Standard Deduction: How Much Is It, When to Take It & How to Use It

IRS statistics indicate that ​87.3 percent of​ taxpayers claimed the standard deduction on their 2018 federal tax returns, the last year for which comprehensive statistics are available. This has been attributed to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act and its substantial increase in standard deduction amounts. Claiming the standard deduction is certainly an easier option than itemizing your deductions, and it results in more tax savings for many taxpayers, particularly while the TCJA is in effect.

What Is a Standard Deduction?

The Internal Revenue Service allows you to deduct a certain amount from your adjusted gross income to arrive at your total taxable income for the year. The standard deduction is available to all taxpayers, and it automatically decreases the amount of your income that's subject to income tax.

The amount you’re able to claim as a standard deduction depends on your filing status, your age, and whether you can be claimed as a dependent on someone else’s tax return. The federal government and some state governments have different standard deductions for blind taxpayers and for those who are ​age 65 and over​.

The Standard Deduction in Tax Years 2019 Through 2022

The IRS adjusts the standard deduction for inflation each year, so the figures can change periodically. The standard deduction amounts for the various filing statuses as of the 2019 tax year, for tax returns that were filed in 2020, were:

  • Single: ​$12,200
  • Married filing jointly: ​$24,400
  • Married filing separately: ​$12,200
  • Head of household: ​$18,350

The standard deduction figures increased for the 2020 tax year, the tax return you would have filed in 2021:

  • Single: ​$12,400
  • Married filing jointly: ​$24,800
  • Married filing separately: ​$12,400
  • Head of household: ​$18,650

The numbers ramped up again for tax year 2021, the return you'll file in 2022:

  • Single: ​$12,550
  • Married filing jointly: ​$25,100
  • Married filing separately ​$12,550
  • Head of household: ​$18,800

They increase again in tax year 2022, the return you'll file in 2023:

  • Single: ​$12,950
  • Married filing jointly: ​$25,900
  • Married filing separately: ​$12,950
  • Head of household: ​$19,400

Determining which standard deduction you qualify for is pretty straightforward, but you can use the IRS Interactive Tax Assistant tool to help you figure the amount you're entitled to if you have any doubts. This IRS interview walks you through the process of determining your standard deduction in about 15 minutes.

Additional Standard Deductions

The IRS increases standard deductions for taxpayers who are ​age 65 or older​ and ​legally blind​.

You could increase your standard deduction by ​$1,650​ if you filed as single or head of household in the ​2019 tax year​ and if you were 65 years or older or blind.​ Your standard deduction increased by ​$1,300​ if you were married and filing jointly, and if either you or your spouse was 65 years or older or blind. It went up an additional ​$2,600​, or $1,300 for each spouse, if both you and your spouse were age 65 or older, or blind.

These increased deduction amounts are also indexed for inflation, but they don't go up every year. The above figures also apply to the 2020 tax year for the tax return you'll file in 2021, but they increase to ​$1,350​ if you're married and filing jointly, and to ​$1,700​ in tax year 2021, the return you'll file in 2022, if you file as single or as head of household.

The additional standard deductions apply to each spouse, so you'd qualify for the maximum additional standard deduction if you're married and both you and your spouse are blind and over the age of 65.

Standard Deductions for Dependents

Some taxpayers are limited to a lesser standard deduction. Those who can be claimed as dependents by another taxpayer are limited to ​$1,100​ for the 2021 tax year on the return they'll file in 2022, or ​$350 plus their earned income​, whichever is more.

Standard Deduction vs. Itemizing

Deciding whether you should take the standard deduction or itemize your deductions really comes down to which option lowers your taxable income the most and provides you with the most tax relief. The IRS tells taxpayers to select the option that gives them the biggest tax break, so you might want to prepare your tax return both ways to see which is best. You can't take both the standard deduction and itemize. You must choose one or the other.

A small exception exists for tax year 2021. It's been implemented by the federal government in response to the coronavirus pandemic. You can claim both the standard deduction and a separate deduction for up to ​$300​ in cash donations you make to qualifying charitable organizations. This increases to ​$600​ if you're married and filing a joint tax return. Charitable giving is normally an itemized deduction, but you can claim it on the 2021 tax return right beneath the line for the standard deduction when you file in 2022.

How To Take the Standard Deduction

Claiming the standard deduction on your 2021 tax return is about as simple as it gets. You're not required to complete and submit any additional tax forms. You can simply enter the appropriate number on line 12a of the 2021 Form 1040 when you file in 2022.