Standard Deduction: Tax Preparation Explained

Welcome, dear reader, to the wild and wacky world of tax preparation. Today, we’re diving headfirst into the thrilling saga of the Standard Deduction. Yes, you heard right, the Standard Deduction! It’s not just a boring tax term, it’s a rollercoaster of numbers, percentages, and financial jargon that’s sure to have you on the edge of your seat. So buckle up, because we’re about to embark on a tax-tastic journey!

Now, you might be thinking, “Standard Deduction? Sounds like a snoozefest.” Well, dear reader, prepare to be amazed. The Standard Deduction is the unsung hero of your tax return, the silent partner in your financial journey, the… well, you get the idea. It’s important, and we’re going to tell you why.

The Basics of the Standard Deduction

Let’s start at the beginning, shall we? The Standard Deduction is a specific dollar amount that you, the taxpayer, can subtract from your income before income tax is applied. It’s like a get-out-of-jail-free card for a portion of your income. The government basically says, “Hey, we won’t tax you on this chunk of change.” Pretty cool, right?

Now, the amount of the Standard Deduction varies depending on a few factors, like your filing status, your age, and whether you’re blind. Yes, you read that right, whether you’re blind. The tax code is a strange and mysterious beast, my friends.

Standard Deduction Amounts

So, how much is this magical Standard Deduction, you ask? Well, it changes every year because it’s adjusted for inflation. That’s right, the government has thought of everything. So, for example, in 2020, the Standard Deduction for a single filer was $12,400. For married couples filing jointly, it was a whopping $24,800. And for heads of households, it was $18,650. Not too shabby, eh?

But wait, there’s more! If you’re 65 or older, or if you’re blind, you get an extra amount added to your Standard Deduction. Because the tax code giveth, and the tax code taketh away… but in this case, it mostly giveth.

Choosing Between the Standard Deduction and Itemized Deductions

Now, here’s where things get really exciting. You have a choice when it comes to deductions! You can take the Standard Deduction, or you can itemize your deductions. Itemizing means you list out all your deductions individually, like mortgage interest, state and local taxes, and charitable donations. It’s a bit more work, but sometimes it can save you more money.

So how do you choose? Well, you’ll have to do some math. (I know, I know, we didn’t sign up for this.) But basically, if your itemized deductions add up to more than your Standard Deduction, you should itemize. If not, take the Standard Deduction and call it a day.

The History of the Standard Deduction

Believe it or not, the Standard Deduction has a rich and storied history. It was first introduced in the Revenue Act of 1944. Yes, that’s right, during World War II. While the world was at war, the U.S. government was thinking about taxes. Priorities, right?

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The Standard Deduction was created as a way to simplify the tax filing process. Because let’s face it, taxes are complicated. And the government realized that not everyone has the time or the inclination to itemize their deductions. So, they created the Standard Deduction as a kind of one-size-fits-all solution.

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act and the Standard Deduction

Fast forward to 2017, and the Standard Deduction got a major facelift. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act nearly doubled the Standard Deduction amounts. So, for example, the Standard Deduction for a single filer went from $6,350 in 2017 to $12,000 in 2018. That’s a big jump!

The idea was to simplify the tax code even further by encouraging more people to take the Standard Deduction instead of itemizing. But, as with all things tax-related, the reality is a bit more complicated. But hey, that’s why we’re here, right?

Who Can Take the Standard Deduction?

So, who can take the Standard Deduction? Well, the short answer is: most people. But, as with all things tax-related, the long answer is a bit more complicated. There are some situations where you can’t take the Standard Deduction. For example, if you’re married and filing separately, and your spouse itemizes their deductions, you can’t take the Standard Deduction. Sorry, no double-dipping allowed.

Also, nonresident aliens and dual-status aliens can’t take the Standard Deduction. And if you’re filing a tax return for a period of less than 12 months because of a change in your annual accounting period, you also can’t take the Standard Deduction. But those are pretty specific situations. For most people, the Standard Deduction is fair game.

Standard Deduction for Dependents

Now, what about dependents? Can they take the Standard Deduction? Well, yes and no. Dependents can take a Standard Deduction, but it’s not the same amount as for non-dependents. Instead, the Standard Deduction for a dependent is the greater of $1,100 or the sum of $350 and the individual’s earned income. So, it’s a bit of a different calculation, but the principle is the same.

And remember, if you’re claimed as a dependent on someone else’s tax return, you can’t claim anyone else as a dependent on your return. Because that would just be too easy, right?

How to Claim the Standard Deduction

So, how do you claim this magical Standard Deduction? Well, it’s actually pretty simple. When you file your tax return, you’ll fill out a form called the 1040. On this form, there’s a line where you can enter your Standard Deduction. It’s as easy as that!

Now, if you’re filing electronically, the tax software will usually calculate the Standard Deduction for you. But it’s always a good idea to double-check the numbers. Because as we all know, computers are only as smart as the people who program them. And sometimes, those people make mistakes.

Standard Deduction and Filing Status

Remember how we said the amount of the Standard Deduction depends on your filing status? Well, here’s where that comes into play. When you fill out your 1040, you’ll have to choose a filing status. This could be single, married filing jointly, married filing separately, head of household, or qualifying widow(er) with dependent child.

Each of these statuses has a different Standard Deduction amount. So, make sure you choose the right one! And remember, your filing status is based on your situation as of December 31 of the tax year. So, if you got married on December 30, congratulations! You’re considered married for the whole year, at least as far as the IRS is concerned.


Well, there you have it, folks. The Standard Deduction in all its glory. It’s a simple concept, but it has a big impact on your taxes. So, next time you’re filling out your tax return, give a little nod to the Standard Deduction. It might not be the most exciting part of your tax return, but it’s one of the most important.

And remember, the world of taxes is a complex and ever-changing landscape. So, stay informed, stay vigilant, and most importantly, stay hilarious. Because when it comes to taxes, a sense of humor is the best deduction of all.