TurboTax / Tax Calculators & Tips / All Tax Guides / Taxes 101 / What are Tax Benefits?

What are Tax Benefits?

Updated for Tax Year 2016


OVERVIEW

They are called by many names - deductions, credits, exclusions, but they can be a big benefit by helping you reduce your tax bill. Here are the details.


Introduction

The term 'tax benefit' generally refers to any tax law that provides you with an opportunity to reduce your tax bill when you satisfy certain eligibility requirements. A tax benefit comes in different forms, such as a deduction, exclusion or credit. The amount of tax you can save also depends on the type of tax benefit you claim because they each offer a different form of savings.

Saving tax with deductions

The most common type of tax benefit comes in the form of a tax deduction. When you claim a tax deduction, it reduces the amount of your income that is subject to tax. The amount of the deduction you are eligible to claim is precisely the amount of the reduction to your taxable income. Frequently claimed deductions cover the cost of tuition and fees, medical expenses, charitable contributions and state income taxes. Another benefit to a deduction is that it reduces income subject to the highest tax brackets first.

Excluding income from income tax

An exclusion from tax provides the ultimate tax benefit because the income never ends up on your tax return, and if it does, it generally comes off in another section of your return. Exclusions essentially classify certain types of income as tax-free.

One of the largest exclusions available to taxpayers is the foreign earned income exclusion. In 2015 for example, the law allows you to exclude up to $101,300 of income that you earn outside the United States provided you remain in a foreign country for most of the tax year. Unlike deductions, exclusions are not subject to limitations or reductions; you either meet the requirements to exclude the income or you don’t.

Claiming tax credits

A tax credit generally has more tax-savings potential than a deduction as it provides a dollar-for-dollar reduction in the amount of income tax you owe rather than merely reducing the amount of income subject to tax. Tax credits exist for an array of expenses you might incur during the year from college tuition to the installation of energy-efficient equipment in the home. When claiming any tax credit, the IRS generally requires you to prepare a separate credit-specific form to document and calculate the amount you are eligible for, regardless of the amount you are claiming. In contrast, most of the available tax deductions do not require you to fill out additional forms.

Reducing income tax with capital losses

Losing money is never a pleasant experience. However, the one advantage to a loss is that it may provide you with a tax-reducing benefit. Frequently, taxpayers sell their stocks during the year for less than they paid for them. You can use this capital loss to offset other capital gains you have during the year.

If your losses exceed gains, you can then use up to $3,000 of the loss each year as a normal tax deduction until you have deducted the full loss. To claim this loss, you must calculate all of your capital gains and losses on the Schedule D attachment to your personal income tax return. If you intend on using a part of the loss in future tax years, be sure to keep a copy of this Schedule D in a safe place.

Get every deduction you deserve

TurboTax Deluxe searches more than 350 tax deductions and credits so you get your maximum refund, guaranteed.

For only $54.99$34.99*
Start for Free

Looking for more information?

The above article is intended to provide generalized financial information designed to educate a broad segment of the public; it does not give personalized tax, investment, legal, or other business and professional advice. Before taking any action, you should always seek the assistance of a professional who knows your particular situation for advice on taxes, your investments, the law, or any other business and professional matters that affect you and/or your business.


Security is built into everything we do
Here's how
* Important Offer Details and Disclosures
  • TURBOTAX ONLINE/MOBILE

  • Try for Free/Pay When You File: TurboTax online and mobile pricing is based on your tax situation and varies by product. Free 1040EZ/1040A + Free State offer only available with TurboTax Federal Free Edition; Offer may change or end at any time without notice. Actual prices are determined at the time of print or e-file and are subject to change without notice. Savings and price comparisons based on anticipated price increase expected in March. Special discount offers may not be valid for mobile in-app purchases.
  • QuickBooks Bonus Offer with TurboTax Self-Employed: File your 2016 federal return with TurboTax Self-Employed by 4/18/17 and receive a complimentary subscription to QuickBooks Self-Employed until 4/30/18 at no additional cost. After you file your taxes, you must activate your QuickBooks Self-Employed subscription by 7/15/2017 by logging into QuickBooks Self-Employed via mobile app or at https://selfemployed.intuit.com/login. Once activated, you will have access to QuickBooks Self-Employed until 4/30/2018.
    Offer valid only for new QuickBooks Self-Employed customers.
    • When you use TurboTax Self-Employed to file your 2017 taxes, you will have the option to renew your QuickBooks Self-Employed subscription. If you do not file with TurboTax Self-Employed by 4/30/2018, your QuickBooks Self-Employed subscription will automatically renew on 5/1/2018 for another year at the then-current annual subscription rate. You may cancel your subscription at any time from within the QuickBooks Self-Employed billing section.
  • Pays for itself: In order to pay for the price of TurboTax Self-Employed, you will need at least $600 in deductible business expenses. This calculation is based on the self-employment tax income rate for tax year 2016.
  • Anytime, anywhere: Internet access required; standard message and data rates apply to download and use mobile app.
  • Fastest refund possible: Fastest tax refund with e-file and direct deposit; tax refund time frames will vary.
  • Pay for TurboTax out of your federal refund: $X.XX Refund Processing Service fee applies to this payment method. Prices are subject to change without notice.
  • TurboTax Expert Help, Tax Advice and SmartLook: Included with Deluxe, Premier and Self-Employed (via phone or SmartLook); not included with Federal Free Edition. Feature availability varies by device. State tax advice is free. Service, experience levels, hours of operation and availability vary, and are subject to restriction and change without notice.
  • #1 best-selling tax software: Based on aggregated sales data for all tax year 2015 TurboTax products.
  • Most Popular: TurboTax Deluxe is our most popular product among TurboTax Online users with more complex tax situations.
  • CompleteCheck: Covered under the TurboTax accurate calculations and maximum refund guarantees.
  • TurboTax Self-Employed Expense Finder: Available only in TurboTax Self-Employed. Not available for people with certain types of expenses and tax situations including paying contractors or employees, home office or vehicle actuals, inventory, self employed health insurance or retirement, asset depreciation, sale of property or vehicles, and farm income. Some financial institutions limit the timeframe for which historical transactions may be imported by ExpenseFinder. ExpenseFinder expected late January (late February for mobile app).
  • TURBOTAX CD/DOWNLOAD SOFTWARE

  • TurboTax CD/Download products: Price includes tax preparation and printing of federal tax returns and free federal e-file of up to 5 federal tax returns. Additional fees apply for e-filing state returns. E-file fees do not apply to New York state returns. Savings and price comparison based on anticipated price increase expected in March. Prices subject to change without notice.
  • Fastest refund possible: Fastest tax refund with e-file and direct deposit; tax refund time frames will vary.
  • Pay for TurboTax out of your federal refund: $X.XX Refund Processing Service fee applies to this payment method. Prices are subject to change without notice. This benefit is available with TurboTax Federal products except TurboTax Business.
  • About our TurboTax Product Experts: Customer service and product support vary by time of year.
  • About our credentialed tax experts: Live tax advice via phone is included with Premier and Home & Business; fees apply for Basic and Deluxe customers. State tax advice is free. Service, experience levels, hours of operation and availability vary, and are subject to restriction and change without notice. Not available for TurboTax Business customers.
  • #1 best-selling tax software: Based on aggregated sales data for all tax year 2015 TurboTax products.
  • Data Import: Imports financial data from participating companies. Quicken and QuickBooks import not available with TurboTax installed on a Mac. Imports from Quicken (2015 and higher) and QuickBooks Desktop (2011 and higher); both Windows only. Quicken import not available for TurboTax Business. Quicken products provided by Quicken Inc., Quicken import subject to change.