April is still ages away, but by early February, you should have everything you need to start filing your tax return. It's a time for digging up receipts and double-checking spreadsheets, but it's also an opportunity to find some good savings. Sometimes what you'll wind up saving most is time.
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Susannah Snider, writing for U.S. News & World Report, shared a thorough look into the standard deduction, which may be one of those terms you thought you understood intuitively but never wanted to double-check. "Standard deductions are an easy way to avoid the hassle of going through your past year's expenses and determining which ones to itemize," writes Sapling contributor Michael Koyan. Meanwhile, "The only reason to take the time to calculate itemized deductions is if it's clear that the sum will be larger than the standard deduction you would qualify for… Itemizing your deduction will take longer, but can be of great benefit to those who have made a lot of tax-deductible payments throughout the year."
Basically, the standard deduction is a designated chunk of income on which you're not taxed. In recent years, the federal standard deduction has actually gone up, thus lowering what you'll owe taxes on. For single people or married people filing separately in 2019, it's $12,000. For head of household filers, it's $18,000, while married couples filing jointly can claim $24,000. New tax laws have also capped deducting state and local taxes at $10,000. If you're still a little wobbly on what to do, it's worth checking with a professional.