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22 Popular Tax Deductions and Tax Breaks for 2023-2024

A deduction cuts the income you're taxed on, which can mean a lower bill. A credit cuts your tax bill directly. Learn more about common tax breaks and how to claim them.
Sabrina Parys
Tina Orem
By Tina Orem and  Sabrina Parys 
Updated
Reviewed by Lei Han

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Tax benefits are generally broken into two major categories: tax deductions and tax credits. As you examine programs that could potentially apply to you, it's a good idea to know the differences in how tax savings can work.

In short, a credit gives you a dollar-for-dollar reduction in the amount of tax you owe. A tax deduction, also sometimes called a tax write-off, provides a smaller benefit by allowing you to deduct a certain amount from your taxable income.

Another consideration with tax deductions is that they won't do you much good unless you itemize your deductions, which only makes sense for people with a considerable amount of deductible expenses.

Need a primer first? Jump down to:

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22 popular tax deductions and tax breaks

Here are some of the most popular tax breaks for the 2024 tax filing season, and links to our other content that will help you learn more.

1. Child tax credit

The child tax credit, or CTC, is a tax break for families with children below the age of 17. To qualify, you have to meet certain income requirements as well. The 2023 child tax credit (taxes filed in 2024) could get you up to $2,000 per child, with $1,600 of the credit being potentially refundable.

2. Child and dependent care credit

The child and dependent care credit, or CDCC, is meant to cover a percentage of day care and similar costs for a child under 13, a spouse or parent unable to care for themselves, or another dependent so you can work. Generally, it's up to 35% of $3,000 of expenses for one dependent or $6,000 for two or more dependents.

3. American opportunity tax credit

The American opportunity tax credit, sometimes shortened to AOC, lets you claim all of the first $2,000 you spent on tuition, books, equipment and school fees — but not living expenses or transportation — plus 25% of the next $2,000, for a total of $2,500.

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4. Lifetime learning credit

The lifetime learning credit lets you claim 20% of the first $10,000 you paid toward tuition and fees, for a maximum of $2,000. Like the American opportunity tax credit, the lifetime learning credit doesn’t count living expenses or transportation as eligible expenses. You can claim books or supplies needed for coursework.

5. Student loan interest deduction

The student loan interest deduction lets borrowers write off up to $2,500 from their taxable income if they paid interest on their student loans.

6. Adoption credit

The adoption credit is a nonrefundable tax break that helps taxpayers cover a certain amount of qualified adoption costs per child. The credit begins to incrementally decrease at certain income levels and completely phases once your modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) exceeds the given threshold for that tax year. For 2023 (taxes filed in 2024), the credit maxes out at $15,950. The credit is phased out at MAGI of $279,230 or more.

7. Earned income tax credit

This earned income tax credit (EITC) is a refundable tax break for low-income taxpayers with and without children. For 2023 (taxes filed in 2024), the credit ranges from $600 to $7,430, depending on how many kids you have, your marital status and how much you made.

8. Charitable donation deduction

If you itemize, you may be able to write off the value of your charitable gifts — whether they’re in cash or property, such as clothes or a car — from your taxable income. Per the IRS, you can generally deduct up to 60% of your adjusted gross income.

9. Medical expenses deduction

In general, you can write off qualified, unreimbursed medical expenses that are more than 7.5% of your adjusted gross income for the tax year.

10. Deduction for state and local taxes

You may deduct up to $10,000 ($5,000 if married filing separately) for a combination of property taxes and either state and local income taxes or sales taxes through a tax break known as the SALT deduction.

11. Mortgage interest deduction

The mortgage interest tax deduction is touted as a way to make homeownership more affordable. It cuts the federal income tax that qualifying homeowners pay by reducing their taxable income by the amount of mortgage interest they pay.

12. Gambling loss deduction

Gambling losses and expenses are deductible only to the extent of gambling winnings. So, spending $100 on lottery tickets isn’t deductible — unless you win, and report, at least $100, too. You can’t write off more than the amount you win.

13. IRA contributions deduction

You may be able to deduct contributions to a traditional IRA, though how much you can deduct depends on whether you or your spouse is covered by a retirement plan at work and how much you make.

14. 401(k) contributions deduction

The IRS doesn’t tax what you divert directly from your paycheck into a traditional 401(k). In 2023, you could contribute a maximum of $22,500 ($30,000 if 50 or older). In 2024, that limit rises to $23,000 ($30,500 for those 50 and above).

These retirement accounts are usually sponsored by employers, although self-employed people can open their own 401(k)s.

15. Saver’s credit

The saver's credit runs 10% to 50% of up to $2,000 ($4,000 if filing jointly) in contributions to an IRA, 401(k), 403(b) or certain other retirement plans. The percentage depends on your filing status and income.

16. Health savings account contributions deduction

Contributions to HSAs are tax-deductible, and the withdrawals are tax-free, too, as long as you use them for qualified medical expenses.

17. Self-employment expenses deduction

There are many valuable self-employment tax write-offs for freelancers, contractors and other self-employed people.

18. Home office deduction

If you use part of your home regularly and exclusively for business-related activity, the IRS lets you write off certain home office deductions for associated rent, utilities, real estate taxes, repairs, maintenance and other related expenses.

19. Educator expenses deduction

If you’re a school teacher or other eligible educator, you can deduct up to $300 spent on classroom supplies. Spouses who are both educators and file jointly get a deduction of $300 each, making them eligible to claim up to $600 on their return.

20. Solar tax credit

The solar tax credit, also known as the "residential clean energy credit," can get you up to 30% of the installation cost of solar energy systems, including solar water heaters and solar panels.

21. Energy efficient home improvement tax credit

The energy efficient home improvement tax credit, revamped under the Inflation Reduction Act, allows homeowners who purchased qualifying home upgrades, such as energy-efficient window, doors and heat pumps, to recoup up to $3,200 on those investments when they file their tax returns.

22. Electric vehicle tax credit

The nonrefundable EV tax credit ranges from $3,750 to $7,500 for tax year 2023. Taxpayers can also get a credit of up to $4,000 for used cars. Eligibility depends on a number of rules, including income, price of the vehicle and whether the car meets IRS manufacturing guidelines for qualified EVs.

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What are tax deductions?

A tax deduction or tax write-off lowers your taxable income and thus reduces your tax liability. You subtract the amount of the tax deduction from your income, making your taxable income lower. The lower your taxable income, the lower your tax bill.

The IRS allows taxpayers to lower their taxable income by choosing either the standard deduction or itemized deductions. Before that, you can also make certain adjustments to your gross income by taking above-the-line deductions in order to arrive at what's called your adjusted gross income.

Above-the-line deductions

Contributions to a retirement account, health savings account contributions or student loan interest payments are referred to as "above-the-line" deductions, but it may be easier to think of them as "adjustments" to your income. These deductions are subtracted from your gross income to determine your adjusted gross income, or AGI. If you qualify, you can take them regardless of whether you itemize or take the standard deduction. Your AGI is important because it is the starting point for calculating your tax bill and also the basis on which you might qualify for many deductions and credits.

Below-the-line deductions

Below-the-line deductions, on the other hand, are qualified expenses that are subtracted from your adjusted gross income to help determine your taxable income. The IRS lets you take either the standard deduction or itemize. There are dozens of itemized deductions available to taxpayers and all of them have different rules. Examples of itemized deductions include deductions for unreimbursed medical expenses, charitable donations, and mortgage interest. Whether you choose to itemize or take the standard deduction depends largely on which route will save you more money.

What are tax write-offs?

The IRS doesn't use the term "tax write-offs" anywhere in the Internal Revenue Code, but the phrase has gained popularity as a synonym for "tax deduction" over the years. If you hear someone talking about a tax write-off, they're probably referring to certain qualified expenses — or deductions — that itemizers can take to lower their taxable income.

A tax credit, on the other hand, is a dollar-for-dollar reduction in your actual tax bill. A few credits are refundable, which means if you owe $250 in taxes but qualify for a $1,000 credit, you’ll get a check for the difference of $750. Most tax credits, however, aren’t refundable.

A tax credit can make a much bigger dent in your tax bill than a tax deduction, and you don't have to itemize to claim a credit.

How do you claim tax deductions?

Generally, there are two ways to claim tax deductions: Take the standard deduction or itemize deductions. You can’t do both.

The standard deduction is a flat-dollar, no-questions-asked reduction in your adjusted gross income. The amount you qualify for depends on your filing status. You can learn more about standard deduction amounts here. People 65 or older, or who are blind, get a bigger standard deduction.

Itemized deductions let you cut your taxable income by taking any of the hundreds of available tax deductions you qualify for. The more you can deduct, the less you’ll pay in taxes.

The standard deduction has gone up significantly in recent years, so you might find that it's the better option for you now even if you've itemized in the past. Your tax software or tax preparer can run your return both ways to see which method produces a lower tax bill.

Frequently asked questions

A tax credit is a dollar-for-dollar reduction in your actual tax bill. A few credits are refundable, which means if you owe $250 in taxes but qualify for a $1,000 credit, you’ll get a check for the difference of $750. Most tax credits, however, aren’t refundable.

A tax credit can make a much bigger dent in your tax bill than a tax deduction.

"Tax rebate" is another term that lacks a formal IRS definition. It generally refers to a phenomenon where a federal, state or local government decreases taxes retroactively (in other words, after the tax filing deadline for a particular year), and then refunds taxpayers the amount that they overpaid under the new rules.

Tax rebates are a bit like refundable tax credits in that they involve getting money back from the government. But a tax rebate is typically mailed to taxpayers automatically, with no action required. To claim a refundable tax credit, on the other hand, a taxpayer generally has to file a tax return, and then receive the tax credit at refund time.

That's another difference between tax rebates and tax credits — timing. Taxpayers generally only receive refundable tax credits during tax refund season, while tax rebates can happen at any time of year.

There have only been a handful of federal tax rebates in recent history, but they're a relatively common occurrence among state and local governments.

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