If it's tax time, take stock of any expenses you can deduct and turn to the familiar Schedule A. This form represents good news for taxpayers who have been spending money on deductible expenses and now want to get them credited against income. The schedule itself is fairly easy to use, but follow the directions carefully and note the specific rules that govern each deduction.
What's a Schedule A?
Schedule A is used to list your itemized deductions. These are expenses you're allowed to subtract from your gross income, thus lowering your tax bill. There are dozens of deductible items, from child care to individual retirement account contributions to student loan interest to job-related car and truck expenses. You can take some of these deductions on Schedule A and some on the 1040 form proper, where they're simply called "adjustments to income."
Standard or Itemized?
Schedule A for itemizing deductions is optional, but you'll have to use it if you want to take certain write-offs such as mortgage interest. For many taxpayers, the standard deduction is a simpler method and one that will save on taxes anyway. The Internal Revenue Service adjusts the standard deduction every year; for tax year 2014 it reached $6,200 for single filers and $12,400 for those filing married, joint returns. If your total itemized deductions are less than the standard deduction, you would be better off tossing Schedule A and taking the standard deduction instead on the 1040.
What Can I Deduct?
The more common deductions include medical expenses that exceed 10 percent of your adjusted gross income, mortgage interest paid on your principal residence, and state, real estate and personal property taxes. Charitable gifts, casualty and theft losses and job expenses -- such as for uniforms, tech equipment, protective gear or transportation -- can also be deducted. The list of miscellaneous expenses is long and includes the cost of preparing tax forms. You don't have to document these expenses with your tax form, but you should always keep receipts and other evidence in a safe place, in case the IRS has any questions.
Attaching and Filing
If you're using Schedule A, include it with your Form 1040 when you submit your tax form. The form does not need to be signed, but you must identify yourself by name and Social Security number at the top. Keep a copy of the form with your other tax documents; if you've used tax preparation software, keep the folders and files in a secure location (for many people, a cloud storage program such as Google Drive). The IRS will provide a copy on request, for a fee, if you should need it in the future.
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