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What’s the Difference Between a Tax Credit and a Tax Deduction?

At Mid Oregon Credit Union we realize that properly handling income taxes helps make our members financially successful. For those of us who have done our taxes for years, we have many of the tax basics down. But what about those who find themselves newly facing the tax challenge? Understanding tax concepts and terms can be important. One question, “what’s the Difference Between a Tax Credit and a Tax Deduction?”, is significant.

TurboTax Answers The Question

We’re glad to be partnered with TurboTax through the I Love My Credit Union Rewards program, where they do the heavy tax preparation lifting. If you’re not using TurboTax, the difference between a tax credit and a tax deduction is important to understand.

“Just write it off.”

“Go ahead and deduct it.”

“I think there’s a tax credit for that.”

Although you might have heard or even uttered one of the sentences above, have you ever wondered what it actually means? While both tax deductions and tax credits can save you a significant amount of money on your taxes, they work in significantly different ways.

What is a Tax Deduction?

A tax deduction is a result of a tax-deductible expense or exemption which reduces your taxable income. A common tax deduction on your federal income tax return is the standard deduction. An example of how this works: If your income was $50,000, your standard deduction (if single or married filing separately) would reduce your taxable income by the 2018 standard deduction of $12,000, so your taxable income would now be $38,000.

What is a Tax Credit?

Unlike tax deductions, tax credits are subtracted from your tax liability (not taxable income). A common tax credit is the Child Tax Credit. If you have a qualifying child, you can take a credit of up to $2,000 per child against the taxes you owe in 2018. If you have a total federal income tax liability of $3,500, the Child Tax Credit for one child would reduce that tax liability to $1,500.

Is a Tax Deduction Better Than a Tax Credit? Is a Tax Credit Better Thank a Tax Deduction?

If you were ever faced with a hypothetical choice between a $100 tax deduction and a $100 tax credit, you would most likely prefer to receive the credit. Unlike a tax deduction, a $100 tax credit reduces your tax dollar-for-dollar ($100). On the other hand, a tax deduction reduces your taxable income by $100. The resulting amount of tax you save depends on your marginal tax bracket (in everyday language: your tax bracket). If you are in the 24% tax bracket in 2018, a $100 tax deduction reduces your taxes by $24. On the other hand, a $100 credit would reduce your taxes by $100.

TurboTax Has You Covered

Don’t worry about trying to figure out which tax credits or deductions you should take, or if you should itemize or take the standard deduction. TurboTax will ask you simple questions about you and give you the tax deductions and credits you are eligible for based on your answers to get you the biggest tax refund. As a credit union member, you can save up to $15 on TurboTax federal products. Click here to access TurboTax and your savings!

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Interest in learning more ways to save on your taxes? Talk to our Mid Oregon Credit Union team and Mid Oregon Wealth Management to learn more!