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What is the difference between a tax deduction and a tax credit?

Tax deductions and credits are terms often used together when talking about taxes. While you probably know that they can lower your tax liability, you might wonder about the difference between the two.

A tax deduction reduces your taxable income, so when you calculate your tax liability, you're doing so against a lower amount. Essentially, your tax obligation is reduced by an amount equal to your deductions multiplied by your marginal tax rate. For example, if you're in the 22% tax bracket and have $1,000 in tax deductions, your tax liability will be reduced by $220 ($1,000 x 0.22 = $220). The reduction would be even greater if you are in a higher tax bracket.

A tax credit, on the other hand, is a dollar-for-dollar reduction of your tax liability. Generally, after you've calculated your federal taxable income and determined how much tax you owe, you subtract the amount of any tax credit for which you are eligible from your tax obligation. For example, a $500 tax credit will reduce your tax liability by $500, regardless of your tax bracket.

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, signed into law late last year, made significant changes to the individual tax landscape, including changes to several tax deductions and credits.

The legislation roughly doubled existing standard deduction amounts and repealed the deduction for personal exemptions. The higher standard deduction amounts will generally mean that fewer taxpayers will itemize deductions going forward.

The law also made changes to a number of other deductions, such as those for state and local property taxes, home mortgage interest, medical expenses, and charitable contributions.

As for tax credits, the law doubled the child tax credit from $1,000 to $2,000 for each qualifying child under the age of 17. In addition, it created a new $500 nonrefundable credit available for qualifying dependents who are not qualifying children under age 17. The tax law provisions expire after 2025.

For more information on the various tax deductions and credits that are available to you, visit irs.gov.

 
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