I think we can all agree that one of the highlights of paying taxes (since we all have to pay them) is seeing how much we can avoid having to pay. In this article, we’ll talk about how to make the most of exemptions for which you might qualify. Don’t forget—tax day is April 15th, and you should start working on your taxes now to avoid possible penalties for lateness or inaccuracy. 

What is a Tax Exemption? 

Getting the vocabulary correct is essential to accurate taxes. A tax exemption is the removal of a liability to pay. A tax exemption reduces or removes a compulsory payment that you (or your estate) would have to pay. Tax-exempt status, as it’s known, can provide complete or partial relief from taxes. An example of an entity with tax-exempt status is a church. 

What is a Tax Deduction? 

A tax deduction is a little different. This income is the result of expenses you incur, usually for a business. A tax deduction reduces your income, and they are a form of tax incentive. Exemptions and credits are the other two tax incentives available. 

What is a Tax Credit? 

Thirdly, a tax credit is a tax incentive that allows taxpayers to reduce the payment they owe to the IRS. They subtract the amount of the credit accrued from the total payment owed to the IRS. This credit can be granted as a form of state support or as a recognition of taxes that you have already paid. 

Each of these incentives is unique in their own way, but the bottom line is the same. These incentives allow you to pay less money to the government, if you know how to take advantage of them.

Standard v. Itemized Deductions

With standard and itemized deductions, you pick one or the other. A standard deduction is a flat dollar amount that you can subtract from your income before the income tax is levied. The standard deduction changes based on your filing status (Married, Single, etc.). For example, in 2019, people who were filing as Head of Household over the age of 65 in 2019 could take a standard deduction of $1,650. 

Itemized deductions, by contrast, require their own form. These are eligible expenses that you can claim on your tax form. These expenses are deducted from your final, taxable income. They decrease your taxable income, and you can claim itemized deductions if you are not taking the standard deduction. Making the decision as to which to take—itemized or standard—is easy. Pick the one that saves you the most money. If your standard deduction would be (for example) $2,000 and your itemized deduction $1,850, take the standard deduction.

Most Overlooked Itemized Deductions 

Should you choose itemized deductions, make sure that you aren’t overlooking some common ones. The most commonly-itemized deductions include charitable payments, medical expenses, dental expenses, home mortgage points, work-related education expenses, state/local income tax, sales/property tax, personal casualty losses, business use of your home, and more. All of these have their own caps and requirements to take them. 

Note that several deductions will be unavailable through 2025. The IRS took them off the list in 2018, and they will remain that way for five more years. Items like home equity lines of credit, loans, alimony, moving expenses, certain types of casualty losses, and other miscellaneous deductions are not available.