Tax Brackets

Tax brackets are divisions in income at which your income tax rate changes. Once your income rises above one of these divisions, that income is taxed at a higher rate than the income below it. The federal government has seven tax brackets and states have up to 12 brackets for income taxes.

Terry Turner, Financial writer for Annuity.org
  • Written By
    Terry Turner

    Terry Turner

    Senior Financial Writer and Financial Wellness Facilitator

    Terry Turner is a senior financial writer for Annuity.org. He holds a financial wellness facilitator certificate from the Financial Wellness Foundation and the National Wellness Institute, and he is an active member of the Association for Financial Counseling & Planning Education (AFCPE®).

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    Lee Williams
    Lee Williams, Senior Financial Editor for Annuity.org

    Lee Williams

    Senior Financial Editor

    Lee Wiliams is a financial editor for Annuity.org. As a professional writer, editor and content strategist, Lee has strengthened the brand storytelling for global and nationally recognized brands in the higher education, advertising and marketing fields.

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  • Financially Reviewed By
    Peggy James, CPA
    Peggy James CPA

    Peggy James, CPA

    Certified Public Accountant

    Peggy James is a certified public accountant with a Master of Accounting. She has spent the past several years of her career focused on working in higher education finance roles. Peggy also has accounting and finance experience working in the corporate and nonprofit sectors.

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  • Updated: September 20, 2022
  • This page features 7 Cited Research Articles
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APA Turner, T. (2022, September 20). Tax Brackets. Annuity.org. Retrieved October 3, 2022, from https://www.annuity.org/personal-finance/taxes/tax-brackets/

MLA Turner, Terry. "Tax Brackets." Annuity.org, 20 Sep 2022, https://www.annuity.org/personal-finance/taxes/tax-brackets/.

Chicago Turner, Terry. "Tax Brackets." Annuity.org. Last modified September 20, 2022. https://www.annuity.org/personal-finance/taxes/tax-brackets/.

What Are the U.S. Federal Tax Brackets for 2021?

Your bracket is determined by how much taxable income you receive each year and your filing status. There are four filing statuses and seven graduated tax rates for 2021 taxes due on April 18, 2022.

Federal Income Tax Filing Statuses
Single
You can file as single if you are not married or are divorced as long as you are not claimed as a dependent on someone else’s tax return.
Head of household
You can file as head of household if you are unmarried, divorced, have a qualifying child or dependent and paid more than half the costs of running the household where the child or dependent lived for at least half of the year.
Married filing jointly
Couples married by December 31 have the option to file a joint tax return for that year.
Married filing separately
Couples married by December 31 have the option to file separate tax returns for that year.

Each of these filing statuses has its own tax brackets. The brackets are beginning and end points at which your income is taxed at a specific rate. Understanding how tax brackets work – and which bracket your income falls into – can be helpful in your overall personal finance strategy.

2021 Tax Brackets by Filing Status
TAX RATE SINGLE FILERS TAX BRACKETS HEAD OF HOUSEHOLD TAX BRACKETS MARRIED FILING JOINTLY OR QUALIFYING WIDOW TAX BRACKETS MARRIED FILING SEPARATELY TAX BRACKETS
10%$0 to $9,950 $0 to $14,200$0 to $19,900 $0 to $9,950
12% $9,951 to $40,525 $14,201 to $54,200 $19,901 to $81,050 $9,951 to $40,525
22% $40,526 to $86,375$54,201 to $86,350 $81,051 to $172,750$40,526 to $86,375
24% $86,376 to $164,925 $86,351 to $164,900 $172,751 to $329,850 $86,376 to $164,925
32% $164,926 to $209,425 $164,901 to $209,400 $329,851 to $418,850 $164,926 to $209,425
35% $209,426 to $523,600 $209,401 to $523,600 $418,851 to $628,300 $209,426 to $314,150
37% More than $523,600 More than $523,600 More than $628,300 More than $314,150

Marginal Tax Rate

The terms tax rate and tax bracket are often used interchangeably, but they are different things.

The marginal tax rate is the tax rate you pay on an additional dollar of income. The federal income tax’s progressive nature causes the marginal tax rate to increase as your taxable income increases. These different percentage amounts – or tax rates – are broken into seven tax brackets.

A tax bracket is a certain block of your income. Each tax bracket has a different tax rate. Unless your income is in the lowest bracket, your income will fall into multiple tax brackets.

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How Do Tax Brackets Work?

The federal income tax is a progressive system. People who make higher incomes are taxed at progressively higher rates.

The federal government divides your income into blocks of money. Each block is a tax bracket. Each bracket of income is taxed at a progressively higher rate.

Not all of your income is taxed at the highest rate for your income. Each block of income is taxed at the rate for that particular bracket.

Take a look at the 2021 tax brackets if you filed single with $60,000 in taxable income.

2021 Tax Rates and Tax Brackets
TAX RATETAX BRACKET
10% $0 to $9,950
12% $9,951 to $40,525
22% $40,526 to $86,375
Examples of How Tax Brackets Work (2021)
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How To Reduce Your Tax Bill

There are steps you can take to legally reduce your tax bill by getting into a lower tax bracket. These generally work best if you are on the edge of a higher tax bracket where slightly lowering your income could keep you from crossing that line.

Options To Move Into a Lower Tax Bracket
Tax deductions
Tax deductions such as charitable contributions can lower your taxable income, reducing your tax bill and possibly keeping you in a lower tax bracket.
Earned income tax credit (EITC)
The EITC helps low to moderate income taxpayers with a tax break. People who qualify can use the credit to reduce their tax liability and this may move them to a lower tax bracket.
Child tax credit
You can claim the child tax credit for each dependent child. This reduces your tax liability on a dollar-for-dollar basis and may add up to enough to move your taxable income to a lower tax bracket.
Other strategies
If you delay income until after the first of the year, this may keep that income from being taxed at a higher rate this year. You can also make last-minute contributions to tax-deferred or tax-exempt accounts such as a health savings account, 401(k) or individual retirement account (IRA) to lower your taxable income.

You may be able to use multiple strategies, credits and deductions to significantly reduce your tax liability, keeping your taxable income within a lower tax bracket. Tax preparation software and professionals may also help you find additional tax breaks that can help reduce your tax bill.

State Tax Brackets

Individual income taxes accounted for 38 percent of all state tax collections in 2018, according to the nonprofit Tax Foundation. But state income tax brackets – and state income tax laws – vary from state to state.

State Income Taxes by the Numbers
  • 42 states collect individual income taxes.
    • 41 states tax only wage and salary income.
    • 1 state (New Hampshire) only taxes dividend and interest income.
  • Eight states collect no state income taxes.
  • Nine states that collect income taxes have single-rates applying to all taxable income

The eight states that collect no state income taxes obviously have no state tax brackets.

States With No Income Tax
  • Alaska
  • Florida
  • Nevada
  • South Dakota
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Washington
  • Wyoming
Source: Tax Foundation

The tax rate differs among the nine states that collect a flat rate on income from salaries and wages. New Hampshire also has a flat rate for all interest and dividend income – the only income taxed by that state.

States With a Flat Income Tax Rate
  • Colorado
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Kentucky
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • New Hampshire
  • North Carolina
  • Pennsylvania
  • Utah
Source: Tax Foundation

Of the 32 states and the District of Columbia that have graduated-rate income taxes, the number of tax brackets vary widely. Hawaii has 12 brackets, the most of any state.

The Federation of Tax Administrators provides links to the state tax agencies for all 50 states plus Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia. You can contact your state tax agency to find more information about your state’s income tax brackets and income tax rates.

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Last Modified: September 20, 2022
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7 Cited Research Articles

Annuity.org writers adhere to strict sourcing guidelines and use only credible sources of information, including authoritative financial publications, academic organizations, peer-reviewed journals, highly regarded nonprofit organizations, government reports, court records and interviews with qualified experts. You can read more about our commitment to accuracy, fairness and transparency in our editorial guidelines.

  1. Chang, E. and Washington, K. (2021, May 14). What Is My Tax Bracket? 2020-2021 Federal Tax Brackets. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/advisor/taxes/taxes-federal-income-tax-bracket/
  2. Congressional Research Service. (2020, November 9). The Federal Income Tax: How Do Marginal Income Tax Rates Work in 2020? Retrieved from https://crsreports.congress.gov/product/pdf/IN/IN11530
  3. Federation of Tax Administrators. (n.d.). State Tax Agencies. Retrieved from https://www.taxadmin.org/state-tax-agencies
  4. Loughead, K. (2021, February 17). State Individual Income Tax Rates and Brackets for 2021. Retrieved from https://taxfoundation.org/publications/state-individual-income-tax-rates-and-brackets/
  5. U.S. Internal Revenue Service. (2020, October 26). IRS Provides Tax Inflation Adjustments for Tax Year 2021. Retrieved from https://www.irs.gov/newsroom/irs-provides-tax-inflation-adjustments-for-tax-year-2021
  6. The White House. (2021, September 23). What Is the Average Federal Individual Income Tax Rate on the Wealthiest Americans? Retrieved from https://www.whitehouse.gov/cea/blog/2021/09/23/what-is-the-average-federal-individual-income-tax-rate-on-the-wealthiest-americans/
  7. WTOP. (2021, October 28). Tax-Filing in 2022: What's My Tax Bracket? Retrieved from https://wtop.com/news/2021/10/tax-filing-in-2022-whats-my-tax-bracket/