December 6, 2012

What Percent of Tax Filers Itemize their Deductions?

The other day someone on The Simple Dollar asked about cash donations to churches and Trent pointed out that most people do not itemize their deductions.   I'm not sure if thats common knowledge or not but most people do NOT itemize their taxes.    Whats that mean?   It means that they do not get any tax benefit from deductions like home mortgage interest, property taxes, charity deductions, medical expenses or the other misc. items that you can deduct as itemized deductions.    When we file our taxes we take either the standard deduction or the itemized deduction depending on which one is higher.  So if someone takes the standard deduction then they either don't have any itemized deductions to claim or they add up to less than the standard deduction.  

How common is it to take the itemized deductions?    In 2009 about 33% of tax filers claimed itemized deductions and the other 66% took the standard deduction.

 '09 is the most recent year that IRS has the full data.     I looked it up on IRS taxstats and specifically the 2009 figures for publication 1304 table 1.2

The rate that filers itemize deductions is going to be lower for lower income individuals as they are less likely to have high expenses.    Higher income people are more likely to itemize since they have a lot more expenses.

I broke down the trend to show how itemized vs standard deduction looks when you consider different income levels and here's a graphic:

Note, to make the graphic more clear I didn't include the approximately 2.5 million tax filers who had negative income levels.

Thats a pretty clear trend.   Of course there are always notable exceptions, but by and large the low income people take standard deductions and highest income earners file itemized deductions.



  1. I imagine it's another case of that coastal bias - journalists and even bloggers (present company included) are from high tax areas where itemizing is pretty much the norm. I mean that locally - perhaps not the state in general, but the area near the author.

    But yeah, less people itemize than is commonly believed. Makes some advice seem silly, doesn't it?

  2. We do standard deduction. The primary reason is that our mortgage is cheap, we have no kids which means no child care. We still donate and such, but it doesn't add up to be enough to itemize.


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