January 19, 2006.
Some older taxpayers may be able to cut their tax bills with very little work. All they have to do is check a couple of boxes on their tax returns.
The Internal Revenue Service has special, higher standard-deduction amounts for taxpayers age 65 or older. In addition, there is a similar break for the blind, regardless of age. The option to take both of these bigger tax breaks is found just below the line where you enter your adjusted gross income on the 1040 or 1040A return -- older and visually impaired filers can't use the 1040EZ form. Here you'll find boxes to check if you or your spouse are older or visually impaired.
If you're able to check one or both of these boxes, then ignore the standard deduction amounts shown on your return. Instead, head to the instruction book (Page 36 in the 1040 directions; Page 33 in the 1040A booklet) where you'll find a larger amount you can subtract.
As with the regular standard deduction, the exact amount of this elderly or blind standard deduction depends on your filing status. It could translate into a deduction hike of up to $4,000 for some taxpayers.
Accounting for all variables These added tax savings are computed for each instance in which a taxpayer -- and his or her spouse -- meets IRS requirements.
For example, a younger single filer gets a standard deduction on his 2005 return of $5,000. A single senior filer's amount is $6,250, an increase of $1,250.
If the older taxpayer also is blind, then his standard deduction jumps to $7,500.
Married couples who file jointly get to consider each partner's eligibility in determining their increased standard deduction amount. An older husband and his older wife can claim a standard deduction of $12,000. That's $2,000 more than a younger married couple can deduct.
Another $1,000 each would be allowed if the senior husband and wife each were blind, bringing their standard deduction up to the maximum $14,000 -- $4,000 more than allowed younger-than-65 joint filers with no visual problems.
Larger deduction amounts also apply to older and blind taxpayers who are able to use head-of-household or married-filing-separately status.
Age is not a factor in considering the extra deduction for blindness; young filers with this impairment are eligible for a larger standard deduction, too.
And you don't have to be totally blind to qualify. You can check the blind box if you have a statement certified by your eye doctor or registered optometrist that:
Even with glasses or contact lenses, you cannot see better than 20/200 in your better eye, or Your field of vision is 20 degrees or less.
If your eye condition is not likely to improve beyond the conditions listed above, you can get a doctor's statement noting this instead. There's no need to file the statement, but keep it in your tax records.
For many older and visually impaired taxpayers, these enhanced standard deduction amounts are more than they would get if they itemized. And they definitely are a lot less work.
Freelance writer Kay Bell writes Bankrate's tax stories from her home in Austin, Texas, and blogs each day on tax topics at Don't Mess with Taxes.
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