When you file a tax return, you usually have a choice to make: whether to itemize deductions or take the standard deduction. You should compare both methods and use the one that gives you the greater tax benefit.

The IRS offers these six facts to help you choose.

  1. Figure your itemized deductions. Add up the cost of items you paid for during the year that you might be able to deduct. Expenses could include home mortgage interest, state income taxes or sales taxes (but not both), real estate and personal property taxes, and gifts to charities. They may also include large casualty or theft losses or large medical and dental expenses that insurance did not cover. Unreimbursed employee business expenses may also be deductible.
  2. Know your standard deduction. If you do not itemize, your basic standard deduction amount depends on your filing status. For 2012, the basic amounts are:
    • Single = $5,950
    • Married Filing Jointly = $11,900
    • Head of Household = $8,700
    • Married Filing Separately = $5,950
    • Qualifying Widow(er) = $11,900
  3. Apply other rules in some cases. Your standard deduction is higher if you are 65 or older or blind. Other rules apply if someone else can claim you as a dependent on his or her tax return. To figure your standard deduction in these cases, use the worksheet in the instructions for Form 1040, U.S. Individual Income Tax Return.
  4. Check for the exceptions. Some people do not qualify for the standard deduction and should itemize. This includes married people who file a separate return and their spouse itemizes deductions. See the Form 1040 instructions for the rules about who may not claim a standard deduction.
  5. Choose the best method. Compare your itemized and standard deduction amounts. You should file using the method with the larger amount.
  6. File the right forms. To itemize your deductions, use Form 1040, and Schedule A, Itemized Deductions. You can take the standard deduction on Forms 1040, 1040A or 1040EZ.

For more information about allowable deductions, see Publication 17, Your Federal Income Tax, and the instructions for Schedule A. Tax forms and publications are available on the IRS website at IRS.gov You may also call 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676) to order them by mail.

After automatically calculating your itemized deductions, TaxACT lets you know whether you benefit more from itemizing or claiming the standard deduction. Start your return now to find out.

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Upcoming Tax Dates

September 7 Everyone
Federal Holiday (Labor Day) - Details

September 10 Employees who work for tips
If you received $20 or more in tips during August, report them to your employer - Details

September 10 Communications and air transportation taxes under the alternative method.
Deposit the tax included in amounts billed or tickets sold during the first 15 days of August.

September 14 Regular method taxes
Deposit the tax included in amounts billed or tickets sold during the last 16 days of August.

September 15 Individuals
Make a payment of your 2015 estimated tax if you are not paying your income tax for the year through withholding (or will not pay in enough tax that way). Use Form 1040-ES. This is the third installment - Details

September 15 Corporations
File a 2014 calendar year income tax return (Form 1120) and pay any tax, interest, and penalties due. This due date applies only if you timely requested an automatic 6-month extension - Details

September 15 S Corporations
File a 2014 calendar year income tax return (Form 1120S) and pay any tax due. This due date applies only if you timely requested an automatic 6-month extension - Details

September 15 Partnerships
File a 2014 calendar year return (Form 1065). This due date applies only if you were given an additional 5-month extension - Details

September 15 Corporations
Deposit the third installment of estimated income tax for 2015 - Details

September 15 Social security, Medicare, and withheld income tax
If the monthly deposit rule applies, deposit the tax for payments in August.

September 15 Nonpayroll withholding
If the monthly deposit rule applies, deposit the tax for payments in August.

September 25 Communications and air transportation taxes under the alternative method.
Deposit the tax included in amounts billed or tickets sold during the last 16 days of August.

September 29 Regular method taxes
Deposit the tax for the first 15 days of September.

September 29 Regular method taxes (special September deposit rule)
Deposit the tax for the period beginning September 16 and ending September 26.

September 29 Communications and air transportation taxes under the alternative method (special September deposit rule).
Deposit the tax included in amounts billed or tickets sold during the period beginning September 1 and ending September 11.

September 30 Wagering tax
File Form 730 and pay the tax on wagers accepted during August.

September 30 Heavy highway vehicle use tax
File Form 2290 and pay the tax for vehicles first used in August.

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