Illustrated by Jasmine Floyd
Last Updated January 02, 2024
4 min read

Tax Brackets and Statuses

Understanding tax brackets and your tax status is crucial for planning your taxes. With this knowledge, you can optimize your tax returns and navigate the world of taxes with confidence.

Filing Status

Your filing status is a reflection of your life and earning situation for the tax year. Selecting the correct filing status is crucial for determining taxes owed, your standard deduction, and eligibility for tax credits. The main filing statuses are Single, Married Filing Jointly, Married Filing Separately, Head of Household, and Qualifying Widow(er) with Dependent Child. Each status caters to a specific taxpayer situation and has unique criteria.

The Head of Household status is for single taxpayers providing primary care for a dependent. It offers lower tax rates and higher standard deductions than the Single filing status. Married Filing Jointly increases the size of the brackets but takes both partners' income to determine the income level. Married Filing Separately can be beneficial over Single, but disqualifies taxpayers from certain tax benefits. Qualifying Widow(er) with Dependent Child status helps retain benefits of Married Filing Jointly for two years after the spouse's death if they have a dependent child.

Tax Brackets

A tax bracket is a range of income. The combination of your tax bracket and tax status is what determines the percentage of your income that you owe in taxes (also called your tax rate). In the United States, the federal tax system is progressive, meaning that as a taxpayer's income increases, the tax rate applied to their income also rises. Here is the tax bracket breakdown for tax year 2023, due by April 2024.

For Single Filers:

  • 10% on income up to $11,000
  • 12% on income $11,001 to $44,725
  • 22% on income $44,726 to $95,375
  • 24% on income $95,376 to $182,100
  • 32% on income $182,101 to $231,250
  • 35% on income $231,251 to $578,125
  • 37% on income $578,126 or more

For Married Couples Filing Jointly:

  • 10% on income up to $22,000
  • 12% on income $22,201 to $89,450
  • 22% on income $89,451 to $190,750
  • 24% on income $190,751 to $364,200
  • 32% on income $364,201 to $462,500
  • 35% on income $462,501 to $693,750
  • 37% on income $693,751 or more

For Married Couples Filing Separately:

  • 10% on income up to $11,000
  • 12% on income $11,001 to $44,725
  • 22% on income $44,726 to $95,375
  • 24% on income $95,376 to $182,100
  • 32% on income $182,101 to $231,250
  • 35% on income $231,251 to $346,875
  • 37% on income over $346,876

For Heads of Households:

  • 10% on income up to $15,700
  • 12% on income $15,701 to $59,850
  • 22% on income $59,851 to $95,350
  • 24% on income $95,351 to $182,100
  • 32% on income $182,101 to $231,250
  • 35% on income $231,251 to $580,100
  • 37% on income over $578,101

So, if you earned an annual income of $50,000 and your status is single, you fall into the 22% tax bracket. But, this doesn’t mean your entire income is taxed at 22%. Instead, each portion of your income that falls into each bracket is taxed at that rate. The first $11,600 is taxed at 10%, the amount over $11,600 and up to $47,150 is taxed at 12%, and only the income above $47,150 up to your total income of $50,000 is taxed at 22%.

There are a few terms people use when referring to tax rates. The marginal tax rate is the percentage of tax applied to your income for each tax bracket in which you qualify, essentially the rate applied to your last dollar of income. In contrast, the effective tax rate represents the average rate at which your total income is taxed, calculated by dividing the total tax you pay by your total income. This tiered system ensures that your effective tax rate is lower than your marginal tax bracket.

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Jasmine Floyd

Alternative Minimum Tax

The Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) is a separate tax system that ensures high-income individuals and corporations pay at least a minimum amount of tax. By having two tax rates (26% and 28%) and eliminating many deductions, including state and local taxes and the standard deduction, it gives taxpayers with higher income fewer options to reduce their tax payments. Taxpayers must calculate their tax liability twice and pay the higher of the two amounts. This is usually done automatically when you use tax preparation software.

The AMT has intricate regulations with fewer exceptions and applies to individuals with high incomes. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 increased the income limits, resulting in fewer taxpayers impacted by it. The AMT acts as a safeguard to the standard tax system and ensures a minimum level of tax payment from those with more significant earnings or substantial deductions.

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