Taxes Tax Credits & Deductions The Federal Sales Tax Deduction You'll have some choices to make if you want to claim this deduction By William Perez William Perez Twitter William Perez is a tax expert with 20+ years of experience advising on individual and small business tax. He has written hundreds of articles covering topics including filing taxes, solving tax issues, tax credits and deductions, tax planning, and taxable income. He previously worked for the IRS and holds an enrolled agent certification. learn about our editorial policies Updated on May 24, 2022 Reviewed by Michelle P Scott Reviewed by Michelle P Scott Michelle P. Scott is a New York attorney with extensive experience in tax, corporate, financial, and nonprofit law, and public policy. 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She leverages this experience for The Balance, fact checking content for accuracy across a variety of financial topics. learn about our editorial policies Share Tweet Pin Email In This Article View All In This Article You Have to Itemize You Can't Claim Income Taxes The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act 2 Options for Calculating Sales Tax Tax Planning Married Couples Filing Separately Photo: MStudioImages / Getty Images Paying sales tax can sting, particularly when you're purchasing a big-ticket item like an automobile or furniture. However, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) provides a bit of a silver lining: a federal sales tax deduction. Sales taxes you pay during the course of the year qualify for the deduction, but there are some rules and details that complicate the claims. Here's what you need to know if you're considering writing off your sales tax costs on your federal tax returns. Key Takeaways You'll have to itemize deductions if you want to deduct your federal sales tax on your income tax return.You can't deduct your federal sales tax if you also want to claim your state and local income taxes—it's one or the other.If you choose to deduct your federal sales tax, you have two options for calculating it: using your actual expenses or consulting the IRS sales tax tables. You Have To Itemize Your Deductions When you're filing taxes, you can either claim the standard deduction or itemize your deductions—you can't do both. If you want to claim sales taxes, you'll have to itemize them on Schedule A of the federal Form 1040. This option isn't always the best choice for everyone. Many taxpayers find that the standard deduction is greater than the total of all their itemized deductions. For them, claiming the standard deduction is a better deal because it further reduces taxable income. Note The standard deduction is worth $12,550 for single filers and $25,100 for married joint filers in the 2021 tax year. For 2022, the standard deduction will be $12,950 for single filers and $25,900 for married filers with joint returns. You'll save more money by taking the standard deduction if your total itemized deductions don't surpass these thresholds. You Can't Claim State and Local Income Taxes You have another choice to make in addition to choosing between the standard deduction and itemized deductions: You can deduct state and local income taxes, or you can deduct sales taxes that you paid during the year, but you can't claim both. The sales tax deduction works best for people who live in states with no income tax, so the income tax deduction isn't available to them or to those whose sales tax deduction is larger than their state income tax deduction would be. You'd have to tally up a lot of sales taxes during the year to make claiming this deduction worth your while if your state has a significant income tax rate and you have a steady income from a well-paying job. The Effect of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) limited state and local tax (SALT) deductions when it became effective in 2018. You're limited to no more than a $10,000 deduction, regardless of whether you claim income taxes or sales taxes. This drops to $5,000 if you're married but filing a separate return. Note Many aspects of the TCJA are scheduled to "sunset" or expire in 2025, including the SALT deduction limit. It's possible this limit will be eliminated in future years unless Congress acts to renew some or all of the TCJA provisions that are set to expire. The Two Options for Calculating Sales Tax You have two options for calculating your sales tax deduction if you decide to claim it. You can use your actual sales tax expenses, or you can use the optional sales tax tables that are available through the IRS. Actual Sales Tax Expenses The actual sales tax method is easy, at least in theory. Simply keep all your receipts throughout the year and add them up at tax time. Your deduction is the total amount of all the sales taxes you paid. The downside to this method is that it requires a lot of meticulous recordkeeping, but it can result in a higher deduction. You can make it easier on yourself by saving your receipts and maintaining a spreadsheet. Be disciplined about entering the sales tax from each receipt regularly to keep a running tally that's easy to reference at tax time. Otherwise, you'll be faced with a mountain of receipts that must all be added up when you prepare your tax return. As an alternative to a spreadsheet, you can use a personal finance app to keep track of what you spend. Many allow you to snap pictures of your receipts and will keep track of them for you as you spend and collect them. Using the IRS Sales Tax Tables The Internal Revenue Service provides a Sales Tax Calculator for small, everyday expenditures. You can add on sales taxes you paid on big purchases, such as vehicles, boats, aircraft, or home additions. The IRS even offers a worksheet in its instructions for Schedule A to help you keep track of these figures. The IRS might want to verify large purchases, so it's important to keep the receipts for your biggest purchases, even if you use the sales tax tables. The IRS tables are broken down by your state, your income, and the number of exemptions you claim. These tables are just estimates, but they do take many crucial factors into account. Some states have higher sales tax rates than others, and the tax tables take that into consideration. People with more income at their disposal tend to spend more, and the tax tables take that into account, as well. Note The TCJA has also eliminated personal exemptions from the tax code through 2025. You're better off using the tables if you actually spent less than this number that the IRS assigns to you—and you're allowed to do that. Start adding up those receipts to get a better deduction if you think you might have spent more than the IRS estimate. Tax Planning Using the Sales Tax Deduction Some people who claim the state and local income tax deduction must report their state income tax refunds as taxable income on their returns in the following year. This isn't the case if you claim the sales tax deduction, so you might come out ahead over the long term by taking the sales tax deduction if your sales tax deduction is about the same as your income tax deduction. Note It's best to check with a tax professional if you're unsure about whether to claim income or sales taxes. A Special Rule for Married Couples Filing Separately There are a few more special rules for those who are married but filing separately, in addition to the lower $5,000 deduction ceiling. You and your spouse must both itemize, or you must both take the standard deduction if you file your federal taxes using the married-filing-separately status. Both of you must either use the optional sales tax tables or calculate the actual sales tax you paid. The tax laws don't allow for the mixing and matching of these deductions. Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! Tell us why! Other Submit Sources The Balance uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy. Internal Revenue Service. "Topic No. 501 Should I Itemize?" Internal Revenue Service. "IRS Provides Tax Inflation Adjustments for Tax Year 2021." Internal Revenue Service. "IRS Provides Tax Inflation Adjustments for Tax Year 2022." Internal Revenue Service. "2021 Instructions for Schedule A (2021)." Internal Revenue Service. "Sales Tax Deduction Calculator." Congressional Research Service. "The SALT Cap: Overview and Analysis," Page 1. Internal Revenue Service. "With New SALT Limit, IRS Explains Tax Treatment of State and Local Tax Refunds." Internal Revenue Service. "Tax Reform Provisions that Affect Individuals." Internal Revenue Service. "My Spouse and I Are Filing Separate Returns. How Do We Split Our Itemized Deductions?"