What Are Tax Deductions?
The IRS allows all taxpayers who do not itemize deductible expenses to claim the standard deduction. The government sets the standard deduction amount every year for each filing status. For example, in 2012 the government authorized a $5,950 standard deduction for single taxpayers, $8,700 for those who file as head of household and $11,900 for married couples filing a joint tax return.
So, if you are a single taxpayer who earns $100,000 during the year, the standard deduction reduces your taxable income to $94,050. However, this amount is subject to further reduction by other allowable deductions you claim.
Personal income tax returns require the calculation of Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) before arriving at the final taxable income amount. The deductions you may take to arrive at AGI tend to be less restrictive than below-the-line deductions since their limitations have no relation to your AGI.
As an example, the moving expense deduction for work-related relocations allows you to deduct the full cost of your move provided you meet the deduction-specific requirements. You don’t need to reduce the deduction when your AGI reaches certain levels. Similarly, the alimony payments you make to a former spouse are fully deductible irrespective of your AGI.
Deductions you take below the line reduce your AGI. Many of these deductions have varying limitations that directly relate to the amount of AGI you report. Most below-the-line deductions relate to the expenses you itemize on the Schedule A attachment to your personal income tax return. Some common itemized deductions include medical and dental expenses and work-related miscellaneous deductions.
The medical expenses you can deduct only include the portion that exceeds 7.5 percent of your AGI. You also have to reduce your total miscellaneous deductions for the year by 2 percent of your AGI. Taxpayers who elect to itemize deductions are precluded from also claiming the standard deduction.
If you operate a small business as a sole proprietor, you must incorporate business earnings into your personal tax return by preparing a Schedule C attachment. The Schedule C is a separate calculation of your net profit or loss that requires you to report all business income and deductions.
As a small proprietor, you can take any business deduction on the Schedule C that is available to all other types of businesses. The deductions you may be entitled to include employee salaries, advertising expenses, office rent and most other reasonable expenses that solely relate to the business.