12 Tax Deductions You Can Claim Without Itemizing

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Deductions reduce the amount of your taxable income, so it’s in your best interests to claim as many as possible when filing your tax return.

To get the most lucrative tax deductions, you need to itemize expenses using a Schedule A. This form lets you write off mortgage interest, real estate taxes, charitable contributions and some medical expenses.

However, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 nearly doubled the standard deduction, a flat amount taken instead of itemizing, which means fewer people itemize now. The standard deduction is available to almost all taxpayers who aren’t dependents. For tax year 2023, it’s set at $13,850 for most single taxpayers under age 65 and $27,700 for most married couples under 65 who file a joint return.

While the standard deduction makes more sense financially for most people nowadays, there are still deductions you can claim even if you don’t itemize your return. Keep reading for some of the deductions that anyone can claim regardless of their itemizing status.

1. Traditional IRA contributions

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If you have an individual retirement account, otherwise known as an IRA, you can deduct contributions up to an annual limit set by the IRS.

For the 2023 tax year — the one for which your tax return is due in spring 2024 — workers younger than age 50 can contribute up to $6,500 to an IRA while those age 50 and older can contribute up to $7,500. For tax year 2024, those numbers will be $7,000 and $8,000, respectively.

Only contributions to a traditional IRA are tax-deductible. Roth IRAs aren’t eligible for a deduction since they come with a different set of tax perks.

2. HSA contributions

Health savings account (HSA)
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If you have a qualifying high-deductible health insurance plan, you can open a health savings account (HSA) and deduct your contributions. For the 2023 tax year, those with self-only coverage can contribute up to $3,850 to an HSA while those with family coverage have a contribution limit of $7,300. In tax year 2024, those limits rise to $4,150 for those with self-only coverage and $8,300 for policyholders with family coverage.

In both years, those age 55 and older are eligible to make an additional $1,000 in catch-up contributions.

3. Archer MSA contributions

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Similar to a health savings account, an Archer medical savings account allows self-employed individuals and employees of small businesses to pay for qualified health care expenses with tax-free dollars.

You’ll need a qualified high-deductible health insurance plan to open an Archer MSA, and contributions up to 75% of your insurance deductible can be deducted on your tax return. If you have a self-only plan, the limit on deductible contributions is 65% of your plan deductible.

Contributions to an Archer MSA also can’t exceed your annual income for the employer through whom you have your insurance.

4. Penalties for early withdrawals of savings

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Some investments, such as a certificate of deposit (CD), require that you leave money in an account for a certain period. If you don’t, you could get hit with an early withdrawal penalty. Fortunately, the IRS allows people to deduct the penalties reported on Forms 1099-INT or 1099-OID.

However, note that this deduction does not apply to penalties on early withdrawals from retirement accounts such as IRAs.

5. Small-business retirement plan contributions

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Self-employed individuals and small-business owners have other retirement fund deductions available to them. These include contributions made to:

  • Individual 401(k)

Talk to a finance professional for more information about eligibility for these plans and limits on deductible contributions.

6. Student loan interest

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Depending on your income, you may be entitled to deduct student loan interest from your taxes. Currently, up to $2,500 in interest can be deducted by those who meet income requirements.

The ability to deduct student loan interest begins to phase out for single taxpayers once their modified adjusted gross income reaches $75,000, and the deduction is eliminated for those with incomes greater than $90,000 per year. For married couples filing jointly, the deduction begins to phase out at incomes of $155,000 and is eliminated at $185,000.

7. Educator expenses

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Educators working at the elementary or secondary level can deduct up to $300 of out-of-pocket expenses related to their job. These costs can include computers, classroom supplies and professional development courses, among other things. The deduction also includes protective equipment such as face masks and sanitizer.

8. Alimony paid

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If you are making alimony payments to a former spouse, you may be able to deduct those payments from your income. However, this deduction does not apply to everyone. As the IRS says:

“You can’t deduct alimony or separate maintenance payments made under a divorce or separation agreement (1) executed after 2018, or (2) executed before 2019 but later modified if the modification expressly states the repeal of the deduction for alimony payments applies to the modification. Alimony and separate maintenance payments you receive under such an agreement are not included in your gross income.”

9. Self-employment taxes

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Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) taxes fund both the Social Security and Medicare programs. While employees split these taxes with their employers, self-employed workers must pay the entire 15.3% tax themselves.

Fortunately, the IRS allows self-employed workers to deduct half that amount from their income taxes. Use Schedule SE or your favorite tax software program to calculate the tax and your deduction.

10. Self-employed health insurance premiums

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Self-employed workers can also deduct premiums paid for health insurance coverage for themselves, their spouse and their children.

As with other deductions, there are rules about who is eligible and how much you can deduct. The Self-Employed Health Insurance Deduction Worksheet on Page 91 of the 1040 and 1040-SR instructions can help you figure out how much you can claim.

11. Moving expenses of active military members

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If you are a member of the U.S. armed forces and find yourself having to move because of a military order or permanent change of station, you can deduct any unreimbursed moving expenses incurred by you, your spouse or your dependents.

The IRS allows a deduction for “reasonable” expenses that may include storage and lodging while traveling but not meals.

12. Qualified charitable distributions

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Older Americans can avoid paying income tax on certain retirement fund withdrawals if they use that money for a qualified charitable distribution. Commonly called QCDs, these distributions are an option at age 70½, but they may be most beneficial to individuals age 73 and older.

At age 73, anyone with a traditional retirement account such as a 401(k) plan or IRA must take required minimum distributions, known as RMDs. The size of an RMD is determined by a formula that takes into account a person’s age and the fund balance, and depending on these factors, it can be a significant amount of money. Since an RMD is subject to federal income tax, it also has the potential to result in a large tax bill. Failure to take the withdrawal is also costly since the IRS will then assess a penalty of 25% of the RMD amount.

But retirees can avoid paying tax on an RMD if they send the distribution directly to a qualified charity. What’s more, the QCD will ensure the RMD doesn’t boost a taxpayer’s adjusted gross income, which could in turn limit the ability to take other deductions.

Bottom line: Using a tax-exempt QCD can be a good way for charitably-minded seniors to minimize taxes without itemizing deductions.

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