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Should You Itemize Your Taxes This Year?

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Photo Credit Thinkstock

Photo Credit Thinkstock

BOSTON (CBS) - Should you take the time to fill out the long 1040? It really depends.  To find out whether you should itemize you will need to do some homework.

About a third of taxpayers use the long form. The majority of taxpayers don’t have the income or the deductions to itemize, and often they won’t take the time to figure out if using their deductions is the better deal.

A study by the government found that big bucks are lost annually by taxpayers who don’t take the time to itemize. These are taxpayers who were entitled to larger refunds based on their deductions, deductions they did not utilize when they filed their returns.

The standard deduction for 2013 for a single taxpayer is $5,950, married couples it’s twice that, $11,900, and head of household its $8,700.

You can use either the standard deduction or your deductible expenses whichever is larger. But you need to figure it out.

To do a quick assessment, is your total income under $100,000? Do you have any dependents? Interest income under $1,500? Are you under age 65? If you answered yes, yes, yes and yes you can use the short form 1040EZ. But let’s look at possible deductions.

What did you pay in state income tax? Any charitable contributions? Then add up your mortgage interest payments and real estate taxes.

How much did you pay for excise tax? Did you have large unreimbursed medical or dental bills? Do you pay for your own health insurance? Do a quick calculation, add them all up to see if the items you can deduct are larger than the standard deduction amount.

If your deductions are larger than the standard deduction then make the effort to use those deductions and file the long 1040. I am a firm believer in paying taxes but only what you really owe. But if you are not going to do your taxes yourself add in the preparer’s fee to be sure you still come out ahead.

Click here for more tax tips and advice from CBS Boston’s Dee Lee.

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