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It may be time to stop itemizing your taxes

Around this time of year, many taxpayers begin the annual ritual of pondering The Big Question: Do I take the standard deduction or spend time hunting for receipts and filling out extra forms to itemize? The decision largely boils down to whether itemizing will reduce your taxable income more than the flat, no-questions-asked standard deduction will, thus saving you money.

But a major plot twist may make the issue even more vexing for some this tax season: The standard deduction nearly doubled in 2018 to $12,000 for single filers, $18,000 for heads of household and $24,000 for joint filers.

Generally, that means that a married couple filing jointly, for example, would now need to cobble together at least $24,001 in various tax deductions for itemizing to lower their tax bill more than taking the standard deduction would.

It's a change that's sure to leave some longtime itemizers wondering whether the standard deduction is actually the thriftier option this year. Here are four things tax pros say could indicate that it's time to stop itemizing and take the standard deduction.

1. YOU DIDN'T PAY A LOT OF MORTGAGE INTEREST

The tax deductions for mortgage interest and property taxes have been boons to itemizers because they often add up to more than the standard deduction, says Andrew McCue, a certified public accountant at Weiss & Company in Glenview, Illinois. But if you didn't pay much in property taxes, had a small mortgage or were at the tail end of your mortgage (where the payments were mostly toward principal and not much interest), these itemized deductions may not save you as much this year as the standard deduction could.

"If those are adding up to a substantial amount, that's when you want to look at it and look at the standard deduction," he says.

2. YOU USED THE DEDUCTION FOR STATE AND LOCAL TAXES

The federal deduction for state and local income taxes is popular among itemizers, but a new cap of $10,000 for joint filers this year means some people may be better off taking the standard deduction instead, McCue says.

But even with the cap in place, taxpayers who also have deductible mortgage interest might still save more by itemizing this year, he says. "In Illinois, it's not hard for me to say I've got $6,000 of property taxes, but that varies a lot state to state," he says. Add in another $6,000 for mortgage interest, and "just with those two items, you're at the standard deduction for an individual," he says.

3. YOU DIDN'T DONATE A LOT TO CHARITY

Charitable donations are a well-known tax deduction for itemizers, but if this year's higher standard deduction gets you a bigger tax break, the tax-deductibility of your gifts may be a moot point, says Kasey Pittman, a CPA at Newport News, Virginia-based accounting firm PBMares.

"They're not going to see that added benefit from donations, and I think once they figure that out, they'll learn to plan their donations and to be more thoughtful about what year they give in and such," she says.

For example, giving $5,000 to a favorite charity once every five years could save more money than giving $1,000 every year for five years. That's because "bunched" donations, when combined with other itemized deductions, could get you over the higher standard-deduction threshold and make itemizing worthwhile financially, Pittman says.

4. YOU DIDN'T HAVE HUGE MEDICAL EXPENSES

In general, unreimbursed medical expenses that are more than 7.5 percent of your adjusted gross income may be deductible if you itemize, says Travis McMurray, a CPA at accounting firm Blackburn, Childers & Steagall in Tennessee. But the higher standard deduction could still be a better option.

"Quite honestly, you'd have to have a pretty significant medical event for that to kick in, or your income must be pretty low," he says.

This article was provided to The Associated Press by the personal finance website NerdWallet. Tina Orem is a writer at NerdWallet. Email: torem@nerdwallet.com.

RELATED LINKS

NerdWallet: Free Income Tax Calculator

https://nerd.me/tax-calculator

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News

  • President Donald Trump will make an official state visit to the United Kingdom this year, Buckingham Palace announced Tuesday. >> Read more trending news  Please return for updates.
  • Merriam-Webster has added its latest round of words to the iconic dictionary.  Actually, it has added 640 words like swole, bug-out bag, go-cup and omnicide to the ever changing language, The Associated Press reported. Using online newspapers, magazines, books, and movie and television scripts, lexicographers find words when they hit “critical mass” of usage then adds them to the newest edition -- first online then eventually the print update of the Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary. >> Read more trending news  “So many people use our website as their principal dictionary and we want to be current.” Peter Sokolowski, Merriam-Webster’s editor at large, told the AP. “We want to be as useful as possible.” And it’s not just new words that are added. They also add new definitions. One example is unplug. It used to mean the physical detachment of a plug from an outlet. Now the editors have included avoiding social media. Some may think that a dictionary may have become obsolete, but Sokolowski said that’s not the case because we’re all inundated with information and new words being added to our language. “We need the dictionary more than ever now that we have information flying at us from all directions,” Sokolowski told the AP. Click here to see the full list of words recently added.
  • Nine explosions hit multiple churches, hotels and other locations in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday, killing more than 300 people and injuring hundreds more, according to The Associated Press and other media outlets. >> Read more trending news  The victims included at least four Americans, State Department officials said Monday. Here are the latest updates:  Update 7:11 a.m. EDT April 23: The Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for the deadly Easter Sunday attacks in Sri Lanka, the Guardian and the Washington Post are reporting. Update 5:55 a.m. EDT April 23: Sri Lankan officials said the death toll from Sunday’s bombings has risen to 321, the Guardian and the Washington Post reported Tuesday. The news came as Sri Lankan Defense Minister Ruwan Wijewardene said the attacks were “carred out in retaliation” for the deadly mosque shootings in New Zealand last month, according to The Associated Press. So far, at least 40 people have been arrested in connection with the attacks, authorities said. Meanwhile, the country observed a day of mourning, including a three-minute moment of silence Tuesday morning. Mass burials also were held in Negombo, the Guardian reported. Officials have declared a state of emergency in Sri Lanka, giving military officials “enhanced war-time powers,” the AP reported. Authorities also are facing criticism amid reports that a top police official sent a letter April 11 to four security agencies warning that terror group National Towheed Jamaar was planning suicide bombings at churches, the AP reported. Update 9:45 p.m. EDT April 22: Ranil Wickremesinghe, the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka, issued a statement in response to the bombings.  “Today as a nation we mourn the senseless loss of innocent lives this past Easter Sunday. I would like to thank the military and police forces, the medical personnel and all those who have worked bravely and tirelessly without concern for their own safety, to ensure the safety and security of our citizens. It is imperative  that we remain unified as Sri Lankans in the face of this unspeakable tragedy.” A three-minute moment of silence for the victims of the explosions will be held at 8:30 a.m. local time, according to BBC reporter Azzam Ameen. Update 8 p.m. EDT April 22: The two Australians who officials said had been killed in the explosions have been identified by a family member. Sudesh Kolonne told Australian Broadcasting Corp. his wife, Manik Suriaaratchi, and their 1-year-old daughter Alexendria were killed in an attack in Negombo, which is north of Sri Lanka’s capital Colombo. Kolonne said he was outside when the explosion happened. “I heard a huge noise and I jumped into the church and I saw that my wife and my daughter were on the floor,” he said. “I just saw my daughter on the floor and I tried to lift her up, (but) she was already dead. And (then) exactly the same… next my wife is there.” Kolonne said he and his family moved from Melbourne to Sri Lanka in 2014 when his wife started a consultancy business.  “I don’t know what to do,” he said. “We used to go to that church every Sunday. We never expected this.” Update 4:50 p.m. EDT April 22: A spokeswoman for the Federal Bureau of Investigation confirmed to The AP that the agency is providing assistance with the investigation into the bombings. She would not provide specifics. Update 3:50 p.m. EDT April 22: In an email to parents, officials at Sidwell Friends, a private school in the Washington-area, confirmed one of their students was killed in Sunday’s bombings, The Washington Post reported. School officials identified the student as Kieran Shafritz de Zoysa, a fifth-grade boy who had been on leave in Sri Lanka for the last year, according to the Post. “Kieran was passionate about learning, he adored his friends, and he was incredibly excited about returning to Sidwell Friends this coming school year,” school officials said in the letter. “We are beyond sorry not to get the opportunity to welcome Kieran to the Middle School.” State Department officials said earlier Monday that at least four Americans were among the nearly 300 people killed in Sunday’s attacks. Officials with the English education management company Pearson confirmed that one of the company’s Denver-based employees had also been killed in the bombings. Update 3 p.m. EDT April 22: Officials with the U.S. State Department confirmed Monday that at least four Americans were among the nearly 300 people killed in Sunday’s bombings in Sri Lanka. The department said that in addition to those killed, several others were seriously injured. Officials gave no details about the identities of the victims, citing privacy concerns. Earlier Monday, officials with the English education management company Pearson confirmed that one of the company’s Denver-based employees had been killed in the bombings. Pearson CEO John Fallon said Dieter Kowalski died shortly after arriving at his hotel in Sri Lanka for a business trip. Update 2:10 p.m. EDT April 22: President Donald Trump said he spoke Monday to Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe after a series of bomb attacks in the country. In a tweet, Trump said he told Wickremesinghe “the United States stands by him and his country in the fight against terrorism.” “(I) also expressed condolences on behalf of myself and the People of the United States,” Trump wrote. Earlier Monday, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo vowed the government would provide “all possible assistance” to help in the investigation. Update 1:50 p.m. EDT April 22: Sri Lankan President Maithrpala Sirisena declared April 23 a national day of mourning in a statement obtained Monday by The Associated Press. In the statement, Sirisena said he planned to meet with foreign diplomats to seek international assistance. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said earlier Monday that the U.S. would provide “all possible assistance” to help in the investigation. Officials said nearly 40 foreign tourists from 11 countries were killed in Sunday’s attacks on churches and hotels in Sri Lanka.  Update 11:20 a.m. EDT April 22: U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Monday mourned the victims of Sunday’s bomb attacks in Sri Lanka and promised the government would provide “all possible assistance” to Americans and Sri Lankans alike. Related: Sri Lanka attacks: Who are the National Thowheed Jamath? “We urge that any evil-doers be brought to justice expeditiously and America is prepared to support that,” he Pompeo said. “We also stand with the millions of Sri Lankas who support the freedom of their fellow citizens to worship as they please.” Pompeo confirmed that Americans were among those killed in Sunday’s attack, though he didn’t specify the number of American victims. “It’s heartbreaking that a country which has strived so hard for peace in recent years has been targeted by these terrorists,” he said. Related: Sri Lanka attack: Danish billionaire loses three of his four children in bombings Update 9:50 am. EDT April 22: A Denver man has been identified as one of the nearly 300 people killed Sunday in bombings in Sri Lanka, his employer confirmed Monday. Dieter Kowalski worked as senior leader of the operation technical services team for Pearson, an education management company. Though the company is based in England, Kowalski worked in Pearson’s Denver office, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported.  “Colleagues who knew Dieter well talk about how much fun he was to be around, how big-hearted and full-spirited he was,” Pearson CEO John Fallon said in a statement shared with company employees and posted Monday on LinkedIn. “They tell of a man to whom we could give our ugliest and most challenging of engineering problems, knowing full well that he would jump straight in and help us figure it out. Dieter, they tell me, was never happier than cheer-leading for our customers and our company and inspiring people in the best way he knew how – by helping them to fix things and doing it with joy, happiness and grace.” Fallon said Kowalski died shortly after arriving at his hotel Sunday for a business trip. Update 7:55 a.m. EDT April 22: Three children of Anders Holch Povlsen, who owns Bestseller clothing, were killed in Sunday’s attacks, The Associated Press is reporting. The 46-year-old Danish billionaire, who is also the largest shareholder in ASOS, and his family were on vacation in Sri Lanka, the AP reported. Authorities said 39 foreigners were among the 290 people killed in Sunday’s attacks.  Meanwhile, a vehicle parked near St. Anthony’s Shrine, one of the churches that was bombed Sunday, exploded Monday as police tried to defuse three bombs inside, according to the AP. At least 87 bomb detonators have been found in Colombo, officials said. Police have detained at least 24 suspects in connection with Sunday’s bombings. Update 5:15 a.m. EDT April 22:  Government officials said the National Thowheed, a Sri Lankan militant group, was responsible for Sunday’s deadly attacks, the Guardian is reporting. However, a government spokesman said an “international network” helped the attackers. Seven suicide bombers caused six of the nine explosions Sunday, a forensic analyst told The Associated Press. Authorities also said a second Chinese citizen and two Australian citizens were among those killed in Sunday’s attacks. So far, the dead include citizens of the United States, India, Britain, China, Australia, Japan and Portugal, the AP reported. Meanwhile, a Sri Lanka military official said crews defused a homemade pipe bomb discovered late Sunday on a road to the airport outside Colombo, the AP reported. Update 12:10 a.m. EDT April 22: The death toll in the bombings has increased to 290 and more than 500 people have been wounded, according to police spokesman Ruwan Gunasekara. Among those killed are five Indians, who were identified in tweets from India’s external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj and the Indian High Commission in Sri Lanka, The AP reported. China and Portugal also said they lost citizens, and the U.S. said “several” Americans were also killed in the bombings. The AP reported Sri Lankan officials said they would examine reports that intelligence failed to heed or detect warnings of a possible suicide attack.  “Some intelligence officers were aware of this incidence,” Telecommunications Minister Harin Fernando said in a tweet, according to The AP. “Therefore there was a delay in action. Serious action needs to be taken as to why this warning was ignored.”  Update 9:50 p.m. EDT April 21: Japan has confirmed at least one citizen death and four injuries from the bombings. The country has issued a safety warning to Japanese people in the country, telling them to avoid mosques, churches and public places like clubs, malls and government offices, The AP reported. Foreign Minister Taro Kono expressed solidarity with Sri Lanka and sent his condolences to victims of the explosions. He also said Japan was committed to “combating terrorism.” Update 5:40 p.m. EDT April 21: The Associated Press reported that, according to internet censorship monitoring group NetBlocks, social media has been blocked across the country after the attacks. Most services, including YouTube, WhatsApp, Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook have been temporarily blacked out to curb false information spread, according to Sri Lankan officials. According to NetBlocks, such blackouts are usually ineffective. Related: Sri Lanka explosions: Sri Lanka shuts down social media in wake of Easter attacks “We are aware of the government’s statement regarding the temporary blocking of social media platforms,” Facebook, which owns Instagram and WhatsApp, said in a statement to The AP. “People rely on our services to communicate with their loved ones and we are committed to maintaining our services and helping the community and the country during this tragic time.” Update 3:28 p.m. EDT April 21: Police have 13 suspects in custody, impounded a vehicle they believed was used by suspects and located a safe house used by the attackers.  Related: Photos: Easter Sunday blasts at Sri Lanka churches, hotels kill dozens No one has claimed responsibility for what Sri Lankan officials have described as a terrorist attack by religious extremists. Update 9:28 a.m. EDT April 21: Police have so far arrested three people in connection to the blasts, The Guardian reported. A motive for the bombings is still unclear, investigators said.  Update 8:46 a.m. EDT April 21: At least 207 people were killed and 450 hurt in Sunday’s attacks, The Associated Press is reporting. Officials said eight blasts targeted three churches, three hotels, a guesthouse and an area near a Dematagoda overpass, the AP reported. Authorities reportedly have arrested seven people in connection with the incidents. Update 8:07 a.m. EDT April 21: Sri Lankan officials say at least 190 people, including at least 27 foreigners and two police officers, were killed in Sunday’s attacks, The Associated Press is reporting. Seven people have been arrested in connection with the eight explosions, which rocked at least three churches and three hotels, as well as a guesthouse, officials said. Update 7:35 a.m. EDT April 21: President Donald Trump tweeted condolences to the Sri Lankan people Sunday morning. “The United States offers heartfelt condolences to the great people of Sri Lanka,” Trump tweeted. “We stand ready to help!” Update 7:19 a.m. EDT April 21: Hours after explosions at Sri Lankan churches and hotels left dozens dead and hundreds more injured, Pope Francis prayed for the victims during his annual Easter message at the Vatican. Related: Sri Lanka explosions: Pope denounces attacks during Easter blessing “I wish to express my heartfelt closeness to the Christian community (of Sri Lanka), wounded as it was gathered in prayer, and to all the victims of such cruel violence,” Francis told the crowd in St. Peter’s Square, according to Vatican News. He later added: “I entrust to the Lord all those who have tragically perished, and I pray for the injured and all those who suffer as a result of this tragic event.” Every year after leading Easter Mass, the pope delivers an “Urbi et Orbi” (“to the city and the world”) message, which addresses global issues and conflicts. Update 5:32 a.m. EDT April 21: Two more blasts have been reported in Sri Lanka. A seventh explosion hit a hotel in Dehiwala, and an eighth blast was reported in the capital, Agence France-Presse is reporting. Update 4:20 a.m. EDT April 21: At least 156 people were killed in blasts at three churches and three hotels in Sri Lanka, Agence France-Presse is reporting. The dead include 35 foreigners, officials said. Update 3:34 a.m. EDT April 21: At least 137 people were killed in blasts at three churches and three hotels in Sri Lanka, Agence France-Presse is reporting. The dead include 45 people in Colombo, 67 in Negombo and 25 in Batticaloa, officials said. At least nine of the people killed were foreigners, the news agency reported. More than 500 people were hurt in the explosions, according to The Associated Press. Original report:  Explosions hit three churches and three hotels in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday, killing dozens of people and injuring nearly 300 more, news outlets are reporting. According to The Associated Press, blasts occurred Sunday morning at St. Anthony’s Shrine in Colombo, St. Sebastian’s Church in Negombo and a church in Batticaloa. Explosions also rocked the Kingsbury, Cinnamon Grand and Shangri La hotels in Colombo, the BBC reported. The Agence France-Presse news agency said 52 people died in the blasts. At least 283 people were taken to the hospital, the AP reported. Suicide bombers may have caused at least two of the church blasts, a security official told the AP.  The Associated Press contributed to this report.
  • Parents of toddlers, it's time to check your child's toy box. Target announced last week that it is voluntarily recalling 495,000 wooden toy vehicles over possible choking risks. >> Read more trending news  According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the recall includes eight Bullseye's Playground toys whose wheels 'can detach, posing a choking hazard to children.' The toys were sold individually for about $1 each at Target stores nationwide and in eight-pack assortments for about $8 each on the retailer's website in October and November.  >> On CPSC.gov: Read the complete recall notice here The recalled items include the following: Caboose with item No. 89304, DPCI 234-18-0100 and UPC 765940893043 Santa in sleigh with item No. 89297, DPCI 234-18-0100 and UPC 765940892978 Ice cream truck/food truck with item No. 89298, DPCI 234-18-0100 and UPC 765940892985 Train with item No. 89301, DPCI 234-18-0100 and UPC 765940893012 Police car with item No. 89303, DPCI 234-18-0100 and UPC 765940893036 Firetruck with item No. 89302, DPCI 234-18-0100 and UPC 765940893029 Taxi with item No. 89300, DPCI 234-18-0100 and UPC 765940893005 Digger with item No. 89299, DPCI 234-18-0100 and UPC 7659408929 Toy Vehicles 8-Pack Assortment with DPCI 234-20-0189 and UPC 765940893159 'Consumers should immediately take the recalled toys away from children and return the toys to any Target store for a full refund,' the CPSC said. Officials are not aware of any injuries caused by the products. For more information, call Target at 1-800-440-0680 from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. CT daily, visit the retailer's 'Recalls' page or visit the 'Product Recalls' tab of Target's Facebook page. Read more here.
  • Police have made another arrest in connection with the death of Lyra McKee, a 29-year-old journalist who was struck by a bullet during rioting in Londonderry, Northern Ireland. Here are the latest updates: Update 3:36 a.m. EDT April 23: A woman has been arrested in connection with McKee’s death, authorities announced early Tuesday. “Major Investigation Team detectives have arrested a 57-year-old woman under the Terrorism Act in connection with the murder of Lyra McKee in Creggan in Derry/Londonderry on Thursday, 18th April,” the Police Service of Northern Ireland tweeted Tuesday morning. “She has been taken to Musgrave Serious Crime Suite.” >> See the tweet here Meanwhile, the Irish News reported that the New IRA, described by CNN as a “dissident Republican group,” said it was responsible for McKee’s death and issued an apology. “In the course of attacking the enemy, Lyra McKee was tragically killed while standing beside enemy sources,” the statement read, according to the Irish News. “The IRA offer our full and sincere apologies to the partner, family and friends of Lyra McKee for her death.” Read more here. Original story: The two men arrested in the death of a 29-year-old journalist in Northern Ireland have been released. >> Read more trending news  BBC News reported that Lyra McKee was in Londonderry, Northern Ireland, when she was struck by a bullet during rioting in the city. Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton told reporters McKee was standing close to a police vehicle when she was shot by a single gunman, CNN reported. The two men, aged 18 and 19, were arrested Saturday under an anti-terrorism law. Police released them Sunday with no charges, The Associated Press reported. Police are asking anyone with information about who killed McKee to come forward. They are still looking for a suspect. The AP reported that a funeral for McKee is scheduled for Wednesday.
  • Police in Daytona Beach, Florida, said an argument led to a man's fatal stabbing on Easter. >> Watch the news report here It happened on Taylor Avenue near North Ridgewood Road, where Jaime Garcia refused to go drink with Juan Aragon Barranco, according to an arrest report. Police believe Barranco was already drunk and high when he showed up to Garcia's apartment, according to witnesses. When Garcia said no to drinking, an argument ensued and Barranco pulled out a knife, authorities said. Police said Garcia grabbed a wooden post to defend himself and tried to run away, but he fell outside of his apartment and Barranco stabbed him twice in the chest. An officer later found Barranco about a block away from the murder scene trying to get rid of the knife, according to police.  >> Read more trending news  Garcia's family drove 10 hours to Daytona Beach from Virginia once they received the news of his murder. Jaime's aunt, Doris Garcia, told WFTV she loved her nephew like a son and that he was on his way to work when the altercation took place.  Doris said that she's trying to gather enough money so she can fly Jaime's body back to Honduras so he can be buried next to his father. Barranco remains in the Volusia County Jail and faces a charge of second-degree murder with a deadly weapon, according to online records.