Understanding Marginal vs. Effective Tax Rates

Oct 4, 2022 | Newsletter, Tax

Understanding marginal and effective tax rates are important for tax planning purposes; however, many taxpayers don’t fully understand the differences. Let’s take a closer look:

Marginal Tax Rate

The United States has a progressive tax system. The more money you earn, the higher your tax rate is and the more taxes you pay to the IRS. In 2022, there are seven tax brackets ranging from 10% to 37%. If you earn $35,000 a year as a single filer, you are in the 12% tax bracket. If you make $550,000 a year as a single filer, you are in the 37% tax bracket. These brackets represent the percentage of taxes you pay based on your taxable income and are referred to as marginal tax rates. When someone says they are in the 35% tax bracket, this is typically what they are referring to – and this is where the confusion begins.

For many taxpayers, their income is the same as their earnings from wages; however, taxpayers should note that income from capital gains may be taxed differently. Short-term capital gains are generally taxed as ordinary income subject to the seven tax brackets mentioned above. Long-term capital gains, however, are taxed at 0%, 15%, and 20%.

Due to the way, the tax code is set up and because marginal tax rates apply to each additional level of income above your tax bracket’s income limit, it is not as straightforward as it seems. If you earn $100,000 and are in the 24% tax bracket, it doesn’t mean that you pay a 24% tax on your earned income (0.24 x $100,000 = $24,000).

To illustrate how this works, let’s look at the following example for a single taxpayer earning $100,000 of annual income in 2022 (i.e., filing a tax return in April 2023). The amount of tax owed breaks down as follows:

    • 10% Bracket: ($10,275 – $0) x 10% = $1027.50
    • 12% Bracket: ($41,775 – $10,275) x 12% = $3,780.00
    • 22% Bracket: ($89,075 – $41,775) x 22% = $10,406.00
    • 24% Bracket: ($100,000 – $89,075) x 24% = $2,622.00

Total tax = $17,835.50

In the example above, the marginal tax rate (tax bracket) on $100,000 of income is 24%, but the effective tax rate is closer to 18% ($17,835.50/$100,000) – without taking any deduction that reduces taxable income.

Effective Tax Rate

The effective tax rate is the actual amount of federal income taxes paid on a taxpayer’s taxable income and more accurately represents the amount of tax most people pay. The effective tax rate does not include state taxes and local taxes, FICA taxes, or self-employment tax.

Many taxpayers take advantage of tax credits and deductions that reduce taxable income, such as the standard deduction, tax-deductible contributions to a retirement or pension plan, health savings account, tax credits for dependent children, and charitable contributions.

Calculating your effective tax rate is relatively simple: Divide your total tax liability by your gross (before tax) annual income. For example, if you made $100,000 (single filer), took the standard deduction of $12,950 in 2022, reducing your income to $87,050, and paid $14,768.00 in tax, the effective tax rate is closer to 15 percent even though you are in the “24%” tax bracket.

Questions?

If you feel like too much of your hard-earned money goes straight to the IRS instead of your bank account, please call the office to learn more about tax planning strategies that could save you money.

There May Still Be Time to Lower Your 2023 Tax Bill

There May Still Be Time to Lower Your 2023 Tax Bill

If you're preparing to file your 2023 tax return, you may still be able to lower your tax bill - or increase your refund. If you qualify, you can make a deductible contribution to a traditional IRA right up until the original filing deadline, April 15, 2024, and see...

Tracking Down Donation Substantiation

Tracking Down Donation Substantiation

If you're like many Americans, your mailbox may have been filling up in recent weeks with letters from your favorite charities acknowledging your 2023 donations. But what happens if you haven't received such a letter for a contribution? Can you still claim a deduction...

How to Secure a Tax Benefit with the QBI Deduction

How to Secure a Tax Benefit with the QBI Deduction

QBI may sound like the name of a TV quiz show. But it's actually the acronym for "qualified business income," which can trigger a tax deduction for some small business owners or self-employed individuals. The QBI deduction was authorized by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act...

Traveling for Business in 2024? What’s Deductible?

Traveling for Business in 2024? What’s Deductible?

If you and your employees will be traveling for business this year, there are many factors to keep in mind. Under the tax law, certain requirements for out-of-town business travel within the United States must be met before you can claim a deduction. The rules apply...