You have two choices for claiming deductions on your tax return: You can go with the standard deduction the IRS allows you to take or itemize your deductions in the hope of scoring a higher tax break in the process.
For your 2019 tax return (the return you're filing this year), the standard deduction is:
- $12,200 for singles and married couples filing separately
- $18,350 for heads of household
- $24,400 for married couples filing jointly
For itemizing to make sense, you would therefore need your deductions to exceed the above threshold that applies to you. But there are some tax deductions you're allowed to claim even if you don't itemize on your return. These deductions are known as adjustments to income and could result in some serious savings.
1. IRA contributions
If you put money into your 2019 traditional IRA or are still planning to (you have until this year's April 15 tax deadline to fund last year's account), you can deduct the amount of your contribution up to the allowable limit of $6,000 if you're under 50 or $7,000 if you're 50 or older. The same holds true if you put money into a SEP IRA or SIMPLE IRA. The only IRA that won't serve as an immediate tax deduction is a Roth IRA, though there are other benefits you'll reap by funding one of these accounts.
2. HSA contributions
If put money into a health savings account last year or are still planning to (like an IRA, you have until April 15 to fund last year's account), your contributions will exempt a portion of your income from taxes. The HSA contribution limit for 2019 was $3,500 for individual coverage or $7,000 for family coverage, and if you were at least 55 years old last year, you were (are) entitled to put in another $1,000.
3. Self-employment tax
When you work for an employer that takes taxes out of your earnings directly, you're only required to pay half of your annual Social Security and Medicare taxes. But if you're an independent contractor, you'll face self-employment taxes that equal your entire Social Security and Medicare obligation. In 2019, self-employed individuals were on the hook for a 12.4% Social Security tax on up to $132,900 of income (earnings beyond that point weren't subject to Social Security taxes last year), as well as a 2.9% Medicare tax on their entire income. If you were in that boat, you're allowed to claim half of what you paid in as a tax deduction.
4. Health insurance premiums
Before you get too excited at the thought of being able to deduct your health insurance premiums, you should know that this write-off only applies to the self-employed. But if you paid for health insurance because you had no access to an employer plan, then you're allowed to deduct the premiums you paid for your own coverage, as well as your family's.
5. Educator expenses
If you're a teacher who spent money out of pocket last year on classroom supplies, you can deduct up to $250 on your taxes. Just make sure you have receipts to back up your claims.
6. Student loan interest
The one benefit of grappling with student loan payments is getting to deduct up to $2,500 in interest on your taxes. But if you're a higher earner, that deduction goes away, so if your modified adjusted gross income for 2019 exceeds $85,000 as a single tax filer or $170,000 as a couple filing jointly, you're out of luck.
Know your deductions
The more tax deductions you're able to claim, the less money you'll owe the IRS. It pays to see if any of the above deductions apply to you -- even if you have no interest in itemizing on your 2019 return.