How to Calculate AGI: A Step-by-Step Guide for Taxpayers


AGI is essentially your income from all sources minus certain deductions and adjustments. This number is used to determine your taxable income and your eligibility for certain tax credits and deductions. This article is aimed at anyone who wants to learn more about calculating their AGI, especially those who file their taxes themselves. Even if you use a tax professional or tax software to file your taxes, understanding how AGI works can help you make more informed decisions.

A Step-by-Step Guide to Calculating Your AGI

The following is a step-by-step guide to calculating your AGI:

  1. Calculate your total income: This includes all income from all sources, including wages, self-employment income, investment income, and rental income.
  2. Subtract above-the-line deductions: These deductions are also called adjustments to income, which reduce your taxable income. Examples of above-the-line deductions include contributions to a traditional IRA, student loan interest paid, and health savings account contributions.
  3. Calculate itemized or standard deductions: Taxpayers can either claim the standard deduction or itemize deductions. Itemizing deductions may be appropriate if the sum of your itemized deductions exceeds the standard deduction for your filing status.
  4. Figure out personal and dependent exemptions: Taxpayers can claim a personal exemption for themselves and their spouse, and exemptions for qualified dependents. However, under tax reform, personal and dependent exemptions are suspended through 2025.
  5. Calculate any other adjustments to income: These are other adjustments that reduce your taxable income, such as moving expenses, alimony paid, and self-employment taxes paid.
  6. Calculate your AGI: AGI is the sum of your total income minus above-the-line deductions and other adjustments.

Understanding the Components of AGI

AGI is calculated by starting with total income, which includes wages, salaries, tips, capital gains, dividends, and other income. Then, you subtract certain above-the-line deductions, such as contributions to a traditional IRA, student loan interest, and health savings account contributions. Next, you can either calculate standard deductions or itemize deductions. Standard deductions are a fixed amount based on your filing status. Itemized deductions include things like mortgage interest, charitable donations, and state and local taxes. After that, you can subtract exemptions for yourself and your dependents.

Finally, certain other adjustments to income can be made before arriving at your AGI. These include things such as moving expenses, alimony payments, or contributions to a self-employed retirement plan. Understanding these components of AGI is crucial to calculating it properly.

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Calculating AGI

Mistakes can happen when calculating AGI, and here are some common errors to avoid:

  • Not including all sources of income: It is important to include all sources of income when calculating your AGI, including wages, self-employment income, investment income, and rental income.
  • Incorrectly claiming deductions and adjustments: Make sure to correctly claim all above-the-line deductions, itemized/standard deductions, and other adjustments to income.
  • Math errors: Math errors can occur in calculations, so double-check your calculations or use tax software.

If you are unsure whether you have made an error when calculating AGI, consider seeking the help of a tax professional.

How to Maximize Your AGI Deductions

Maximizing your deductions can help you lower your AGI and potentially your taxes. Here are a few tips:

  • Contribute to a qualified retirement plan: Contributions to a traditional IRA or 401(k) plan can be deducted from your AGI.
  • Make charitable donations: Charitable donations may be deductible, depending on the organization and the amount contributed.
  • Claim education-related deductions: If you are paying for qualified education expenses, you may be eligible for education-related deductions.

Using Tax Software to Calculate AGI

Tax preparation software is a popular option for many taxpayers. The software guides you through the steps of calculating your AGI and other tax-related deductions. Here are some benefits of using tax software:

  • Accuracy: Tax preparation software can help reduce errors and ensure that you calculate your tax liability correctly.
  • Convenience: You can easily file your taxes from home or anywhere with an internet connection using tax software.
  • Cost-effective: Tax software can be a cost-effective option for those who have simple tax returns.


Here are a few commonly asked questions related to AGI:

  • What counts as taxable income? Taxable income includes wages, salaries, tips, capital gains, dividends, and other income.
  • How do I report self-employment income? Self-employment income is typically reported on Schedule C of Form 1040.
  • Are Social Security benefits included in AGI? Yes, Social Security benefits are included in AGI.

AGI and Your Taxes

AGI determines your eligibility for certain tax credits and deductions. If you have a higher AGI, you may not be eligible for certain benefits like the Earned Income Tax Credit or certain IRA contributions. AGI can also affect your tax bracket – the higher your AGI, the higher your tax rate. Lastly, some credits or deductions have phase-out limits based on AGI.


Calculating AGI is an essential part of tax preparation. Understanding how AGI works and the components that go into it can help you make informed decisions about your taxes. By accurately calculating AGI, you can potentially qualify for more tax credits and deductions, and avoid common errors that can cause issues with the IRS. Remember to take care when calculating your AGI and seek professional help if needed.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Proudly powered by WordPress | Theme: Courier Blog by Crimson Themes.