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IRS.gov Website
Publication 501
taxmap/pubs/p501-006.htm#en_us_publink1000221051

Standard Deduction(p21)

rule
Most taxpayers have a choice of either taking a standard deduction or itemizing their deductions. If you have a choice, you can use the method that gives you the lower tax.
The standard deduction is a dollar amount that reduces your taxable income. It is a benefit that eliminates the need for many taxpayers to itemize actual deductions, such as medical expenses, charitable contributions, and taxes, on Schedule A (Form 1040). The standard deduction is higher for taxpayers who:
Deposit
You benefit from the standard deduction if your standard deduction is more than the total of your allowable itemized deductions.
taxmap/pubs/p501-006.htm#en_us_publink1000221053

Persons not eligible for the standard deduction.(p21)

rule
Your standard deduction is zero and you should itemize any deductions you have if:
  1. Your filing status is married filing separately, and your spouse itemizes deductions on his or her return,
  2. You are filing a tax return for a short tax year because of a change in your annual accounting period, or
  3. You are a nonresident or dual-status alien during the year. You are considered a dual-status alien if you were both a nonresident and resident alien during the year.If you are a nonresident alien who is married to a U.S. citizen or resident alien at the end of the year, you can choose to be treated as a U.S. resident. (See Publication 519.) If you make this choice, you can take the standard deduction.
EIC
If an exemption for you can be claimed on another person's return (such as your parents' return), your standard deduction may be limited. See Standard Deduction for Dependents, later.
taxmap/pubs/p501-006.htm#en_us_publink1000221056

Standard Deduction Amount(p22)

rule
The standard deduction amount depends on your filing status, whether you are 65 or older or blind, and whether an exemption can be claimed for you by another taxpayer. Generally, the standard deduction amounts are adjusted each year for inflation. The standard deduction amounts for most people are shown in Table 6.
taxmap/pubs/p501-006.htm#en_us_publink1000250288

Decedent's final return.(p22)

rule
The amount of the standard deduction for a decedent's final tax return is the same as it would have been had the decedent continued to live. However, if the decedent was not 65 or older at the time of death, the higher standard deduction for age cannot be claimed.
taxmap/pubs/p501-006.htm#en_us_publink1000221057

Higher Standard Deduction for Age (65 or Older)(p22)

rule
If you do not itemize deductions, you are entitled to a higher standard deduction if you are age 65 or older at the end of the year. You are considered 65 on the day before your 65th birthday.
Therefore, you can take a higher standard deduction for 2011 if you were born before January 2, 1947.
Use Table 7 to figure the standard deduction amount.
taxmap/pubs/p501-006.htm#en_us_publink1000221058

Higher Standard Deduction for Blindness(p22)

rule
If you are blind on the last day of the year and you do not itemize deductions, you are entitled to a higher standard deduction.
taxmap/pubs/p501-006.htm#en_us_publink1000221059

Not totally blind.(p22)

rule
If you are not totally blind, you must get a certified statement from an eye doctor (ophthalmologist or optometrist) that:
  1. You cannot see better than 20/200 in the better eye with glasses or contact lenses, or
  2. Your field of vision is 20 degrees or less.
If your eye condition is not likely to improve beyond these limits, the statement should include this fact. You must keep the statement in your records.
If your vision can be corrected beyond these limits only by contact lenses that you can wear only briefly because of pain, infection, or ulcers, you can take the higher standard deduction for blindness if you otherwise qualify.
taxmap/pubs/p501-006.htm#en_us_publink1000221060

Spouse 65 or Older or Blind(p22)

rule
You can take the higher standard deduction if your spouse is age 65 or older or blind and:
  1. You file a joint return, or
  2. You file a separate return and can claim an exemption for your spouse because your spouse had no gross income and an exemption for your spouse could not be claimed by another taxpayer.
EIC
You cannot claim the higher standard deduction for an individual other than yourself and your spouse.
taxmap/pubs/p501-006.htm#en_us_publink1000247595

Examples(p22)

rule
The following examples illustrate how to determine your standard deduction using Tables 6 and 7.
taxmap/pubs/p501-006.htm#en_us_publink1000247597

Example 1.(p22)

Larry, 46, and Donna, 33, are filing a joint return for 2011. Neither is blind, and neither can be claimed as a dependent. They decide not to itemize their deductions. They use Table 6. Their standard deduction is $11,600.
taxmap/pubs/p501-006.htm#en_us_publink1000247599

Example 2.(p22)

The facts are the same as in Example 1, except that Larry is blind at the end of 2011. Larry and Donna use Table 7. Their standard deduction is $12,750.
taxmap/pubs/p501-006.htm#en_us_publink1000247602

Example 3.(p22)

Bill and Lisa are filing a joint return for 2011. Both are over age 65. Neither is blind, and neither can be claimed as a dependent. If they do not itemize deductions, they use Table 7. Their standard deduction is $13,900.
taxmap/pubs/p501-006.htm#en_us_publink1000221069

Standard Deduction for Dependents(p22)

rule
The standard deduction for an individual who can be claimed as a dependent on another person's tax return is generally limited to the greater of:
  1. $950, or
  2. The individual's earned income for the year plus $300 (but not more than the regular standard deduction amount, generally $5,800).
However, if the individual is 65 or older or blind, the standard deduction may be higher.
If you (or your spouse if filing jointly) can be claimed as a dependent on someone else's return, use Table 8 to determine your standard deduction.
taxmap/pubs/p501-006.htm#en_us_publink1000221070
Earned income defined.(p22)
Earned income is salaries, wages, tips, professional fees, and other amounts received as pay for work you actually perform.
For purposes of the standard deduction, earned income also includes any part of a scholarship or fellowship grant that you must include in your gross income. See chapter 1 of Publication 970 for more information on what qualifies as a scholarship or fellowship grant.
taxmap/pubs/p501-006.htm#en_us_publink1000221071

Example 1.(p22)

Michael is single. His parents can claim an exemption for him on their 2011 tax return. He has interest income of $780 and wages of $150. He has no itemized deductions. Michael uses Table 8 to find his standard deduction. He enters $150 (his earned income) on line 1, $450 ($150 + $300) on line 3, $950 (the larger of $450 and $950) on line 5, and $5,800 on line 6. The amount of his standard deduction, on line 7a, is $950 (the smaller of $950 and $5,800).
taxmap/pubs/p501-006.htm#en_us_publink1000221072

Example 2.(p22)

Joe, a 22-year-old full-time college student, can be claimed as a dependent on his parents' 2011 tax return. Joe is married and files a separate return. His wife does not itemize deductions on her separate return. Joe has $1,500 in interest income and wages of $3,800. He has no itemized deductions. Joe finds his standard deduction by using Table 8. He enters his earned income, $3,800, on line 1. He adds lines 1 and 2 and enters $4,100 on line 3. On line 5, he enters $4,100, the larger of lines 3 and 4. Because Joe is married filing a separate return, he enters $5,800 on line 6. On line 7a he enters $4,100 as his standard deduction because it is smaller than $5,800, the amount on line 6.
taxmap/pubs/p501-006.htm#en_us_publink1000221073

Example 3.(p22)

Amy, who is single, can be claimed as a dependent on her parents' 2011 tax return. She is 18 years old and blind. She has interest income of $1,300 and wages of $2,900. She has no itemized deductions. Amy uses Table 8 to find her standard deduction. She enters her wages of $2,900 on line 1. She adds lines 1 and 2 and enters $3,200 on line 3. On line 5, she enters $3,200, the larger of lines 3 and 4. Because she is single, Amy enters $5,800 on line 6. She enters $3,200 on line 7a. This is the smaller of the amounts on lines 5 and 6. Because she checked one box in the top part of the worksheet, she enters $1,450 on line 7b. She then adds the amounts on lines 7a and 7b and enters her standard deduction of $4,650 on line 7c.
taxmap/pubs/p501-006.htm#en_us_publink1000246560

Example 4.(p22)

Ed is single. His parents can claim an exemption for him on their 2011 tax return. He has wages of $6,841, interest income of $504, and a business loss of $3,115. He has no itemized deductions. Ed uses Table 8 to figure his standard deduction. He enters $3,726 ($6,841 - $3,115) on line 1. He adds lines 1 and 2 and enters $4,026 on line 3. On line 5, he enters $4,026, the larger of lines 3 and 4. Because he is single, Ed enters $5,800 on line 6. On line 7a he enters $4,026 as his standard deduction because it is smaller than $5,800, the amount on line 6.
taxmap/pubs/p501-006.htm#en_us_publink1000221074

Who Should Itemize(p22)

rule
You should itemize deductions if your total deductions are more than the standard deduction amount. Also, you should itemize if you do not qualify for the standard deduction, as discussed earlier under Persons not eligible for the standard deduction.
You should first figure your itemized deductions and compare that amount to your standard deduction to make sure you are using the method that gives you the greater benefit.
taxmap/pubs/p501-006.htm#en_us_publink1000221077
When to itemize.(p22)
You may benefit from itemizing your deductions on Schedule A (Form 1040) if you:
  1. Do not qualify for the standard deduction, or the amount you can claim is limited,
  2. Had large uninsured medical and dental expenses during the year,
  3. Paid interest and taxes on your home,
  4. Had large unreimbursed employee business expenses or other miscellaneous deductions,
  5. Had large uninsured casualty or theft losses,
  6. Made large contributions to qualified charities, or
  7. Have total itemized deductions that are more than the standard deduction to which you otherwise are entitled.
If you decide to itemize your deductions, complete Schedule A and attach it to your Form 1040. Enter the amount from Schedule A, line 29, on Form 1040, line 40.
taxmap/pubs/p501-006.htm#en_us_publink1000221078

Electing to itemize for state tax or other purposes.(p23)

rule
Even if your itemized deductions are less than the amount of your standard deduction, you can elect to itemize deductions on your federal return rather than take the standard deduction. You may want to do this, for example, if the tax benefit of being able to itemize your deductions on your state tax return is greater than the tax benefit you lose on your federal return by not taking the standard deduction. To make this election, you must check the box on line 30 of Schedule A.
taxmap/pubs/p501-006.htm#en_us_publink1000221079

Changing your mind.(p23)

rule
If you do not itemize your deductions and later find that you should have itemized — or if you itemize your deductions and later find you should not have — you can change your return by filing Form 1040X.
taxmap/pubs/p501-006.htm#en_us_publink1000221080
Married persons who filed separate returns.(p23)
You can change methods of taking deductions only if you and your spouse both make the same changes. Both of you must file a consent to assessment for any additional tax either one may owe as a result of the change.
You and your spouse can use the method that gives you the lower total tax, even though one of you may pay more tax than you would have paid by using the other method. You both must use the same method of claiming deductions. If one itemizes deductions, the other should itemize because he or she will not qualify for the standard deduction. See Persons not eligible for the standard deduction, earlier.

2011 Standard Deduction Tables

 
EIC
If you are married filing a separate return and your spouse itemizes deductions, or if you are a dual-status alien, you cannot take the standard deduction even if you were born before January 2, 1947, or are blind.

Table 6. Standard Deduction Chart for Most People*

If your filing status is...Your standard
deduction is:
Single or Married filing separately$5,800
Married filing jointly or Qualifying
widow(er) with dependent child
11,600
Head of household8,500
*Do not use this chart if you were born before January 2, 1947, or are blind, or if someone else can claim you (or your spouse if filing jointly) as a dependent. Use Table 7 or 8 instead.

Table 7. Standard Deduction Chart for People Born Before January 2, 1947, or Who are Blind*

Check the correct number of boxes below. Then go to the chart.
You:  Born before
January 2, 1947 □  
Blind  □
Your spouse, if claiming
spouse's exemption:
 Born before
January 2, 1947  □  
Blind  □
Total number of boxes you checked box  
IF your
filing status is...
AND
the number
in the box
above is...
THEN
your
standard
deduction
is...
Single1$7,250
 28,700
Married filing jointly1$12,750
or Qualifying213,900
widow(er) with315,050
dependent child416,200
Married filing1$6,950
separately28,100
 39,250
 410,400
Head of household1$9,950
 211,400
*If someone else can claim you (or your spouse if filing jointly) as a dependent, use Table 8, instead.

Table 8. Standard Deduction Worksheet for Dependents

Use this worksheet only if someone else can claim you (or your spouse if filing jointly) as a dependent.
Check the correct number of boxes below. Then go to the worksheet.
You:    Born before  
January 2, 1947 □
Blind □
Your spouse, if claiming
spouse's exemption:
Born before
January 2, 1947 □
 Blind □
Total number of boxes you checked box
1.Enter your earned income (defined below). If none, enter -0-.1.
2.Additional amount.2.$300
3.Add lines 1 and 2.3.
4.Minimum standard deduction.4.$950
5.Enter the larger of line 3 or line 4.5.
6.Enter the amount shown below for your filing status.
  • Single or Married filing separately—$5,800
  • Married filing jointly—$11,600
  • Head of household—$8,500
6.
7.Standard deduction.   
 a.Enter the smaller of line 5 or line 6. If born after January 1, 1947, and not blind, stop here. This is your standard deduction. Otherwise, go on to line 7b. 7a.
 b.If born before January 2, 1947, or blind, multiply $1,450 ($1,150 if married) by the number in the box above.7b.
 c.Add lines 7a and 7b. This is your standard deduction for 2011.7c.
Earned income includes wages, salaries, tips, professional fees, and other compensation received for personal services you performed. It also includes any amount received as a scholarship that you must include in your income.