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2019-2020 tax brackets

How federal income tax rates work

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by Kathryn Parkman ConsumerAffairs Research Team
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The United States has seven federal income tax brackets that range from 10% to 37%. Federal tax brackets are divided by ranges of incomes. Tax brackets can change from year to year, depending on the laws Congress passes. Keep reading to find out how tax brackets work and how they affect you when you file your taxes.

2020 federal income tax brackets and rates

For the 2020 tax year, the seven federal tax brackets are 10%, 12%, 22%, 24%, 32%, 35% and 37%. Taxable income is your annual gross income minus any deductions. Taxable income and your filing status determine which tax bracket you’re in.

The lowest tax bracket starts at a taxable income of $9,875 and under for single filers, $19,750 and under for married filers and $14,100 for head-of-household filers. The highest tax bracket has a taxable income of $518,400 for singles and heads of households and $622,050 for those who are married.

For taxes due in April 2021 (or in October 2021 with an extension), see the federal tax bracket table below.

Tax rates by income range for 2020

Single individualsMarried individuals filing jointlyHeads of households
10%$0 - $9,875$0 - $19,750$0 - $14,100
12%$9,875 - $40,125$19,750 - $80,250$14,100 - $53,700
22%$40,125 - $85,525$80,250 - $171,050$53,700 - $85,500
24%$85,525 - $163,300$171,050 - $326,600$85,500 - $163,300
32%$163,300 - $207,350$326,600 - $414,700$163,300 - $207,350
35%$207,350 - $518,400$414,7001 - $622,050$207,350 - $518,400
37%$518,400+$622,050+$518,400+
Source: The Tax Foundation

Federal tax brackets for 2019

Below, see the federal tax bracket table for 2019.

Tax rates by income range for 2019

Single individualsMarried individuals filing jointlyHeads of households
10%$0 - $9,700$0 - $19,400$0 - $13,850
12%$9,700 - $39,475$19,400 - $78,950$13,850 - $52,850
22%$39,475 - $84,200$78,950 - $168,400$52,850 - $84,200
24%$84,200 - $160,725$168,400 - $321,450$84,200 - $160,700
32%$160,725 -$204,100$321,450 - $408,200$160,700 - $204,100
35%$204,100 - $510,300$408,200 - $612,350$204,100 - $510,300
37%$510,300+$612,350+$510,300+
Source: The Tax Foundation

Federal tax brackets for 2018

Below, see the IRS tax table for 2018

Tax rates by income range for 2018

Single individualsMarried individuals filing jointlyHeads of households
10%$0 - $9,525$0 - $19,050$0 - $13,600
12%$9,525 - $38,700$19,050 - $77,400$13,600 - $51,800
22%$38,700 - $82,500$77,400 - $165,000$51,800 - $82,500
24%$82,500 - $157,500$165,000 - $315,000$82,500 - $157,500
32%$157,500 - $200,000$315,000 - $400,000$157,500 - $200,000
35%$200,000 - $500,000$400,000 - $600,000$200,000 - $500,000
37%$500,000+$600,000+$500,000+
Source: The Tax Foundation

Federal tax brackets for 2017

Below, see the IRS tax table for 2017

Tax rates by income range for 2017

Single individualsMarried individuals filing jointlyHeads of households
10%$0 - $9,325$0 - $18,6500 - $13,350
12%$9,325 - $37,950$18,650 - $75,900$13,350 - $50,800
25%$37,950 - $91,900$75,900 - $153,100$50,800 - $131,200
28%$91,900 - $191,650$153,100 - $233,350$131,200 - $212,500
33%$191,650 - $416,700$233,350 - $416,700$212,500 - $416,700
35%$416,700 - $418,400$416,700 - $470,700$416,700 - $444,550
39.6%$418,400+$470,700+$444,550+
Source: The Tax Foundation

How do tax brackets work?

The United States has seven tax brackets, or income ranges, to determine individual income tax rates. Each tax bracket has a different rate, ranging from 10% to 37%, that applies to taxable income. Lower income brackets pay lower taxes and higher income brackets pay higher taxes. In other words, as taxable income increases, the rate increases.

Using tax brackets to calculate income taxes results in a progressive tax system. For instance, if a taxpayer’s income is higher than the range for the lowest tax bracket, it moves them up to the next tax bracket with a higher rate, and so on, until their total income does not exceed a tax bracket’s range. However, taxpayers are only taxed on income that falls within the particular bracket.

For example, a single filer who earned $50,000 in taxable income is in the 22% bracket for 2020, but they don’t pay $11,000 in taxes (22% of $50,000). They pay a 10% tax on $9,875, a 12% tax on $30,250 ($40,125 to $9,875) and a 22% tax on $9,875 ($50,000 to $40,125) for a total of $6,790 in taxes.

Income requirements for each tax bracket vary based on the taxpayer’s filing status. Most tax brackets for married taxpayers are twice the amount of those for single individuals.

Tax bracket FAQ

How do you know what tax bracket you’re in?
To know what tax bracket you’re in, you have to know how much your yearly taxable income is. Taxable income is your gross annual income minus any allowable tax deductions. Your bracket is determined by that amount.
How are tax brackets calculated?
Tax brackets are calculated based on annual taxable income, filing status and the year you’re filing taxes. Portions of income are taxed at different rates according to each tax bracket your income falls in.
What is alternative minimum tax?
Alternative minimum tax (AMT) is another method of calculating taxable income that helps ensure wealthy taxpayers pay at least the minimum amount of tax. When calculating AMT, certain itemized deductions and adjustments used in the standard way of calculating taxable income are not allowed, including state and local taxes, medical expenses, mortgage interest on home equity debt and accelerated depreciation. Taxpayers pay whichever calculation method, standard or AMT, results in the higher tax due.
What is a marginal tax rate?
A marginal tax rate is the rate taxpayers pay on taxable income. Marginal tax rates in the United States vary by income, and the IRS currently uses seven different income ranges, or federal tax brackets, to determine that rate.

Each of the seven U.S. tax brackets has a different marginal tax rate ranging from 10% to 37%. As income increases, taxpayers only pay a higher marginal tax rate for each dollar that passes the income range threshold for the next tax bracket. Unless a taxpayer’s income is within the range for the lowest tax bracket, they pay multiple marginal tax rates on their income.

What is the minimum income to file taxes?
The minimum income to file taxes depends on your filing status and age and can change from year to year. For example, in 2019, the minimum income for a single individual under 65 years old was $12,200. See the list below for all 2019 minimum income requirements.
  • Single filing status:
    • $12,200 for under 65
    • $13,850 for 65 or older
  • Married filing jointly:
    • $24,400 when both spouses are under 65
    • $25,700 when one spouse is under 65 and one is 65 or older
    • $27,000 when both spouses are 65 or older
  • Married filing separately: 
    • $5 for all ages
  • Head of household:
    • $18,350 for under 65
    • $20,000 for 65 or older
  •  Qualifying widow(er) with dependent child:
    • $24,400 for under 65
    • $25,700 for 65 or older
What is a high tax bracket?
A high tax bracket is any bracket that has a tax rate higher than 30%. The top three tax brackets have tax rates of 32%, 35% and 37%.
Is Medicare and Social Security included in the federal tax rate?
No, the taxes you pay for Medicare and Social Security are not included as part of your taxable income and are therefore not subject to the federal income tax rate.

Bottom line: Income tax brackets and rates

Tax brackets in the U.S. are based on your income and filing status. If you make more, you pay a higher percent of your income in taxes (unlike a flat tax system where everyone’s income is taxed at the same rate). If your taxable income falls in more than one tax bracket, only the portion of your income within the bracket is taxed at that rate. Tax brackets change from year to year depending on changes in income, filing status, inflation and new tax laws.

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    Profile picture of Kathryn Parkman
    by Kathryn Parkman ConsumerAffairs Research Team

    As a member of the ConsumerAffairs Research Team, Kathryn Parkman believes everyone deserves easy access to accurate and comprehensive information on products and businesses before they make a purchase, which is why she spends hours researching companies and industries for ConsumerAffairs. She believes conscious consumption is everyone's responsibility and that all content deserves integrity.