Deductions: Itemized, Bunching, Accelerating
Higher standard deductions
$5,350 for Single and Married Filing Separately,
$7,850 for Head of Household,
$10,800 for Married Filing Jointly and Qualifying Widower
The statuses above mean that fewer taxpayers benefit from itemizing deductions.
The deductions are even higher for taxpayers age 65 and older and those who are legally blind. Itemizing generally pays off only if your qualifying expenses total more than the standard deduction for your filing status. See More on Itemized Deductions Here
When deciding whether or not to itemize deductions, your year-end strategy should focus on bunching, the practice of timing expenses to produce lean low profit and fat high profit years. In 1 year, you would try to amass as many deductible expenses as possible.
For example, you can time your fourth-quarter state estimated tax payment and certain medical procedures to ensure the expenses are paid when they will result in the greatest tax benefit.
The goal is to surpass the standard deduction amount and claim a larger deduction. In alternating years, you skimp on deductible expenses to hold them below the standard deduction amount because you get credit for the full standard deduction regardless of how much you actually spend.
In the lean year, year-end plan, stress pushing as many deductible expenses as possible into
the following fat year when they'll have some value.
Accelerating deductions is 1 method of trimming taxable income and your tax bill for the current year. Some examples:
- If you're allowed to pay your real estate tax in 2 installments — for example, December and June — consider paying the full year's tax in December.
- You can make your last state estimated tax payment in December rather than the following January.
- If your current-year medical expenses are close to or exceed 7.5% of your adjusted gross income (AGI), but are normally below the 7.5% threshold, try to move next year's expenses to this year. For example, purchase glasses and prescription drugs or get your physical before the end of December.
Some of the expenses you can normally deduct, like taxes and expenses subject to the 2% AGI floor, are not deductible if you're subject to the alternative minimum tax. Accelerating those expenses may not result in tax savings.