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Tax Brackets 2019: How Much Tax You Owe

By Nick Zarzycki — Reviewed by Janet Berry-Johnson, CPA on February 26, 2020

Tax brackets are how the IRS determines which income levels get taxed at which federal income tax rates. The higher the income you report on your tax return, the higher your tax rate.

Here we’ll go over the new IRS federal tax brackets for 2020, how to figure out which ones you fall into, and give you a heads up about any other inflation-related changes to your taxes in 2020.

What are the federal income tax brackets for 2019?

Which tax bracket you fall into in the United States also depends on your filing status. Here are the 2020 tax brackets according to the IRS for the four most common filing statuses: individual single filers, married individuals filing jointly, heads of households, and married individuals filing separately:

Tax rate Individual single filers Married filing jointly or qualifying widow(er) Married filing separately Head of household
10% $0 - $9,875 $0 - $19,750 $0 - $9,875 $0 - $14,100
12% $9,876 - $40,125 $19,751 - $80,250 $9,876 - $40,125 $14,101 - $53,700
22% $40,126 - $85,525 $80,251 - $171,050 $40,126 - $85,525 $53,701 - $85,500
24% $85,526 - $163,300 $171,051 - $326,600 $85,526 - $163,300 $85,501 - $163,300
32% $163,301 - $207,350 $326,601 - $414,700 $163,301 - $207,350 $163,301 - $207,350
35% $207,351 - $518,400 $414,701 - $622,050 $207,351 - $518,400 $207,351 - $518,400
37% $518,401+ $622,051+ $518,401+ $$518,401+

How do tax brackets work?

Tax brackets are based on your taxable income, which is what you get when you take all of the money you’ve earned and subtract all of the tax deductions you’re eligible for.

Once you’ve calculated your taxable income, it’s time to look at the IRS’s tax rate schedule—a fancy term for ‘big list of tax system brackets’—for the year you’re doing your taxes for.

(Keep in mind, these brackets are for income tax only; capital gains tax uses its own set of brackets.)

Let’s take the IRS tax brackets for individual single filers for 2020:

Tax rate Total taxable income
10% $0 - $9,875
12% $9,876 - $40,125
22% $40,126 - $85,525
24% $85,526 - $163,300
32% $163,301 - $207,350
35% $207,351 - $518,400
37% $518,401+

Unless you make $9,875 or less in taxable income in 2020, you’ll fall into at least two brackets this year, and different parts of your income will be taxed at a different rate.

For example, let’s say that your taxable income ends up being $20,000. That means you’ll fall into two different tax brackets and get taxed at two different rates:

  • the $0 - $9,875 bracket, which taxes you at 10%

  • the $9,876 - $40,125 bracket, which taxes you at 12%

So you’ll pay two different tax rates: 10% on the first $9,875 ‘chunk’ of your income, and 12% on every dollar you made above $9,875.

In equation form, we’d write this out as:

Total tax = (10% x $9,875) + (12% x [$20,000-$9,875])

Total tax = $987.50 + $1,215

Total tax bill = $2,202.50

We call the highest tax rate that you pay your marginal tax rate. In this example, your marginal tax rate is 12%.

How do I calculate my taxes using these tax brackets?

The math involved in calculating how much you owe from each ‘chunk’ of income can get complicated. To make things easier, here are four cheat sheets for determining the amount of tax you need to pay, organized by filing status:

Individual single filers

Remember: if on the last day of the year you’re unmarried or legally separated from your spouse and you don’t qualify for another filing status, you’ll file your taxes as an individual single taxpayer for 2020.

Here’s how much you’ll be taxed:

If your total taxable income for 2019 was… Then your taxes will be…
$0 - $9,875 10% of your taxable income
$9,876 - $40,125 $987.50 plus 12% of any income you made above $9,875
$40,126 - $85,525 $4,617.38 plus 22% of any income you made above $40,126
$85,526 - $163,300 $14,605.16 plus 24% of any income you made above $85,525
$163,301 - $207,350 $33270.92 plus 32% of any income you made above $163,300
$207,351 - $518,400 $47,366.6 plus 35% of any income you made above $207,351
$518,401+ $156,233.75 plus 37% of any income you made above $518,401

Married filing jointly or qualifying widow(er)

If you’re married and both you and your spouse agree to file a joint return, or you’re a qualifying widow(er), use the following to figure out your taxes for 2019:

If your total taxable income for 2019 was… Then your taxes will be…
$0 - $19,750 10% of your taxable income
$19,751 - $80,250 $1,975 plus 12% of any income you made above $19,750
$80,251 - $171,050 $9,235 plus 22% of any income you made above $80,250
$171,051 - $326,600 $29,211 plus 24% of any income you made above $171,050
$326,601 - $414,700 $66,543 plus 32% of any income you made above $326,600
$414,701 - $622,050 $94,735 plus 35% of any income you made above $414,700
$622,051+ $167,307.50 plus 37% of any income you made above $622,050

Married filing separately

If you’re married and you decide that filing individually could lower your tax burden, or you and your spouse don’t agree to file a joint return, you’ll use this filing status.

Here’s how much married individuals filing separately will pay in 2019:

If your total taxable income for 2019 was… Then your taxes will be…
$0 - $9,875 10% of your taxable income
$9,876 - $40,125 $987.50 plus 12% of any income you made above $9,875
$40,126 - $85,525 $4,617.38 plus 22% of any income you made above $40,126
$85,526 - $163,300 $14,605.16 plus 24% of any income you made above $85,525
$163,301 - $207,350 $33270.92 plus 32% of any income you made above $163,300
$207,351 - $518,400 $47,366.6 plus 35% of any income you made above $207,351
$518,401+ $156,233.75 plus 37% of any income you made above $518,401

Head of household

If you:

  • Are unmarried
  • Paid more than half the cost of keeping up a home for the year
  • Live with a qualifying person for more than half the year

Then you might qualify for the “head of household” filing status, and you’ll use the following to figure out your taxes for 2019:

If your total taxable income for 2019 was… Then your taxes will be…
$0 - $14,100 10% of your taxable income
$14,101 - $53,700 $1,410 plus 12% of any income you made above $14,100
$53,701 - $85,500 $6,162 plus 22% of any income you made above $53,700
$85,501 - $163,300 $13,158 plus 24% of any income you made above $85,500
$163,301 - $207,350 $31,830 plus 32% of any income you made above $163,300
$207,351 - $518,400 $45,926 plus 35% of any income you made above $207,350
$518,401+ $154,793 plus 37% of any income you made above $518,400

Why do tax brackets change every year?

If you compare this year’s tax brackets to the ones from 2019, you might notice they’ve all been slightly adjusted. Why is that?

It all has to do with inflation. Every year the IRS tweaks the tax brackets to prevent “bracket creep,” which is what happens when inflation pushes you into a higher tax bracket.

If you haven’t looked up your bracket since 2017, there’s a major tax reform you should look out for. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act passed in December of 2017 changed the way the IRS calculates inflation, which will mean smaller annual inflation adjustments down the road.

That increases your chances of getting bumped up into a higher tax bracket every year. If you just barely avoided entering a higher tax bracket this year and think you might be a borderline case next year, make sure to follow the IRS’s inflation adjustment announcements closely.

What are some other inflation adjustments I should look out for?

We mentioned earlier that the IRS’s tax brackets apply to your taxable income, which is what you get when you apply certain adjustments and deductions to your revenue.

One other way that the IRS helps guard against bracket creep is by adjusting the values of deductions to keep up with inflation. Here are the main ones you should look out for:

The standard deduction

Your standard deduction—the portion of your income that is protected from taxes—gets adjusted every year to keep up with inflation. For the 2019 tax year, the standard deduction amounts are:

  • $12,400 for single filers (up $200 from 2019)
  • $12,400 for married taxpayers who file their taxes separately (up $200 from 2019)
  • $18,650 for heads of households (up $300 from 2019)
  • $24,800 for married taxpayers who file jointly (up $400 from 2019)
  • $24,800 for qualifying widows or widowers (up $400 from 2019)

Adjustments to income

Adjustments are a special kind of deduction that lets you reduce your taxable income even before you start applying the standard deduction or itemizing. You can find a summary of all the updated adjustment figures on the IRS website here.

Tax credits

Unlike deductions, which only reduce your taxable income, tax credits reduce your taxes directly. Tax credits that the IRS adjusted for inflation this year include:

The earned income credit, which increased to a range of $538 to $6,660, depending on your filing status and the number of children you have, up slightly from $529 to $6,557 in 2019 (See pages 12 and 13 of this revenue procedure for a full list of categories and thresholds.)

The adjusted gross income at which you start to lose the lifetime learning credit increased to $59,000 in 2020 for single filers, up from $58,000 in 2019. For married couples filing jointly, the credit starts to phase out when your 2019 AGI reaches $118,000, up from $116,000 in 2020.

The maximum amount of qualified adoption expenses you can use to determine your adoption credit increased to $14,300 per child, up from $14,080 in 2019.

The refundable child tax credit remains $1,400, the same as in 2019.

Further Reading: How to Check Your Tax Refund Status in 5 Minutes


This post is to be used for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal, business, or tax advice. Each person should consult his or her own attorney, business advisor, or tax advisor with respect to matters referenced in this post. Bench assumes no liability for actions taken in reliance upon the information contained herein.

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