What is Schedule A?

Who needs it and how to claim itemized deductions

Derek Silva


Derek Silva

Derek Silva

Senior Editor & Personal Finance Expert

Derek is a former senior editor and personal finance expert at Policygenius, where he specialized in financial data, taxes, estate planning, and investing. Previously, he was a staff writer at SmartAsset.

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Schedule A of Form 1040 allows taxpayers to itemize deductions instead of claiming the standard deduction. There are only a small handful of eligible itemized deductions and most of them must also be above a certain threshold to qualify — like more than 7.5% of your income. Popular itemizable deductions are for medical expenses, state and local taxes you have already paid, mortgage interest, and charitable contributions.

You should generally only itemize if itemizing deductions would be worth more than your standard deduction, which starts at $12,550 for single filers and $25,100 for joint filers for the 2021 tax year (what you file in early 2022). Most people won’t have enough to itemize for their 2021 taxes (what you file in 2022) and would benefit more by taking the standard deduction instead.

If you want more guidance on how to file your tax return, start with our guide to filing income taxes.

Key Takeaways

  • Schedule A allows you to itemize deductions instead of taking the standard deduction.

  • Common itemized deductions are for medical and dental expenses, mortgage interest, charitable contributions, and property taxes.

  • Only a small percentage of taxpayers should itemize, especially after 2017 tax changes increased the value of the standard deduction.

What is Schedule A?

Schedule A is a federal tax form that you attach to your tax return if you want to claim certain types of deductions, called itemized deductions, instead of taking the standard deduction. You don’t need to use Schedule A unless you’re itemizing.

The Schedule A that individuals use (titled Itemized Deductions) may also be referred to as Form 1040 Schedule A, since this version attaches only to Form 1040 and other tax forms — like the main income tax form for trusts and estates — can have their own versions of Schedule A.

What are itemized deductions?

An itemized deduction is a certain expense or loss of money that the federal government allows you to exclude (deduct) from your annual income. By decreasing your taxable income, you decrease the overall amount of income tax you owe for the year.

For more savings, try our list of 53 deductions and credits you can claim in 2022.

Types of itemized deductions

There are only a handful of possible itemized deductions for your 2021 income taxes, which you file in early 2022. The eight most common types of itemized deductions include the following:

  • Medical expense deduction: You can claim the deduction for medical and dental expenses if they’re worth more than 7.5% of your adjusted gross income (AGI).

  • State and local tax deduction: The SALT deduction allows you to deduct your property taxes plus the value of either the state and local income taxes you paid for 2021 or total state and local sales taxes you paid.

  • Mortgage interest deduction: This deduction is available for interest you paid on a mortgage, including on conventional loans, FHA loans, VA loans, USDA loans, and private mortgage insurance (PMI).

  • Charitable contributions deduction: If you donated to qualified organizations and you choose to itemize, you can deduct an amount worth up to 100% of your 2021 AGI. The limit is usually much lower, but was expanded as part of COVID-19 relief measures.

  • Deduction for casualty and theft losses: People who had damaged or lost property because of a federally declared disaster can qualify for this deduction (in addition to other tax relief for natural disaster victims).

  • Deduction for other taxes paid: This is available for income taxes you’ve already paid, such as to a foreign government.

  • Investment interest expense deduction: You can qualify for this deduction if you paid interest on a loan for an investment property, including interest expenses for a partnership or S corporation.

  • Miscellaneous itemized deductions: There are a handful of less common payments and losses that you may be able to deduct, like gambling losses, federal estate tax that you paid on behalf of a decedent, and losses from inflation-indexed investments such as Treasury inflation-protected securities (TIPs).

Filing back taxes? Available itemized deductions change slightly from year to year so make sure to find the correct version of Schedule A from the IRS website.

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Who can itemize deductions in 2022?

You should itemize deductions if the total value of your itemized deductions would be worth more than the value of your standard deduction. The standard deduction is available to all taxpayers based on your filing status, and a much smaller percentage of people itemize after the 2017 tax changes.

Standard deductions for 2021 & 2022

Filing statusStandard deduction for 2021Standard deduction for 2022
Married filing jointly$25,100$25,900
Married filing separately$12,550$12,950
Head of household$18,800$19,400
Qualified widow(er)$25,100$25,900

There is an additional standard deduction if you’re blind or at least 65 years old by the end of 2021. Joint filers receive an additional $1,350 per spouse while single filers and heads of household get an additional $1,700.

Learn more about the standard deduction.

Schedule A instructions for 2021, line by line

At the top of Schedule A is a line for your name and Social Security number (SSN). If you’re filing a joint return, write both names and SSNs in the same order as on your 1040. (Read about how to fill out the rest of your Form 1040.)

The rest of Schedule A is 18 lines, divided into seven sections based on the types of itemized deductions you can take. Below we break down the form by section.

Medical and dental expenses

The first four lines are for the medical expense deduction, available for your medical and dental expenses that are worth more than 7.5% of your AGI.

Line 1 asks for your total medical and dental expenses from the year. Line 2 is for your AGI, which you can find on line 11 of Form 1040. Line 3 of Schedule A asks you to multiply your AGI by 7.5% (0.075) to find the threshold for your expenses. Line 4 is where you calculate your total deduction by subtracting line 3 (7.5% of your AGI) from line 1 (your total medical expenses).

Taxes you paid

Line 5 has five parts, 5a through 5e  and looks at state and local income tax (SALT) that you have already paid. This is also called the SALT deduction. Everyone can include real estate taxes and personal property taxes they’ve paid, but must then choose between including the value of their local income taxes or sales taxes. The SALT deduction is limited to $10,000 for everyone except those using the married filed separately status, who have a $5,000 limit.

Line 6 asks for other taxes you have already paid, such as income taxes you paid to a foreign country.

Line 7 is for your total deduction, found by adding up the totals from lines 5 and 6.

Interest you paid

This section allows you to deduct two types of interest you may have paid: mortgage interest and investment interest.

Line 8 helps you calculate your mortgage interest deduction. If you paid mortgage interest or points during the tax year, you can probably find the total you paid on a Form 1098 from your mortgage lender. Line 9 considers interest you paid on a loan for an investment property. You will also need to complete Form 4952. Line 10 is for your total deduction from this section of the form.

Gifts to charity

This section looks at the charitable contributions deduction, which are officially called gifts to charity. If you don’t have enough contributions to itemize and need to take the standard deduction, you may still qualify for a new $300 charitable deduction for 2021 taxes ($600 for joint filers).

Line 11 is for the total charitable contributions you made in the form cash or a check and line 12 is for the value of your noncash gifts. Any individual donations worth more than $250 require a statement from the organization to prove the value of your donation. Any individual donations worth more than $500 require you to complete Form 8283 and attach it to your tax return.

Line 13 is for any charitable contributions you’re carrying over from the previous year, such as when your donations from last year exceeded your annual deductible limit. Line 14 is where you add up your total deduction for this section.

Casualty and theft losses

Line 15 is for losses you incurred as a result of personal property or real estate that was damaged or lost in a federally declared disaster area. You can only report individual casualty and theft losses that were worth more than $100. Your total losses above the $100 limit must also be more than 10% of your AGI in order for you to claim any deduction. You need to attach Form 4684 if you have any losses to report.

Other itemized deductions

If you have other major losses or payments for the year, they may qualify to be itemized in this section. Line 16 is where you list these expenses and write their total value.

Examples of what you may be able to deduct include gambling losses, casualty and theft losses from an income-producing property you own, unrecovered investments in a pension, and impairment-related work expenses if you have a disability. To learn about other itemizable deductions, see the IRS instructions for Schedule A.

(Itemizing deductions doesn’t do a whole lot to help individuals with disabilities, so consider disability insurance for further financial protection.)

Total itemized deductions

Line 17 is where you add up the total itemized deductions from each line on this form.

Line 18 is a box that you check if you want to itemize your deductions even though your standard deduction would be worth more (something we do not generally recommend).

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