The purpose of tax deductions is to decrease your taxable income, which then decreases the amount of taxes you need to pay to the federal government. To help you reduce your taxable income, we aggregated a huge list of deductions many people often overlook or aren’t sure how to use them to their advantage.
For tax purposes, your adjusted gross income or AGI is essentially your total or gross income minus eligible deductions. You can use our AGI calculator to estimate your adjusted gross income using the most common income and deductions for US taxpayers.
Your tax bracket shows you the tax rate that you will pay for each portion of your income. For example, if you are a single person, the lowest possible tax rate of 10 percent is applied to the first $9,525 of your income in 2020 . The next portion of your income is taxed at the next tax bracket of 12 percent. That continues for each tax bracket up to the top of your taxable income. Find yours with our helpful tax bracket calculator.
Most income is taxable, whether you earn it or are paid as a return on your investment. Also, you generally have to pay tax on income when you sell something for more than your basis (usually the amount you paid for something).
If a type of income is taxable, it doesn't matter if you receive payment in cash, by check or electronic payment, or in the form of goods or services. You still pay tax on it.
Certain types of income are excluded from tax. This generally includes income you or someone else has already paid tax on, or income from special situations, such as combat pay.
Your tax filing status makes a big difference in your tax return when you file.
Many people simply choose the status they believe best fits their personal situation, but in some cases, you may have more than one option. At that point, it’s up to you to pick the status that offers you the most tax advantages. Filing status options are:
Credits differ from deductions and exemptions because credits reduce your tax bill directly. After calculating your total taxes, you can subtract any credits for which you qualify. Some credits address social concerns for taxpayers, like The Child Tax Credit, and others can influence behavior, like education credits that help with the costs of continuing your education.
There are numerous credits available for a wide range of causes, and all reduce your tax liability dollar for dollar. That means a $1,000 tax credit reduces your tax bill by $1,000. Reviewing all the options may be time-consuming, but could also prove to be profitable.
Exemptions are portions of your personal or family income that are ‘exempt’ from taxation. The Internal Revenue Code allows taxpayers to claim exemptions that reduce their taxable income. Both personal and dependent exemptions lower the amount of your taxable income. That ultimately reduces the amount of total tax you owe for the year.
For tax purposes, all dependents receive exemptions, including you and your spouse. To the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), these are the people for whom you are financially responsible. A higher number of exemptions reduces your taxable income. In most cases, dependents must be:
A family member or qualified relative
Age 18 or below (except for full-time college students under age 24)
Cannot provide over half of their economic support.
You can reduce your taxable income by multiplying the dollar value of a personal exemption, which is a predetermined amount, by the number of your dependents. For example, in 2017, the personal exemption is $4,050. It’s the same amount for your spouse and each dependent as well. These exemptions are reduced if your adjusted gross income (AGI) exceeds $261,500 as a single filer or 313,800 if you’re married and file a joint return.
Example: Josh and Kristen are married with a combined income of $90,000. They have three children whom they claim as dependents. That means they can claim five exemptions of $4,050 each. That reduces their taxable income by $20,250.