Schedule A is a tax form that must accompany your Form 1040 tax return if you choose to itemize your deductions. It provides details and numerical amounts for each of the deductions you’re claiming to reduce your taxable income. You can claim a deduction for your total when you complete the form.
The schedule can seem challenging at first glance, but each line is clearly labeled and defined. In this guide, you’ll learn to better understand the rules behind each line and your deductible expenses.
Definition and Examples of Schedule A
Certain expenses that many taxpayers pay are tax deductible, and if you claim them, your income will be reduced and you will pay taxes on less. If you choose to itemize your deductions, you will need to use the tax form Schedule A.
Let’s look at an example. You might have earned a $60,000 salary in 2021, but when you add up all possible deductions you are eligible for, you can claim $15,000 in tax deductions. In this case, you would then pay taxes on only $45,000.
For the IRS to trust the tax return that you submitted with a $45,000 income, you’d need to show how you arrived at that number. This is where Schedule A comes in.
Itemized deductions include amounts you paid for specific things. Qualifying cases include local income or sales taxes, personal property taxes, real estate taxes, mortgage interest, and disaster losses from a federally declared event. Gifts to charity and some medical and dental expenses may be included, too.
The single-page form includes six sections, each with multiple lines citing the itemized deductions available to you under the tax code. Enter how much you spent on a particular line if you did pay that expense. Simply enter “0” if you didn’t happen to pay one of them, such as mortgage interest.
Add up all of your deductions, enter the total on line 17 of the schedule, and transfer the number to line 12 of your Form 1040 tax return. You can then subtract that figure from your adjusted gross income (AGI) on your return, and the balance is the income you must pay tax on.
Who Uses Schedule A?
Anyone who wants to itemize their deductions must file Schedule A with their 1040 tax return, but itemizing might not be to your advantage. Taxpayers can either itemize or claim the standard deduction for their filing status—you can’t do both. If you choose to claim the standard deduction, you will not need to use Schedule A.
The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) effectively doubled the standard deduction in 2018, and this change is expected to remain in place through at least 2025. The standard deduction for the 2021 tax year—the taxes you will pay in 2022—is $12,950 for single taxpayers or $25,900 for married couples filing jointly.
To find out if you should use Schedule A (and effectively itemize), total up all of your allowed deductions. If the total is greater than the standard deduction, it would probably be wise to itemize.
Where To Get Schedule A
Schedule A is available on the IRS website. It’s an interactive form, so you can complete it online then print out the finished copy and save it to your hard drive. Or you can simply print it out and complete it by hand.
How To Fill Out and Read Schedule A
The six categories of deductions on Schedule A relate to your medical and dental expenses, other taxes you’ve paid, interest you’ve paid, gifts you’ve made to charities, casualty and theft losses you suffered, and other miscellaneous deductions that don't neatly fit into any of the first five sections. Each section comes with its own specific rules.
Medical and Dental Expenses
Lines 1 through 4 in the first section are dedicated to medical and dental expenses. Total everything you spent on medical or dental expenses during the tax year that wasn’t reimbursed by insurance. Enter this amount on line 1. Next, look at line 11 of your Form 1040 (or 1040-SR) to find your AGI. Enter this on line 2, then multiply this number by 7.5% and enter the result on line 3.
Now subtract line 3 from line 2. You’re only entitled to claim an itemized deduction for expenses you paid that exceed 7.5% of your AGI in the 2021 tax year, so you can’t claim this deduction if the total on line 3 is more than line 1. Otherwise, you can enter the result on line 4 as your itemized deduction.
You might be able to increase your qualifying expenses a bit by including a mileage rate for each mile you drove for medical purposes. The rate is 18 cents per mile in 2022. You can include health and dental insurance premiums you paid, too, but not life insurance premiums.
Taxes You Paid
You can include certain taxes you paid during the year as an itemized deduction on Schedule A. These include state and local income taxes. You can also claim either income and property taxes or sales taxes, but not both. You must check Box 5a in this section (the second section) of the schedule if you’re opting to deduct sales taxes.
The TCJA limits the state and local tax deduction to no more than $10,000, or just $5,000 if you’re married and filing a separate return from your spouse. This section takes up lines 5a through 5e, line 6, and line 7. Each line comes with clear instructions.
Interest You Paid
The TCJA affects this itemized deduction, as well, at least from 2018 through 2025, when the law potentially expires. You used to be able to claim an itemized deduction for mortgage interest you paid on loans of up to $1 million. The TCJA reduced this to $750,000 unless you took the mortgage out on or before Dec. 15, 2017. You can include points you paid as well as interest. Enter these expenses on lines 8a through 8c of Schedule A.
You can also deduct mortgage insurance premiums on line 8d, subject to certain rules, and investment interest you might have paid on line 9. The remaining lines in this section walk you through the calculations.
Gifts to Charity
Lines 11 through 14 are dedicated to charitable giving. You’ll have to complete another tax form, Form 8283, if you made any gift of $500 or more other than by cash or check. Be aware that only certain charities qualify. You can find a list and explanation in the instructions for Schedule A.
Casualty and Theft Losses
You can only claim losses resulting from a federally declared disaster while the TCJA is in effect, and you must also file Form 4684 with your return if you claim this deduction. Your gifts and the calculation for arriving at your deduction take up line 15 on Schedule A.
The amount of each separate loss must be more than $100, and the total amount of all losses you’re claiming must be more than 10% of your AGI to receive the deduction.
Other Itemized Deductions
The second-to-last section of Schedule A has only one line—number 16—and it’s a catchall category for some other allowable expenses that aren’t delineated above. The instructions for Schedule A walk you through what might qualify, such as gambling losses if you reported any winnings as income on Schedule 1. Remember, you can’t deduct the same expense twice.
Finally, line 17 shows the total of your itemized deductions. The IRS wants you to check the box next to line 18 if your itemized deductions amount to less than the standard deduction you’re entitled to but you’ve decided to itemize anyway. For the 2021 tax year, there is no limit on itemized deductions, according to the IRS, as it was eliminated by the TCJA.
The line notations mentioned in this article apply to the 2021 Schedule A, which you will file in 2022. IRS forms can be subject to change from year to year, so they might not be the same on the 2022 Schedule A, which will be released January 2023.
Can Schedule A Be E-Filed?
Schedule A is an attachment to Form 1040, so you can include it if you e-file your tax return. The IRS provides a list of e-filing options on its website, too.
Where To Mail Schedule A
Where you should snail-mail a paper copy of your Form 1040 and Schedule A depends on two factors: whether you’re also including a tax payment and the state in which you live. The IRS provides links with addresses for every state on its website.
- Schedule A lists itemized deductions you’re claiming to reduce your taxable income. Completing it is required if you’re itemizing rather than claiming the standard deduction on your tax return.
- The schedule includes six sections and 18 lines with detailed directions.
- Transfer the total from Schedule A to your Form 1040 tax return, then submit the schedule to the IRS along with your return.
- Itemizing isn’t worth the time and effort if your total itemized deductions amount to less than the standard deduction you’re entitled to for your filing status.