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Taxpayers pay income tax on their income, less certain deductions. One choice is between the "standard deduction" and "itemized deduction," and taxpayers are allowed to use whichever number is higher. Many taxpayers use the standard deduction because it is easy. It is a flat amount determined by the IRS and no documentation is required to be able to use it.

The itemized deduction is an accumulation of certain expense items, and the taxpayer must have documentation of these expenses and must report those amounts to the IRS. The most common items included in the itemized deduction total are mortgage interest, property taxes, state income taxes, charitable contributions, and medical expenses.

It makes sense to take advantage of the itemized deduction if it benefits you. It is usually only beneficial if a taxpayer owns a home with a mortgage, but other taxpayers may also use it if they choose. It pays to check the IRS rules and see if you're better off claiming the itemized deduction, because it might save you a lot of money.

Tracy L. Coenen, CPA, MBA, CFE performs fraud examinations and financial investigations for her company Sequence Inc. Forensic Accounting, and is the author of Essentials of Corporate Fraud.

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