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The Most Popular Itemized Deductions

2 min readBy: Scott Greenberg

There are dozens of itemized deductions that are available to American taxA tax is a mandatory payment or charge collected by local, state, and national governments from individuals or businesses to cover the costs of general government services, goods, and activities. payers each year. Which ones are claimed most often?

The most popular itemized deductionItemized deductions allow individuals to subtract designated expenses from their taxable income and can be claimed in lieu of the standard deduction. Itemized deductions include those for state and local taxes, charitable contributions, and mortgage interest. An estimated 13.7 percent of filers itemized in 2019, most being high-income taxpayers. is the deduction for state and local taxes. Out of the 44 million households that itemize deductions, almost 43 million deduct the taxes they pay to state and local governments. It’s not surprising that nearly all taxpayers that itemize claim a deduction for state and local taxes, because almost everyone pays some income, sales, or property taxA property tax is primarily levied on immovable property like land and buildings, as well as on tangible personal property that is movable, like vehicles and equipment. Property taxes are the single largest source of state and local revenue in the U.S. and help fund schools, roads, police, and other services. to state and local governments.

Next most popular is the charitable deduction. 36 million households claimed a deduction for their charitable contributions, or 82 percent of all households that itemize. On average, households making less than $100,000 claimed a charitable deduction of $2,820, while those making over $100,000 claimed an average charitable deduction of $8,495.

The third most popular deduction is the interest paid deduction, the major component of which is the mortgage interest deductionThe mortgage interest deduction is an itemized deduction for interest paid on home mortgages. It reduces households’ taxable incomes and, consequently, their total taxes paid. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) reduced the amount of principal and limited the types of loans that qualify for the deduction. . 34 million taxpayers claimed this deduction in 2013, most of whom were households with over $75,000 in income.

These three popular deductions significantly reduce the amount of revenue that the federal government is able to collect. Altogether, the three biggest deductions reduce Americans’ taxable incomeTaxable income is the amount of income subject to tax, after deductions and exemptions. For both individuals and corporations, taxable income differs from—and is less than—gross income. by over $1 trillion every year:

Beyond the three largest deductions, most other itemized deductions are relatively insignificant. For instance, while 21 million households claimed a deduction for tax preparation fees, the deductions taken only totaled $7.4 billion.

These statistics are especially relevant during the 2016 presidential campaign, because almost every candidate has proposed measures to limit or eliminate itemized deductions. However, at least seven candidates have pledged not to eliminate the charitable deduction and the mortgage interest deduction. As the data shows, the charitable deduction and the interest deduction are both claimed by a large number of taxpayers, which may explain why so many candidates have promised to preserve them.