What are the 2020 standard deduction amounts?

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In a Nutshell

The 2020 standard deduction amounts for federal income taxes have risen slightly because of inflation. Like all tax deductions, the standard deduction reduces the amount of your income that’s subject to tax — and could help lower your tax obligation. But the amount it could help depends on your filing status. Here’s what you need to know.

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This article was fact-checked by our editors and Christina Taylor, MBA, senior manager of tax operations for Credit Karma Tax®.

When it’s time to file your 2020 federal income tax return, you’ll have the chance to take a standard deduction amount that’s a bit higher than 2019 standard deductions.

That’s because standard deduction amounts adjust annually for inflation. But the amount of your standard deduction depends on multiple factors, including your filing status.



What are the standard deduction amounts for 2020?

The 2020 standard deduction amounts have increased across filing categories — but just how much of an increase depends on your filing status. We’ve broken it down below.

2020 federal standard deduction

Filing status

Deduction amount

Increase (from 2019)

Single

$12,400

$200

Head of household

$18,650

$300

Married filing jointly

$24,800

$200

Married filing separately

$12,400

$200

How does the standard deduction work?

All tax deductions reduce the amount of your income that’s subject to tax. If you have a lower taxable income, you might pay less tax. This generally applies to federal and state income taxes.

When you fill out your federal income tax return, you choose to either itemize deductions — which requires some calculations based on actual expenses — or take the standard deduction.

On the Form 1040, U.S. Individual Income Tax return, you apply deductions after taking any adjustments to income that you qualify for (also called above-the-line-deductions). Above-the-line deductions include items like student loan interest, money set aside in a flexible spending account, IRA contributions, other retirement account contributions and health savings account contributions.

A big advantage of taking the standard deduction is that it’s easy. You don’t have to do any calculations to determine your standard deduction amount, because the IRS has already done that for you. You just need to know your filing status.

Filers who are age 65 or older, or those who are blind, can get a higher standard deduction amount.

Who can or can’t take the standard deduction?

Most individual taxpayers can use the standard deduction, but there are some exceptions. You can’t use the standard deduction if …

  • You’re married and file a separate return, and your spouse itemizes deductions on their return (in that case, you’d have to itemize too).
  • If you file a tax return for a period of less than 12 months because of a change in your annual accounting period.
  • You’re a nonresident alien or dual-status alien during the year. (But if you’re married to a U.S. citizen or resident alien, you can choose to be treated as a U.S. resident for tax purposes and could then take the standard deduction.)

When should I take the standard deduction?

You should take the standard deduction if one of these situations applies to you.

  • It gives you the greater tax benefit vs. itemizing deductions. For example, if you don’t have enough qualifying expenses (like mortgage interest or medical expenses) to itemize your deductions, the standard deduction for your filing status could give you the bigger tax benefit.
  • The tax code requires you to do so. For example, if you’re married filing separately and your spouse takes the standard deduction, you also have to take it.

What were the standard deduction amounts in 2019 and 2018?

The amount of the standard deduction virtually doubled between 2017 and 2018 because of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 — also known as “tax reform.” The act keeps the higher standard deductions in place through the 2025 tax year. And the IRS continues to make annual inflation adjustments to standard deduction amounts.

Here were the standard deduction amounts for the 2019 and 2018 tax years.

Federal standard deduction

Filing status

2019

2018

Single

$12,200

$12,000

Head of household

$18,350

$18,000

Married filing jointly

$24,400

$24,000

Married filing separately

$12,200

$12,000


What’s next?

When you’re ready to file your 2020 tax return in 2021, it may pay to tally up your itemized deductions and see which approach reduces your taxable income the most — the standard deduction or itemizing.

If you don’t have enough deductible expenses to benefit from itemizing, the standard deduction is a simple way to reduce your taxable income for the year — which could in turn mean a lower tax bill.

Relevant sources: IRS provides tax inflation adjustments for tax year 2020 | IRS: 1040 and 1040-SR Instructions (2019) | IRS Topic No. 501: Should I Itemize? | IRS: Credits and Deductions for Individuals | IRS Publication 525 Taxable and Nontaxable Income (2019) | IRS Form 1040: U.S. Individual Income Tax Return (2019)| IRS: 1040 and 1040-SR Instructions (2018) | IRS provides tax inflation adjustments for tax year 2019


Christina Taylor is senior manager of tax operations for Credit Karma Tax®. She has more than a dozen years of experience in tax, accounting and business operations. Christina founded her own accounting consultancy and managed it for more than six years. She co-developed an online DIY tax-preparation product, serving as chief operating officer for seven years. She is an Enrolled Agent, the current treasurer of the National Association of Computerized Tax Processors and holds a bachelor’s in business administration/accounting from Baker College and an MBA from Meredith College. You can find her on LinkedIn.


About the author: Evelyn Pimplaskar is Credit Karma’s tax editor. With nearly 30 years of experience in media, marketing, public relations and journalism, Evelyn’s written about everything — from newspaper accounts of salacious capital… Read more.