Q: I need to file taxes for several years and have few deductions. I know I can deduct work-related expenses, medical, school and charitable expenses; however, my children are grown and I do not own property. Where can I find extra savings? I'm nervous about filing for several years together; would it be better to break them up?
A: Let's first answer your question about deductions. Without knowing more about your situation, it's difficult for me to recommend where you might be able to find extra tax savings. As you have mentioned, the deductions available for federal tax returns are limited. New limitations apply to medical deductions for 2013 taxes, unless you or your spouse are 65 or older. There's a useful fact sheet about the changes to the medical deduction on the IRS website.
That's why using the standard deduction, instead of itemizing, may provide a better tax break for taxpayers who do not have a mortgage interest deduction or dependent children. The standard deduction for 2013 is $6,100 for taxpayers who are single or who are married filing separately. It's $12,200 for taxpayers who are married and filing jointly. Other standard deductions apply for taxpayers who are over 65 or are legally blind. The standard deduction is generally adjusted annually for inflation. You should calculate your return using the standard deduction and using your itemized deductions to see which will save you the most in taxes.
Topic 551, Standard Deduction, on the IRS website provides a concise summary about the standar! d deduction. In addition, IRS Publication 501 has more detailed information about the standard deduction, including a worksheet.
Regarding the second part of your question about filing returns due from prior years, I would file them as soon as possible. If there is a balance due for any of these years, then there will be penalties and interest charged. If this is the case, you might need assistance from a tax professional. There's no problem with filing the prior years' returns together.
Ken Rubin, partner, RubinBrown LLP, Saint Louis
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