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Standard deduction for tax year 2021

Nearly everyone qualifies — but is it the right choice for you?

You have two options when you file your taxes: Take a standard deduction or itemized deduction. Most taxpayers choose the standard deduction because it’s easier and quicker than itemizing. Here’s what you need to know about choosing a standard deduction.

What is the standard deduction?

The standard deduction is a flat, no-questions-asked deduction that the IRS lets you use to lower your tax bill. It’s for taxpayers who want to reduce their taxable income. Either add up all your deductions and itemize them or you can take the flat amount.

How much is the standard deduction for 2021?

The standard deduction limits increased in 2019 and they have slowly increased after that to account for inflation. For taxes due by the IRS’s deadline of April 18, 2022 (or April 19 if you live in Maine or Massachusetts), find your standard deduction limit in the chart below.

Standard deduction for 2021

Single or married filing separatelyMarried filing jointlyHead of household

Standard deduction limits

There are a few standard deduction limits to consider if one of these situations applies to you:

  • Your spouse is itemizing. You can’t claim a standard deduction if you’re married, file separately and your spouse is claiming itemized deductions.
  • You or your spouse are a nonresident alien. You don’t qualify for the deduction if you or your spouse were a nonresident alien this tax year.
  • You changed your yearly accounting period. You can’t claim the standard deduction if you changed your accounting period and are filing a return for a period of less than 12 months.
  • You’re a dependent. If someone claims you as a dependent on their tax return, your standard deduction amount is limited to whichever is more: your earned income plus $350 or $1,100.

Most states offer standard deductions as well, but the limits vary.

How much is the standard deduction in 2022?

These are the standard deduction limits for taxes due in April 2023.

Single or married filing separatelyMarried filing jointlyHead of household

How much was the standard deduction worth in previous years?

The standard deduction for 2020, 2019 and 2018 were:

Standard deduction limits

Tax yearSingle, married filing separatelyMarried filing jointlyHead of household

Who qualifies for the standard deduction?

Generally, everyone qualifies for the standard deduction and you may qualify for an additional standard deduction if you’re:

  • Blind or over age 65. You get $1,700 more if you’re blind or over age 65 and file taxes as single and not a surviving spouse. Or, $1,350 if you’re married and filing jointly.
  • Experienced disaster loss. If your area experienced a federally-declared disaster this tax year, you may be able to increase your standard deduction by your net loss.

How to calculate the standard deduction

Calculate your standard deduction in two easy steps:

  1. Use the standard deduction limits for 2021 chart above to find your amount based on your filing status.
  2. If you qualify for an additional standard deduction amount, add this to your standard deduction limit.

Once you’ve calculated your standard deduction amount, run the numbers to see if you can claim a larger deduction if you itemize instead.

What to watch out for

If you’re thinking of taking the standard deduction, keep the following in mind:

  • Some expenses don’t qualify. There are common deductions you can’t claim under the standard deduction, such as medical expenses, mortgage interest, student loan interest and charitable donations. You’ll have to itemize to claim these deductions.
  • It may not be the right choice for you. Depending on your tax situation, you could save more money if you choose the itemized deduction instead.

Standard deduction vs. itemized: Which one should I claim?

If you have mortgage interest, student loan interest, charitable donations or medical expenses, you may save more money by taking the itemized deduction. The only way to know which one you should take is to run the numbers and see which results in the biggest deduction.

The biggest deduction will depend on your filing status and deduction limit.

For example, let’s say your total itemized deductions equal $13,000. If you’re a single filer, your standard deduction would only be $12,550, so you’d save $450 more in taxes if you took the itemized deduction instead.

However, if you’re married and filing jointly, your standard deduction limit is $25,100. So you’d save $12,100 — nearly double your itemized deduction — if you took the standard deduction.

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Bottom line

Taking the standard deduction is quick and easy, but it may not save you the most money. Calculate both the standard deduction and itemized deduction to see which one lowers your tax bill the most.

Most online services will do this for you, so consider hiring a professional or compare top-rated online services that’ll do the heavy lifting for you.

Frequently asked questions

How do I file taxes if my income is less than the standard deduction?

Generally, you don’t have to file taxes if your gross income is less than your standard deduction. But there are exceptions to this rule. We recommend consulting a tax professional to find out if you should file taxes this year.

Can I deduct mortgage interest if I take the standard deduction?

No. If you want to write off mortgage interest, you’ll have to itemize your taxes. You can’t write it off under the standard deduction.

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