While federal law requires certain categories of taxpayers to itemize their deductions, most people have the option of itemizing or of claiming the standard deduction when they file their federal income tax returns. The amount of the standard deduction varies based on your filing status. People who are married and file separate returns can take the same standard deduction as people who use the single filing status.
The Internal Revenue Service is the federal agency charged with collecting income taxes, and it takes its role seriously. The IRS considers all income, regardless of the form it takes, to be taxable income unless it is specifically exempted from taxation by law. Fortunately, some of your income is exempted from taxation, and that is where the standard deduction comes in. The standard deduction allows you to reduce the amount of your income that is subject to federal income tax by a fixed dollar amount. That amount is based on your filing status and is adjusted annually to account for changes in the cost of living.
Your standard deduction if you filed your taxes using the married filing separately filing status was $5,950 for the 2012 tax year. That amount represents a $150 increase over the 2011 standard deduction. The 2012 standard deduction for the married filing separately status was the same as for the single filing status and exactly half of the standard deduction for married couples filing joint returns.
Standard Deduction Variations
You might be eligible for an additional standard deduction under certain circumstances, regardless of your filing status. For example, you can take a higher standard deduction if you are at least 65 years old as of the last day of the tax year. You might also qualify for a higher standard deduction if you are partially or totally blind.
Married couples who file separate returns must both use the same deduction method. If one spouse itemizes deductions, both spouses must itemize. If your spouse itemizes her deductions, you are not eligible to claim the standard deduction. You can't claim the standard deduction if you are a non-resident alien, a dual-status alien or if you file a return for less than a full year because you changed accounting periods.
Mike Parker is a full-time writer, publisher and independent businessman. His background includes a career as an investments broker with such NYSE member firms as Edward Jones & Company, AG Edwards & Sons and Dean Witter. He helped launch DiscoverCard as one of the company's first merchant sales reps.