Standard deduction: When to claim more & when you can’t claim a penny?

irs standard deduction

The standard deduction is the hassle-free deduction under the Internal Revenue Code that is available to almost every taxpayer who does not choose itemized deduction. So, the standard deduction is a flat amount of deduction based on your filing status. You have the option of claiming the standard deduction or itemizing your deductions. However, you cannot claim both in the same year.

2021 & 2020 Standard Deduction

The amount of your standard deduction is announced by IRS every year along with tax bracket. It depends on the filing status you qualify for. For example, single taxpayers and married taxpayers who file separate returns can claim a $12,400 standard deduction in 2020 whereas, for the year 2021, it is $12,550. Below is the standard deduction allowed for the year 2020 and year 2021.

Filing StatusTax Year 2020Tax Year 2021
Single (married or unmarried)$12,400$12,550
Married Filing Jointly$24,800$25,100
Head of Household$18,650$18,800

3 situations that allows additional standard deductions

The federal income tax law recognizes the fact that certain types of taxpayers need to pay less tax and save more. Therefore the Internal Revenue Code or IRC provides additional standard deduction in the following situations.

  1. If Your age is 65 or older at the end of the tax year.
  2. If you’re blind on the last day of the tax year. 
  3. If you had a net qualified disaster loss and you elect to increase your standard deduction 
  • So, for the tax year 2020 for which due date of filing is 15th April 2021, please note five important things :
    • If you are single or head of the house and 65 Years old or a blind person, you can claim an additional standard deduction of $1650.
    • If you are blind as well as 65 years old, he can claim a total of $3,300 as the additional standard deduction.
    • If you are married filing jointly and one of you is blind, your standard deduction goes up to $1,300. 
    • If both of you are legally blind, the deduction increases by $2,600.
    • If both of you are legally blind and aged 65 years, the deduction increases by $5,200.

Taxpayers Who Can’t Claim Standard Deduction

Then, the IRC also prohibits any claim of standard deduction by some taxpayers. For example, if you are married but file taxes separately and your spouse itemizes deductions on his or her return, then you can’t claim the standard deduction. At least,five types of taxpayers who do no get standard deduction are :

  1. A married individual filing as married filing separately,  whose spouse itemizes deductions.
  2. An individual, who was a nonresident alien or dual-status alien during the year. However, there are three exceptions to this rule as described below: 
    • A nonresident alien who is married to a U.S. citizen or resident alien at the end of the tax year and makes a joint election with his or her spouse to be treated as a U.S. resident for the entire tax year;
    • A nonresident alien at the beginning of the tax year who is a U.S. citizen or resident by the end of the tax year is married to a U.S. citizen or resident at the end of such tax year, and makes a joint election with his or her spouse to be treated as a U.S. resident for the entire tax year; and
    • Students and business apprentices who are residents of India and are eligible for benefits under paragraph 2 of Article 21 (Payments Received by Students and Apprentices) of the United States-India Income Tax Treaty
  1. An individual who files a return for a period of less than 12 months due to a change in his or her annual accounting period.
  2. An estate or trust, common trust fund, or partnership
  3. Anyone who claims itemized deductions.

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