Tax Brackets 101: Understanding, Saving & Strategies

Are you sick of feeling like your taxes are too high?

Do you want to know how to lower your taxed income and keep more money for yourself?

The key to figuring out how the tax system works is to understand tax levels. In this article, I'll talk about tax brackets, including the difference between marginal and effective tax rates, how to lower your taxable income, and the things that affect your tax bracket. We'll also talk about common mistakes you should avoid and how to make smart choices about your taxes. So, get a cup of coffee and get ready to learn how to save money on your taxes!

Key Takeaways

  • Understanding tax brackets can help you save money by taking advantage of deductions and estimating your tax bracket.
  • Marginal tax rate is the tax rate imposed on a taxpayer's last dollar of income, while effective tax rate is the percentage of your annual income that you actually pay in taxes.
  • Maximizing retirement savings is a straightforward way to reduce taxable income.
  • Your filing status, deductions, having dependents, changes in tax laws and policies, and inflation can affect your tax bracket.
  • Knowing your current tax bracket can help you make informed financial decisions and potentially save money on taxes.

Understanding Tax Brackets

What are Tax Brackets?

Tax bands are ranges of income where the tax rate goes up as the income goes up. The tax system in the United States is progressive, which means that different parts of your pay are taxed at different rates.

Most of the time, the tax rate goes up as your taxable income goes up.

There are seven income tax rates set by the federal government: 10%, 12%, 22%, 24%, 32%, 35%, and 37%.

Your tax rate is based on your taxable income and how you file your taxes.

How Do Tax Brackets Work?

The government figures out how much tax you have to pay by splitting your taxable income into chunks, also called tax brackets. Each chunk is taxed at the rate that goes with it. The income limits for tax bands are changed every year to keep up with inflation.

In 2022, if you are single and make less than $10,275, the lowest tax rate of 10% applies to the first $10,275. The next part of your income is charged at 12%, and so on until your total taxable income is reached.

How Can You Save Money with Tax Brackets?

You can lower the amount of your income that is taxed by taking deductions. This means that less of your income is taxed. Your tax rate can be changed by deductions. If you take a deduction, your taxable income goes down, which could put you in a lower tax rate.

This can save a lot of money on taxes.

For example, if your highest tax rate is 32%, claiming a $1,000 deduction will save you $320 in taxes (32% of $1,000). But if your highest tax rate is 12%, that same deduction only saves you $120 (12% of $1,000).

Every year, the IRS changes the tax rates to account for inflation. Most of the time, the salary thresholds that determine tax brackets go up every year to keep up with inflation. As the cost of living goes up, these changes can help make sure that taxpayers don't end up in a higher tax bracket.

Taxpayers can use online calculators from the IRS or financial companies to figure out what tax bracket they are in.

Recent Changes to Tax Brackets

In 2023, the IRS raised tax brackets by about 7% for each type of tax filer, such as single people or married couples paying together or separately. The top marginal rate, or the highest tax rate based on income, stays at 37% for single people with incomes above $578,125 and for married couples with incomes above $1,156,250. Taxpayers could save money on taxes if the standard deduction was higher and the limits for each tax bracket were higher. But the changes to the tax brackets might not save everyone money, especially if their incomes went up by 7% or more.

Marginal vs Effective Tax Rates

Marginal Tax Rate

The marginal tax rate is the tax rate on the last dollar of a taxpayer's income. In other words, it is the rate you'll pay on the next dollar you make. The U.S. has a progressive tax system, which means that your tax rate goes up as your income goes up.

For the tax year 2022, there are seven tax rates.

The first $9,950 of income is taxed at 10%, and income over $628,300 is taxed at 37%.

Your marginal tax rate is the rate at which your last dollar of taxable income goes into the highest tax bracket.

Effective Tax Rate

On the other hand, your effective tax rate is how much of your annual income you actually pay in taxes. It takes into account all of the tax brackets your income goes into, not just the highest one.

By reducing the total amount of federal income tax you paid by the amount of your taxable income, you can figure out your effective tax rate.

It's always less than your marginal tax rate because it takes into account all the discounts and credits you can get.

Why Marginal and Effective Tax Rates Matter

For tax planning, it's important to know the difference between marginal and effective tax rates. You can use your marginal tax rate to figure out how much more you'll owe the IRS if you make more money.

On the other hand, your effective tax rate can help you figure out how much you have to pay in taxes and find ways to lower your tax bill.

Reducing Your Effective Tax Rate

Using tax deductions, tax credits, and other ways to save money on taxes is one way to lower your total tax rate. For example, you can take out of your taxed income money you gave to charity, the interest on your mortgage, and state and local taxes.

You can also use tax credits like the Child Tax Credit and the Earned Income Tax Credit.

Determining Your Tax Bracket

To figure out which tax band you are in, you need to know how much of your income is taxable and how you file your taxes. The federal tax system on income is progressive, which means that tax rates go up as taxable income goes up.

For 2022 and 2023, there are seven income tax groups with rates that range from 10% to 37%.

Most of the time, the salary thresholds that determine tax brackets go up every year to keep up with inflation.

You can use TurboTax's Tax band Calculator if you aren't sure which tax band you are in. Just put in your filing status and taxable income, and the calculator will tell you which tax group you are in and what your marginal tax rate is.

In Summary

There are two ways to figure out how much you owe the IRS based on your salary and tax bracket: the marginal tax rate and the effective tax rate. The marginal tax rate is the amount of tax you pay on your last dollar of income.

The effective tax rate is the percentage of your yearly income that you actually pay in taxes.

Understanding the difference between these two rates is important for tax planning and can help you find ways to lower your tax bill.

Reducing Taxable Income

Getting less cash that is taxed is a good way to save money. By getting the most out of your deductions and credits, you might be able to lower your tax brackets and keep more of the money you've worked hard for.

Here are some ideas to think about:

Maximize Retirement Savings

One of the easiest ways to lower your tax bill is to save as much as you can for retirement. Contributions to retirement accounts, such as 401(k) plans and individual retirement accounts (IRAs), are not taxed and can greatly delay or even reduce tax.

Employers usually put a certain amount of money into retirement funds, and people who work for themselves can put in even more.

Invest Money

Investing can also put off or even lower your taxes, and there are many ways to spend, like stocks, bonds, and mutual funds. Before investing, you should talk to a financial adviser to make sure that the investment fits with your financial goals and how much risk you are willing to take.

Utilize Flexible Spending Plans

Flexible spending plans are another way to lower the amount of income that is taxed. Some employers have flexible spending plans that let workers save money before taxes to pay for things like health care and child care.

This can lower tax rates and reduce the amount of income that is taxed.

Consider Non-Qualified Deferred Compensation Contributions

Non-qualified deferred pay contributions are another option for people with high incomes. If a company has a deferred compensation plan, workers can lower their taxable income and save for after they retire.

High-income earners should also plan when they make big gains so they don't have to pay the Medicare surtax or get pushed into the 20% capital gains band.

Understand Different Types of Income

It's important to know that tax rates are different for different kinds of income, like income from work and income from investments. Taxes are paid on all kinds of income, whether it comes from a job, interest, dividends, profits, self-employment, or other sources.

The income can be in the form of services, money, or property.

On the other hand, capital gains tax is paid on income that comes from the sale or exchange of a capital object, such as a stock or property.

Know the Tax Rates for Capital Gains

Depending on the investor's total taxable income, capital gains are taxed at rates of 0, 15, or 20%. People with a taxable salary of $445,851 or more are in the highest tax bracket for capital gains, which is 20%.

Direct payments to owners, usually in the form of dividends or interest, are the main source of income from investments.

Dividends can be taxed in a few different ways, based on whether they are ordinary dividends or qualified dividends.

Ordinary dividends are taxed the same way as other types of income, but eligible dividends are taxed in a more favorable way, which could mean lower tax rates.

Be Aware of Exceptions

Different kinds of income are taxed at different rates by the US government. Some types of capital gains, like the money you make when you sell a stock you've owned for a long time, are usually taxed at a lower rate than your pay or interest income.

But not all capital gains are taxed at the same rate, and some may be taxed more.

The Net Investment Income Tax (NIIT), which adds a 3.8% surtax to certain sales of investments by people, estates, and trusts that are above a certain threshold, is another big exception.

Most of the time, this surtax is put on people with high incomes and a lot of capital gains from assets.

Factors Affecting Tax Brackets

Filing Status and Tax Brackets

Your tax rate is largely determined by how you file your taxes. There are four ways to file your taxes: as a single person, a married couple filing jointly, a married couple filing separately, or as the head of the family.

Your tax rate is based on your taxable income and how you file your taxes.

Your tax band will be based on your taxable income if you are single. But if you're married, you can choose whether to file together or separately. Married filing jointly can give you some tax benefits, like a bigger standard deduction, but if your combined income is high, it can also put you in a higher tax bracket.

On the other hand, filing separately may result in a higher tax bill, but it can also have some tax benefits, such as lowering your responsibility for your spouse's tax debts.

Head of home is another way that your tax bracket can change. Head of household position may be available to you if you are a single parent with children who depend on you. This filing status gives the taxpayer a bigger standard deduction than the single filing status, so a bigger portion of their income is taxed at a smaller rate.

Deductions and Tax Brackets

Deductions can also change your tax rate by lowering the amount of your income that is taxed. The more allowances you have, the less of your income is considered taxable. This means that less of your income is taxed at higher rates.

Donations to charity, mortgage interest, and state and local taxes are some of the most popular deductions.

Having Dependents and Tax Brackets

Your tax bracket can also change if you have children. Most single taxpayers with dependents can file as "head of household." This gives them a bigger standard deduction than "single," and a larger portion of their income is taxed at lower rates.

Because different people are eligible for different provisions, the tax benefit per dependent changes across the income range and within each income group.

Changes in Tax Laws and Policies

There are many ways that tax rules and policies can change tax brackets. For example, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) of 2017 made big changes to both business and household taxes, like changing the tax brackets.

The TCJA changed almost everyone in America because it raised the standard deduction and dropped the tax rate for corporations.

The independent Tax Policy Center said that everyone would save money on average because of the changes to the tax brackets.

But the changes will have different effects on different people.

Changes in tax rules and policies can also affect tax brackets by raising or lowering the tax rate on ordinary income. Higher-income households pay a bigger share of their income in taxes than lower-income households do.

The tax system would be more progressive if a policy change raised tax rates on ordinary income in the four highest levels by a larger amount.

This change would touch a smaller number of taxpayers, but it would raise tax rates by a bigger amount.

Inflation and Tax Brackets

The IRS changes tax rates to account for inflation, which can affect how much money people save on taxes. The agency changed a lot of its tax rules for 2023 to help taxpayers escape "bracket creep." This is when workers get pushed into higher tax brackets because of inflation-fighting cost-of-living adjustments, even though their standard of living hasn't changed.

Some taxpayers could save money on their taxes because of the changes.

This would be a relief at a time when Americans are still dealing with high inflation that is making their money go further.

But the changes to the tax brackets might not save everyone money, especially if their incomes went up by 7% or more.

Understanding Income Tax: How Tax Brackets Can Help You Save Money

If you're looking to save money, understanding income tax is crucial. Income tax is a percentage of your income that you pay to the government, and it's based on your tax bracket.

Tax brackets are ranges of income that determine how much you owe in taxes.

The higher your income, the higher your tax bracket, and the more you'll owe in taxes.

However, knowing your tax bracket can also help you save money.

By taking advantage of deductions and credits, you can lower your taxable income and potentially move down to a lower tax bracket.

This means you'll owe less in taxes and have more money in your pocket.

So, if you want to save money, take the time to understand your tax bracket and explore ways to lower your taxable income.

For more information:

Income Tax 101: Types, Calculations, and Savings

Common Mistakes and Informed Decisions

It is important to file your taxes properly if you want to save money and avoid penalties. Here are some common mistakes to avoid when doing your taxes, as well as ways to save money by making smart choices.

Understanding Tax Brackets

To file your taxes properly and save money, you need to know about tax brackets. A tax bracket is a set of incomes that are taxed at the same rate. The United States has a progressive tax system, which means that the amount of taxes due is based on the marginal tax rate.

A marginal tax rate is the amount of tax a taxpayer has to pay for each extra dollar of income that puts them in a higher tax band.

Math Errors

When people file their taxes, they often make math mistakes. Statistics from the IRS's 2018 fiscal year show that nearly 2.5 million math mistakes were made on tax forms for the 2017 tax year. The mistakes range from adding, subtracting, multiplying, or dividing by the wrong number to picking the wrong number from a tax table or plan.

Simple math mistakes are easy to avoid, though.

If you use tax software like TurboTax, most of the math will be done for you by the computer.

Claiming the Wrong Deductions and Credits

When paying taxes, people often make mistakes like claiming the wrong deductions and credits, filing under the wrong status, or putting down the wrong income. These mistakes can lead to an audit, a letter from the IRS, or other IRS communication.

When there is a math mistake on your tax return, the IRS will often send you a letter explaining how they plan to fix it and often propose to charge you more tax, fines, and interest.

Filing Too Early

Another mistake to avoid is filing too early. Even though taxes shouldn't file too early or too late, they shouldn't file too early either. Before filing their tax return, taxpayers should wait until they have all the papers they need.

If your tax return is missing information or isn't full, you may have to pay penalties and interest.

Knowing Your Tax Bracket

If you know your current tax rate, you can make better decisions about your money and possibly save money on taxes. Tax brackets are the biggest tax rate you pay on any part of your taxable income. To make smart tax planning decisions, you need to know which tax bracket you are in.

Some choices make sense for people in certain brackets, but not for people in other brackets.

The latest tax brackets can be found on the IRS website or in the instructions for your personal income tax form.

Ways to Save Money on Taxes

One way to save money on taxes is to put more money into your savings account, which will lower your taxable income. Most payments to a traditional IRA, 401(k), or 403(b) are made with money that has already been taxed.

This means that putting more money into either can help you save on taxes by lowering your taxable income.

Another way to save money on taxes is to look at the success of mutual funds and stocks.

If you own stocks, a tax pro can help you figure out if you can use tax-loss harvesting to offset capital gains and lower your taxes.

Understanding the Tax Implications of Savings Accounts

Knowing how different savings accounts affect your taxes can also help you choose the best places to save and spend your money. Even though taxable accounts may have higher interest rates, it is important to think about how taxes will affect your total returns.

Depending on your finances, there are times when tax-free accounts might be better.

Financial Literacy

Financial literacy is important if you want to make smart choices with your money, like making a budget, knowing how much to save, and choosing tax methods that are in your best interest. Financial literacy means understanding key financial ideas, like compound interest and the value of money over time, and knowing which investment vehicles are best to use when saving, whether for a financial goal like buying a home or for retirement.

Planning and saving enough to have enough money in retirement is important.

So is staying away from high amounts of debt that could lead to bankruptcy, defaults, and foreclosures.

Note: Please keep in mind that the estimate in this article is based on information available when it was written. It's just for informational purposes and shouldn't be taken as a promise of how much things will cost.

Prices and fees can change because of things like market changes, changes in regional costs, inflation, and other unforeseen circumstances.

Concluding thoughts and considerations

In the end, anyone who wants to save money needs to know about tax rates. If you understand how marginal and effective tax rates work, you can make smart choices about how to lower your taxable income and use deductions and refunds.

But it's important to know that tax brackets are not set in stone.

They can change based on things like changes in income or tax laws, among other things.

Before making big financial decisions, it's always a good idea to talk to a tax pro or do your own study to avoid making common mistakes.

In the end, the best way to save money on taxes is to stay educated and take charge of your money.

So, whether you're an experienced investor or just starting out, take the time to learn about tax rates and make decisions based on what you know.

This will help you keep more of the money you've worked hard for.

As the saying goes, a penny saved is a penny earned.

Your Freedom Plan

Tired of the daily grind? Do you have dreams of financial independence and freedom? Do you want to retire early to enjoy the things you love?

Are you ready to make your "Freedom Plan" and escape the rat race?

Future Freedom Plan

How Much of Your Paycheck Should You Save? (With Data)

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Links and references

  1. "How Tax Brackets Work for 2023" (blog post on
  2. "Adjusting Taxes for Inflation" (report on the IMF eLibrary)
  3. Federal Tax System overview on
  4. TurboTax website information on tax brackets

My article on the topic:

Tax Implications 101: Saving Money & Avoiding Mistakes

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