"Above-the-Line" Deductions for Your 2021 Tax Return

If, like most people, you claim the standard deduction instead of itemized deductions on your return, there are still many other tax deductions available that could save you a lot of money.

picture of a tag with "tax deductions" written on it
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Relatively few Americans itemize deductions on their tax return. You can either claim the standard deduction or itemized deductions on your return — but not both. And, of course, you always want to pick the higher amount, which is the standard deduction for the vast majority of people.

That means most Americans can't claim some very well-known tax breaks. No deduction for medical expenses. Zero tax savings for mortgage interest payments. Nothing for state and local taxes, either. If you claim the standard deduction, you can't claim any of these popular write-offs.

But there are several other popular tax deductions that people taking the standard deduction can still claim on their tax return. Most of these so-called "above-the-line" deductions have no income limits, so anybody can claim them on Schedule 1 (opens in new tab) of their Form 1040. Plus, because these deductions will lower your adjusted gross income (AGI), you may be able to claim other tax breaks that have AGI-based income limits. (They're called "above-the-line" deductions because you record them on the 1040 form above the line showing your AGI.) So, if you're claiming the standard deduction and want to lower your tax bill, keep reading to see if you qualify for any of these common money-saving write-offs.

Rocky Mengle
Senior Tax Editor, Kiplinger.com

Rocky is a Senior Tax Editor for Kiplinger with more than 20 years of experience covering federal and state tax developments. Before coming to Kiplinger, he worked for Wolters Kluwer Tax & Accounting and Kleinrock Publishing, where he provided breaking news and guidance for CPAs, tax attorneys, and other tax professionals. He has also been quoted as an expert by USA Today, Forbes, U.S. News & World Report, Reuters, Accounting Today, and other media outlets. Rocky has a law degree from the University of Connecticut and a B.A. in History from Salisbury University.