Tax filing: the standard deductions for 2015

Tax deductions are subtracted from your gross income, and the IRS will give toy the standard deduction even if you have no other qualifying deductions or credits, no questions asked. 

Ann Hermes/Staff/File
Tax forms are put on display for passers by outside the IRS office in the JFK Federal Building in Boston.

Even if you have no other qualifying deductions or tax credits, the IRS gives you the standard deduction on a no-questions-asked basis. The amount is subtracted from your gross income. Along with your other exemptions, it lowers the amount of income you have to pay taxes on.

If you’re using the simplest approach to filing taxes, the Form 1040EZ, you have to use the standard deduction; you don’t have the option to itemize. If you use the longer Form 1040, you have a choice between taking the uniform standard deduction or itemizing your own customized deductions.

Using the standard deduction means you lose the ability to claim home mortgage interest and other itemized tax deductions — medical expenses or charitable donations, for example. But if you don’t itemize, you don’t have to hang on to records supporting your deductions in case the IRS decides to audit you.

The 2015 standard deduction amounts:

Single: $6,300

Married filing jointly: $12,600

Married filing separately: $6,300

Head of household: $9,250

Qualifying  widow(er): $12,600

Taxpayers who are blind or aged 65 or older get a higher amount for the standard deduction.

When to claim the standard deduction

Although using the standard deduction is easier than itemizing, if you have a mortgage or home equity loan it’s worth running basic calculations to see if itemizing would save you money. Use the numbers you find on Form 1098, the Mortgage Interest Statement. Your home lender mails the Form 1098 statement to you in January.

Compare your home interest deduction amount to the standard deduction plus dependent deductions. When you do your taxes online, most preparers will calculate your taxes both ways to see which offers a lower tax bill.

And keep in mind that property taxes, state income taxes or sales taxes, charitable donations and losses from thefts or disasters are deductible, too, if you itemize.

This article first appeared in NerdWallet. 

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.