Tax Breaks

What's the Standard Deduction for 2020 vs. 2021?

If you're like most Americans, taking the standard deduction on your tax return is better than claiming itemized deductions.

Taxpayers have a choice between taking the standard deduction or claiming itemized deductions when filling out their federal income tax return. And, of course, you'll always want to pick whichever one is higher. As predicted, the number of American taxpayers claiming the standard deduction on their tax return shot up significantly after the 2017 tax reform law. Why? Because that law nearly doubled the standard deduction amount.

Before the tax reform law, about two-thirds of all taxpayers claimed the standard deduction. That jumped to almost 90% for the 2018 tax year, which was the first year for the enhanced standard deduction. Since then, the vast majority of American taxpayers have continued to claim the standard deduction on their tax return.

2020 Standard Deduction Amounts

So how much is the standard deduction worth? It depends on your filing status, whether you're 65 or older and/or blind, and whether another taxpayer can claim you as a dependent. For the 2020 tax year, the standard deduction amounts are as follows:

Filing Status

2020 Standard Deduction

Single; Married Filing Separately

$12,400

Married Filing Jointly

$24,800

Head of Household

$18,650

Taxpayers who are at least 65 years old or blind can claim an additional 2020 standard deduction of $1,300 ($1,650 if using the single or head of household filing status). For anyone who is both 65 and blind, the additional deduction amount is doubled.

If you can be claimed as a dependent by another taxpayer, your standard deduction for 2020 is limited to the greater of $1,100 or your earned income plus $350 (but the total can't be more than the basic standard deduction for your filing status).

If you have unreimbursed casualty losses from a 2020 federally declared disaster (not including major disasters declared only because of COVID-19) and you don't itemize, you can claim an increased standard deduction on your 2020 tax return. To do this, first calculate your loss on Form 4684. Then write the amount from Form 4684, line 15, and "Net Qualified Disaster Loss" on the dotted line next to line 16 on Schedule A (Form 1040). Also enter your standard deduction amount and write "Standard Deduction Claimed With Qualified Disaster Loss" on the dotted line next to line 16 of Schedule A. Finally, combine these two amounts and enter the total on line 16 of Schedule A and line 12 of Form 1040. (Note that you can also claim a 2020 disaster loss on your 2019 tax return by filing an amended 2019 return.)

Returns for the 2020 tax year are due April 15, 2021.

2021 Standard Deduction Amounts

It's never too early to start thinking about next year's tax return. When you look at the table below, you'll notice that the 2021 standard deduction is $150 higher than the 2020 amount for single taxpayers, married couples filing separate returns, and head-of-household filers. For married couples filing a joint return, the standard deduction rose $300 from 2020 to 2021.

Filing Status

2021 Standard Deduction

Single; Married Filing Separately

$12,550

Married Filing Jointly

$25,100

Head of Household

$18,800

For 2021, taxpayers who are at least 65 years old or blind can claim an additional standard deduction of $1,350 ($1,700 if using the single or head of household filing status). Once again, the additional deduction amount is doubled for anyone who is both 65 and blind.

Just like 2020, the standard deduction for 2021 is the greater of $1,100 or earned income plus $350 if you can be claimed as a dependent on someone else's tax return. But, again, the total can't exceed the basic standard deduction for your filing status.

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