Can I Take the Standard Deduction and Deduct Business Expenses?

Can I Take the Standard Deduction and Deduct Business Expenses?

Soo Lee, CPA
March 1, 2024
February 26, 2024
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Tax guide
Can I Take the Standard Deduction and Deduct Business Expenses?
Soo Lee, CPA
March 1, 2024
February 26, 2024
Icon check
Reviewed by

Self-employed people and small business owners tend to spend a lot of their own money on work.

At the end of the tax year, all those business expenses can lead to sizable tax savings. And that's a good thing, especially considering these taxpayers have to deal with both income and self-employment taxes – the latter of which cover Social Security and Medicare contributions.   

Given the size of their tax bills, it's no wonder that self-employed individuals want to lower their taxable income by as much as possible. Here's a common question among independent contractors and freelancers: can you take the standard deduction and still deduct business expenses?

In short, yes. But there are important details you should know about – read on for all the information you need.


What is the standard deduction?

The standard deduction is a tax write-off that every single American can take. 

Here are the numbers for tax year 2024:

  • For single filers and spouses filing separately: $14,600
  • For married filing jointly: $29,200
  • For heads of household: $21,900

Standard deduction vs. itemizing expenses

When it comes to annual personal tax deductions, you have a choice to make.  You can either take the $13,000 or so – the standard deduction – , or you can itemize your personal deductions. 

It's important to note that these personal itemized deductions have nothing to do with your deductible business expenses, which you can claim on top of the standard deduction. More on that later!

Itemized deductions that you can replace with the standard deduction include the following:

  • 👼Charitable donations
  • 🏥 Unreimbursed medical and dental expenses
  • 🛒 State and local income taxes or sales taxes
  • 🏘️ Real estate taxes
  • 💰Personal property taxes
  • 🏫Student loan interest
  • 💸 Mortgage interest
  • 😷 Health insurance premiums (Though health insurance is deductible for self-employed people)
  • 🌊 Disaster losses from a federally declared disaster

Tax filers who choose to itemize will indicate the personal deductions they're taking on Schedule A of their tax return.

Can I Take the Standard Deduction and Deduct Business Expenses? | Schedule A for itemized personal deducts

Should you take the standard deduction?

If all the itemized deductions you can take add up to more than your standard deduction amount, then it makes sense to track them separately.

Most people, though, take the standard deduction. (87% of taxpayers opted for it in 2019.) It's become especially attractive in recent years because the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act nearly doubled it in 2017. 

As a self-employed person, you'll have to make this decision along with every other American tax filer. Your business expenses, though, go in a whole other category. 

You can always take those on top of the standard deduction.

What the standard deduction means for your taxes

If someone who only works W-2 jobs makes less than the standard deduction amount, they won't actually be on the hook for income taxes at all. Their taxable income gets reduced to zero.

Unfortunately, things are different for self-employed people. If you freelance, do gig work, or run a small business, you'll always have to pay self-employment tax on your 1099 income — even if it's much less than the standard deduction. 

Here's an example. Let’s say you earn $50,000 a year. A solid $45,000 of that is from a W-2 job. Only $5,000 is from a bit of 1099 work you do on the side — maybe driving for Uber on the weekends, or occasionally renting out a spare room on Airbnb.

In this scenario, the write-off on your 1099 income is a lot less than the standard deduction. But you’ll still owe around $1,500 in taxes on just that income. (This assumes a standard 30% effective rate for 1099 income). That’s not nothing!

You can see how this works for yourself using our self-employment tax rate calculator. Enter an income from 1099 work — even a pretty low one — and you'll see how high the tax rate on it goes.

How to write off business expenses on top of the standard deduction

You'll always get taxed on your self-employment income, even if it's less than the standard deduction.

That's not exactly happy news. But luckily, it's also true that you can always deduct your business expenses — even if you take the standard deduction.

Personal vs. business itemized deductions

A lot of freelancers and independent contractors don't realize they can write off business expenses even if they also claim the standard deduction.

Why? Because it's pretty common to get personal itemized deductions confused with deductible business expenses.

Personal deductions go on your Schedule A, like we mentioned. But itemized business deductions are something else entirely. These are the purchases you make for the sake of your 1099 work. These go on Schedule C. It’s a good idea to get to know the form well before tax season rolls around, so you’ll have the information you need readily available.

Claiming business write-offs on Schedule C

If you’re self-employed, you'll use Schedule C to report both the earnings from your business and the expenses you incurred to run it. This is true whether you have a sole proprietorship or a single-member LLC.

You'll use Schedule C to figure out your net earnings – after subtracting your business expenses from your gross income, you'll indicate whether you had a profit or a loss on line 7a.

Can I Take the Standard Deduction and Deduct Business Expenses? | Schedule C: Profit or Loss from Business

What business expenses can you deduct?

Everything you spend on your freelance work or small business is tax-deductible on your Schedule C.

If you want someone to keep track of your deductible expenses for you, give Keeper a try. Our app automatically scans your transactions for eligible write-offs, so you won't have to do any manual expense tracking. You'll also get access to human bookkeepers who review your write-offs, and they'll even answer your tax questions!


Want to learn more about the write-offs you can take? Check out our intro to tax write-offs, or take a look at our job-specific deduction finder. Whether you're a real estate agent or a freelance designer, we've probably got a guide for you!

In the meantime, though, here's a list of common business deductions.

🚗 Car expenses

If you drive at all for your 1099 work, you can deduct all your car-related business expenses. From your gas and insurance to your lease payments, vehicle depreciation and more, all these costs are deductible on your taxes.

There are two ways to claim car expenses: using the standard mileage rate, or deducting your actual vehicle expenses. To learn more about the pros and cons of each method, check out our post on mileage vs. actual expenses.

Here's a general rule of thumb: if you drive a pretty typical amount, you're probably better off deducting actual expenses. If you drive a lot for work, though — say, as a rideshare or delivery driver — you'll likely benefit from using the standard mileage rate.


🛫 Travel expenses

If you ever travel for your freelance work, you can write off the cost of those business trips. That goes beyond obvious travel expenses, like your hotel fees and plane tickets. You can also write off things like laundry fees, Wi-Fi charges, and the meals you eat on the go.

To learn more — including what you can write off and what the IRS rules are for qualifying — check out our guide on business travel tax deductions.

🎒Continuing education

Working for yourself means you need to keep your skills sharp. Luckily, courses and study materials related to your field count as tax-deductible education expenses. 

You don't even need to get a degree or a certificate to write something off as an education expense. Some pretty unusual purchases can count — like a concert if you're a music teacher. To learn more, take a look at our post on work-related education expenses.


🏠 Home office expenses

The home office deduction is another popular business expense for self-employed people. This deduction lets you claim a portion of home-related expenses, like your rent, utilities, home insurance, and home repairs. 

Of course, you'll only qualify if you use at least part of your home for business purposes — to store inventory, meet clients, or actually do your work. Want to find out if you can take this deduction? Check out our home office deduction quiz!

There are two ways to write off your home office expenses. The simplified option entails multiplying the square footage of your home office by a standard dollar amount, up to 300 square feet. (The current rate is $5 per square foot.) Meanwhile, the actual expense method lets you write off what you actually spend on housing.

To find out more, take a look at our article on whether you should use the simplified method.

🏢 Commercial rent

If you lease a separate workspace for your business, you can deduct your rent. Just keep in mind: The property you rent can’t be registered with your name. 

You can also claim the rent you pay on any space where you store inventory.

💻 Computers and software

For most freelancers and independent contractors, it’s impossible to do any work without a computer. Luckily, your laptop (or desktop) is tax-deductible.

So is any software that you use on the job. That includes web conferencing programs like Zoom or Microsoft Meets, cloud storage systems, and design tools like the Adobe Suite. 

🛍️ Inventory costs

If you're an online seller, the cost of your inventory will probably be one of your biggest expenses. The technical term for this is "cost of goods sold." It's one of the most popular write-offs in manufacturing and retail.

Here's how it works. You buy things that are initially categorized as inventory. When that inventory is sold, it's converted into your cost of goods sold. This lets you calculate the profit you make on your sales.

👔 Payroll expenses 

Does your small business have any W-2 employees? (If you're running an S corp, this can include yourself!) 

If so, you can write off the salaries and wages you pay. If your employees sometimes make work purchases that you later reimburse them for, you can deduct those costs as well. 

📰 Advertising expenses

You can deduct all the costs associated with promoting your business. From billboards to Google ads, all kinds of promotional costs count, whether they're old-school or born-digital. Don't forget your website hosting fees!

✉️ Postage and delivery

Do you need shipping and delivery services to do your work? If so, all your postage, shipping, and packaging can be deducted.

💵 Tax and licenses

Any license and tax related expenses for your business are deductible. These can include annual LLC registration fees, state franchise taxes, and payroll taxes.
Unfortunately, though, you can't write off things like traffic tickets and penalties for failing to file your taxes by the deadline.

Soo Lee, CPA

Soo Lee, CPA


Soo has over 10 years of experience at publicly traded companies and public accounting firms offering tax, accounting, payroll and advisory services to clients in diverse industries, including manufacturing, wholesale and retail, construction, real estate development, banking, finance, and professional and legal consulting. At Pricewaterhouse Cooper, she worked with many foreign-owned companies and advised clients on a broad range of issues, including federal and state tax minimization, determining the optimal structure for new foreign investments, and restructuring and reorganization for existing operations.

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Can I Take the Standard Deduction and Deduct Business Expenses?
Can I Take the Standard Deduction and Deduct Business Expenses?

Over 1M freelancers trust Keeper with their taxes

Keeper is the top-rated all-in-one business expense tracker, tax filing service, and personal accountant.

Can I Take the Standard Deduction and Deduct Business Expenses?
Can I Take the Standard Deduction and Deduct Business Expenses?

Over 1M freelancers trust Keeper with their taxes

Keeper is the top-rated all-in-one business expense tracker, tax filing service, and personal accountant.

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At Keeper, we’re on a mission to help people overcome the complexity of taxes. We’ve provided this information for educational purposes, and it does not constitute tax, legal, or accounting advice. If you would like a tax expert to clarify it for you, feel free to sign up for Keeper. You may also email with your questions.