Should I Itemize?

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Generally, you must decide whether to itemize deductions or to use the standard deduction. You should itemize deductions if your allowable itemized deductions are more than your standard deduction. Some taxpayers must itemize deductions because they do not qualify for the standard deduction.

Those taxpayers not eligible to use the standard deduction include nonresident aliens, dual-status aliens, and individuals who file returns for periods of less than 12 months. When a married couple files separate returns and one spouse itemizes deductions, the other spouse must also itemize deductions. For additional information, refer to Publication 501, Exemptions, Standard Deduction, and Filing Information.

Itemized deductions are certain expenses that you can use to lower your taxes. For 2008, the categories of itemized deductions are:
  1. Medical and dental expenses,
  2. State and local income taxes,
  3. Real estate and personal property taxes,
  4. Home mortgage and investment interest,
  5. Charitable contributions,
  6. Casualty and theft losses,
  7. Job expenses, and
  8. Miscellaneous deductions.

You may be subject to a limit on some of your itemized deductions. For 2008, this limit applies if your adjusted gross income is more than $159,950, or $79,975 if you are married filing separately. This limit applies to all itemized deductions except medical and dental expenses, casualty and theft losses, gambling losses, and investment interest.

For more information on itemized deductions, refer to your Form 1040 Instructions for Schedule A, or Publication 17, Your Federal Income Tax.

The standard deduction varies according to your filing status and age. The basic standard deductions for 2008 are as follows: Single $5,450 Head of Household $8,000 Married, filing a joint return $10,900 Married, filing a separate return $5,450 Qualifying Widow or Widower with dependent child $10,900

An additional amount will be allowed if you or your spouse became age 65 or older before January 2, 2009, or if either of you is blind. If you can be claimed as a dependent on another person's return, your standard deduction may be limited. For further information on the additional standard deduction for the blind or elderly, and the limit for dependents, refer to Standard Deduction.


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