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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April 2016
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Upcoming Tax Dates

April 11 — Employees who work for tips
If you received $20 or more in tips during March, report them to your employer. You can use Form 4070.

April 12 — 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 March.

April 14 — Regular method taxes
Deposit the tax for the last 16 days of March.

April 18 — Individuals
File a 2015 income tax return (Form 1040, 1040A, or 1040EZ) and pay any tax due. If you want an automatic 6 month extension of time to file the return, file Form 4868, Application for Automatic Extension of Time To File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return. For more information, see Form 4868. Then, file Form 1040, 1040A, or 1040EZ by October 17.

April 18 — Individuals
If you are not paying your 2016 income tax through withholding (or will not pay in enough tax during the year that way), pay the first installment of your 2016 estimated tax. Use Form 1040ES.

April 18 — Household Employers
If you paid cash wages of $1,900 or more in 2015 to a household employee, you must file Schedule H - Details

April 18 — Partnerships
File a 2015 calendar year return (Form 1065) - Details

April 18 — Partnerships
Electing large partnerships: File a 2015 calendar year return (Form 1065-B) - Details

April 18 — Corporations
Deposit the first installment of estimated income tax for 2016 - Details

April 18 — Social security, Medicare, and withheld income tax
If the monthly deposit rule applies, deposit the tax for payments in March.

April 18 — Nonpayroll withholding
If the monthly deposit rule applies, deposit the tax for payments in March.

April 18 — Household employers
If you paid cash wages of $1,900 or more in 2015 to a household employee, you must file Schedule H (Form 1040). If you are required to file a federal income tax return (Form 1040), file Schedule H (Form 1040) with the return and report any household employment taxes. Report any federal unemployment (FUTA) tax on Schedule H (Form 1040) if you paid total cash wages of $1,000 or more in any calendar quarter of 2014 or 2015 to household employees. Also, report any income tax you withheld for your household employees.

April 27 — 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 March.

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

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