's actually not too late to fund your 2017 IRA if you haven't already maxed out. You have until the April 17 tax filing deadline to contribute up to $5,500 for the 2017 tax year if you're under 50, or up to $6,500 if you're 50 or older.
2. HSA contributions
Though you need to meet certain criteria to be eligible to contribute to a health savings account, or HSA, if you put money into such an account last year, you can use those contributions to reduce your taxable income. Among other benefits, the money that goes into HSAs gets to grow tax-free, so if you have a high-deductible plan, it pays to see whether an HSA makes sense for you going forward.
3. Moving expenses
If you moved for a job last year, let's hope you kept track of the expenses you incurred. That's because you're allowed to deduct costs such as hiring movers and paying for storage that helped you relocate for work purposes. To be eligible for the moving expense deduction, your new job must be at least 50 miles further away than your last job was from your old home. You're also required to work for at least 39 weeks out of the 52-week period following your move. But if you meet these criteria, you can deduct your moving costs even if you have no intention of itemizing. Keep in mind, however, that 2017 is the last tax year for which you can take this deduction, as it was eliminated under the recent tax overhaul.
If you're on the hook for alimony to a former spouse, you can deduct those payments on your 2017 taxes even without itemizing. But future divorcees may not get that option, as the alimony deduction will be eliminated for all divorces finalized after Dec. 31, 2018.
5. Educator expenses
If you're a teacher, you've probably encountered your share of scenarios where you've had to buy classroom supplies using your own money. As long as you retained those receipts, you can deduct up to $250 worth of expenses on your tax return this year.
6. Student loan interest
Depending on your income, you may be eligible to write off up to $2,500 in student loan interest om your tax return, regardless of whether you itemize. To snag this deduction, the loan in question must be one you took out to pay for your own higher education costs, or those of a spouse or dependent of yours. Furthermore, to deduct that interest, your tax filing status can't be married filing separately, and you can't be listed as a dependent on someone else's tax return.
So there you have it: You don't need to go through the hassle of itemizing on your tax return to claim a number of potentially lucrative deductions. And that means you could end up saving two valuable things this tax season: your money and your time.
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