Nobody likes paying taxes, but they’re an unfortunate fact of life. Each April, you need to file your tax return to let the government know how much you made and to determine the total income tax that you owe. The US federal government income tax code uses tax brackets based on your income to determine how much you owe.

As your income increases, you pay a higher tax rate on some of your income. We’ll cover everything you need to know.

What is a Tax Bracket?

A tax bracket is a certain range of income and the corresponding tax rate that applies to that range of income.

👉 For Example

You could have a tax bracket applying to incomes from $0 to $50,000 with a tax rate of 15%. All income that falls into that range gets taxed at that rate.

Federal income taxes have many tax brackets with lower tax rates applying to lower levels of income and higher tax rates applying to higher levels of income.

Filing Status

Federal income taxes rely on various tax brackets that increase the tax rate on higher earners. However, to make things a bit more complicated, there are actually four sets of tax brackets based on your filing status.

Your personal situation determines your filing status, which determines which set of tax brackets applies to you. The four filing status options are:

  • Single. This is for most individuals who are not married.
  • Married, filing jointly. This is for most married people who file a joint tax return.
  • Married, filing separately. This applies to married people who each file their own tax returns. Generally filing jointly is the better financial choice.
  • Head of household. This is for unmarried people who have a qualifying child or dependent and who pay for more than half of their household’s expenses.

Each set of tax brackets uses the same tax rates, however, which incomes those rates apply to will vary.

2021 Tax Brackets

For 2021, federal income tax brackets were:

Tax rate Single Married, filing jointly Married, filing separately Head of household
10% $0 to $9,950 $0 to $19,900 $0 to $9,950 $0 to $14,200
12% $9,951 to $40,525 $19,901 to $81,050 $9,951 to $40,525 $14,201 to $54,200
22% $40,526 to $86,375 $81,051 to $172,750 $40,526 to $86,375 $54,201 to $86,350
24% $86,376 to $164,925 $172,751 to $329,850 $86,376 to $164,925 $86,351 to $164,900
32% $164,926 to $209,425 $329,851 to $418,850 $164,926 to $209,425 $164,901 to $209,400
35% $209,426 to $523,600 $418,851 to $628,300 $209,426 to $314,150 $209,401 to $523,600
37% $523,601 or more $628,301 or more $314,151 or more $523,601 or more

2022 Tax Brackets

For 2022, federal income tax brackets are:

Tax rate Single Married, filing jointly Married, filing separately Head of household
10% $0 to $10,275 $0 to $20,550 $0 to $10,275 $0 to $14,650
12% $10,276 to $41,775 $20,551 to $83,550 $10,276 to $41,775 $14,651 to $55,900
22% $41,776 to $89,075 $83,551 to $178,150 $41,776 to $89,075 $55,901 to $89,050
24% $89,076 to $170,050 $178,151 to $340,100 $89,076 to $170,050 $89,051 to $170,050
32% $170,051 to $215,950 $340,101 to $431,900 $170,051 to $215,950 $170,051 to $215,950
35% $215,951 to $539,900 $431,901 to $647,850 $215,951 to $323,925 $215,951 to $539,900
37% $539,900 or more $647,850 or more $332,925 or more $539,900 or more

A Common Misconception – Earning More Won’t Hurt You

There is a common misconception surrounding tax brackets that earning more can push you into a higher tax bracket, which can result in you losing money overall.

To use the 2022 tax brackets as an example, the misconception goes that if you’re earning $40,000 a year, you fall into the 12% tax bracket, making your tax bill $4,800. If you get a $2,000 raise, you now make $42,000 a year and wind up in the 22% tax bracket, making your tax bill $9,240, an increase in taxes of more than $2,000.

☝ This is not true. The tax rates that correspond to each tax bracket apply to the income that falls within that range. Only the income that falls into the higher tax brackets is taxed at the higher rate.

👉 For Example

How it would really work is that if you make $40,000, the first $10,275 you earn is taxed at 10% because it falls into the 10% tax bracket. Income above $10,275 but below $41,775 is taxed at 12%. That means someone earning $40,000 would pay:

($10,275 * 10%) + (($40,000 - $10,275) * 12%) = $4,594.50

When you get a raise to $42,000, only the $250 of your earnings that falls into the 22% tax bracket gets taxed at the 22% tax rate, making your total tax bill:

($10,275 * 10%) + (($41,775 - $10,275) * 12%) + (($42,000 - $41,775) * 22%) = $4,857

Put simply, you don’t have to worry about increasing your earnings but taking less money home due to moving into a higher tax bracket.

How to Calculate Your Tax Bill

There are plenty of tax calculators out there, but if you want to calculate your tax bill on your own, it’s not so hard to do. You’ll need three pieces of information:

  • Your income for the year
  • Any deductions you can take
  • Your filing status

Most people will benefit the most from taking the standard deduction, which lets you subtract a flat amount from your income before calculating taxes. The amount you subtract depends on your filing status. For 2022, the standard deduction is:

  • Single: $12,950
  • Married, filing jointly: $25,900
  • Married, filing separately: $12,950
  • Head of household: $19,400

Steps to Calculate Your Tax Bill

Time needed: 10 minutes.

Follow these steps to calculate your tax bill

  1. Determine your taxable income

    Take your income and subtract any deductions from that amount. This is your taxable income.

  2. Determine your filing status

    Look at the tax brackets that correspond to your filing status.

  3. Calculate the tax amount for each tax bracket

    Multiply the tax rates by the amount of income you have that falls into each bracket.
    For example, if you’re a single filer who earned $40,000, you’ll multiply the first $10,275 you earned by 10% and the remainder of your income by 12%.

  4. Sum up the number

    Find the sum of those numbers to find your overall income tax bill.

Throughout the year, your employer should have withheld a portion of your income to pay taxes. If your tax bill is less than was withheld, you’ll get a refund when you file your return. If it’s more, you’ll owe money to the IRS. Thankfully, unless you owe a huge amount, all you have to do is send a payment along with your tax return.

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