Deduction

What Is a Deduction?

A deduction is an expense that can be subtracted from a taxpayer's gross income in order to reduce the amount of income that is subject to taxation.

For example, if you earn $50,000 in a year and make a $1,000 donation to charity during that year, you are eligible to claim a deduction for that donation, reducing your taxable income to $49,000. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS)often refers to a deduction as an allowable deduction.

Key Takeaways

  • A deduction is an expense that can be subtracted from taxable income to reduce the amount owed.
  • Most taxpayers who take the standard deduction only need to file Form 1040.
  • Taxpayers who itemize deductions must use Schedule A Form 1040 to list all of their allowable deductions.
  • The standard tax deductions have increased steadily since the passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act in 2017.

Understanding Deductions

Taxpayers in the United States have the choice of claiming the standard deduction or itemizing their deductions. Claiming the standard deduction is easier and requires less paperwork and record-keeping. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has revamped Form 1040, which most taxpayers now use, and retired the old 1040A and 1040EZ forms.

Taxpayers who itemize deductions must use Schedule A Form 1040, an attachment to the standard 1040 form, and are required to fill in a list of their allowable deductions and keep receipts to prove them if they are audited. This longer form is used by filers who have substantial deductions that add up to more than the standard deduction.

An itemized deduction is an expense subtracted from adjusted gross income (AGI), which reduces taxable income and, therefore, the amount of taxes owed. Common itemized deductions include interest on a mortgage loan, unreimbursed healthcare costs, charitable contributions, and state and local taxes. Please consult a tax professional to determine whether a standard deduction or itemizing works for your financial situation.

Standard Tax Deductions

Since the passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 (TCJA), the standard deduction has increased over the years to help keep pace with rising prices—called inflation.

Below are the standard deductions for tax years 2021 and 2022, depending on tax filing status:

2021 Standard Deductions

  • For singles and married people filing separately: $12,550
  • For married couples filing jointly: $25,100
  • For heads of households: $18,800

2022 Standard Deductions

  • For singles and married people filing separately: $12,950
  • For married couples filing jointly: $25,900
  • For heads of households: $19,400

The current standard deductions are a significant upgrade from levels before the Tax Cuts, and Jobs Act was passed. For example, in the 2017 tax year, the standard deduction was $6,350 for single filers and $12,700 for married people filing jointly.

If you opt to claim the standard deduction, there are still some itemized deductions you can claim on your income tax return, including eligible student loan interest and tuition and fees.

Deductions vs. Credits

A deduction is different from a tax credit, which is subtracted from the amount of taxes owed, not from your reported income.

There are both refundable and non-refundable credits. Non-refundable credits cannot trigger a tax refund, but refundable credits can.

For example, imagine that after reporting your income and claiming your deductions, you owe $500 in income tax. However, you are eligible for a $600 credit. If the credit is non-refundable, your tax bill is erased, but you do not receive any extra money. If the credit is refundable, you receive a $100 tax refund.

Some businesses qualify for business tax credits, which offset or reduce a company’s taxes owed to the federal government. Business tax credits are designed to encourage a particular behavior that benefits the overall economy, such as upgrading a building or factory and investing in research. While tax deductions reduce taxable income, business tax credits reduce the taxes owed.

Special Considerations

Business owners have a much more involved process during tax time since they're taxed on business profits, not business proceeds or revenue. That means documenting their costs of doing business to subtract them from the gross proceeds, revealing the taxable profits. The process is the same for the smallest businesses to the largest corporations, although the corporations at least have accounting departments to take care of the paperwork.

Businesses are required to report all of their gross income and then deduct business expenses from it. The difference between the two numbers is the business' net taxable income. Thus, business expenses work in a way that is similar to deductions.

Although the process of tracking expenses can be burdensome, the total amount of these expenses can help reduce a company's taxable income substantially, thus, lowering the taxes owed.

Article Sources
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  1. Internal Revenue Service. "About Schedule A (Form 1040), Itemized Deductions." Accessed Dec. 25, 2021.

  2. Internal Revenue Service. "Topic No. 551 Standard Deduction." Accessed Dec. 25, 2021.

  3. Internal Revenue Service. "Here Are Five Facts About the New Form 1040." Accessed Dec. 25, 2021.

  4. Internal Revenue Service. "IRS Provides Tax Inflation Adjustments for Tax Year 2021." Accessed Dec. 25, 2021.

  5. Internal Revenue Service. “IRS Provides Tax Inflation Adjustments for Tax Year 2022.” Accessed Dec. 25, 2021.

  6. Internal Revenue Service. "Taxpayers Can Choose to Itemize or Take Standard Deduction for Tax Year 2017." Accessed Dec. 25, 2021.

  7. Internal Revenue Service. "2021 Schedule 1 (Form 1040)," Accessed Dec. 25, 2021.

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