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Tax Brackets 2019: How Much Tax You Owe

By Nick Zarzycki on September 26, 2019

Tax brackets are how the IRS determines which income levels get taxed at which tax rate. The higher your income is, the higher your tax rate.

Here we’ll go over the new IRS tax brackets for 2019, 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 2019.

What are the tax brackets for 2019?

Which tax bracket you fall into also depends on your filing status. Here are the 2019 tax brackets for the four most popular filing statuses: individual single taxpayers, married individuals filing jointly, heads of households, and married individuals filing separately:

Tax rate Individual single taxpayers Married filing jointly or qualifying widow(er) Married filing separately Head of household
10% $0 - $9,700 $0 - $19,400 $0 - $9,700 $0 - $13,850
12% $9,701 - $39,475 $19,401 - $78,950 $9,701 - $39,475 $13,850 - $52,850
22% $39,476 - $84,200 $78,951 - $168,400 $39,476 - $84,200 $52,850 - $84,200
24% $84,201 - $160,725 $168,401 - $321,450 $84,201 - $160,725 $84,200 - $160,700
32% $160,726 - $204,100 $321,451 - $408,200 $160,726 - $204,100 $160,700 - $204,100
35% $204,101 - $510,300 $408,201 - $612,350 $204,101 - $306,175 $204,100 - $510,300
37% $510,300+ $612,351+ $306,176+ $510,300+

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 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 brackets’—for the year you’re doing your taxes for.

Let’s take the IRS tax brackets for individual single taxpayers for 2019:

Tax rate Total taxable income
10% $0-$9,700
12% $9,701-$39,475
22% $39,476-$84,200
24% $84,201-$160,725
32% $160,726-$204,100
35% $204,100-$510,300
37% $510,301+

Unless you make $9,700 or less in taxable income in 2019, 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-$9,700 bracket, which taxes you at 10%
  • the $9,701-$39,475 bracket, which taxes you at 12%

So you’ll pay two different tax rates: 10% on the first $9,700 ‘chunk’ of your income, and 12% on every dollar you made above $9,700.

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

Total tax = (10% x $9,700) + (12% x [$20,000-$9,700])
Total tax = $970 + $1,236
Total tax = $2,206

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

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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 your tax rate, organized by filing status:

Individual single taxpayers

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 2019.

Here’s how much you’ll be taxed:

If your total taxable income for 2019 was… Then your taxes will be…
$0 - $9,700 10% of your taxable income
$9,701 - $39,475 $970 plus 12% of any income you made above $9,700
$39,476 - $84,200 $4,543.50 plus 22% of any income you made above $39,475
$84,201 - $160,725 $14,382.50 plus 24% of any income you made above $84,200
$160,7265 - $204,100 $32,748.50 plus 32% of any income you made above $160,725
$204,101 - $510,300 $46,628.50 plus 35% of any income you made above $204,100
$510,301+ $153,798.50 plus 37% of any income you made above $510,300

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 - $19,400 10% of your taxable income
$19,401 - $78,950 $1,940 plus 12% of any income you made above $19,400
$78,951 - $168,400 $9,086 plus 22% of any income you made above $78,950
$168,401 - $321,450 $28,765 plus 24% of any income you made above $168,400
$321,451- $408,200 $65,497 plus 32% of any income you made above $321,450
$408,201 - $612,350 $93,257 plus 35% of any income you made above $408,200
$612,351+ $164,709.50 plus 37% of any income you made above $612,350

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 - $9,700 10% of your taxable income
$9,701 - $39,475 $970 plus 12% of any income you made above $9,700
$39,476 - $84,200 $4,543 plus 22% of any income you made above $39,475
$84,201 - $160,725 $14,382.50 plus 24% of any income you made above $84,200
$160,726 - $204,100 $32,748.50 plus 32% of any income you made above $160,725
$204,101 – $306,175 $46,628.50 plus 35% of any income you made above $204,100
$306,176+ $82,354.50 plus 37% of any income you made above $306,175

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 – $13,850 10% of your taxable income
$13,851 – $52,850 $1,385 plus 12% of any income you made above $13,850
$52,851 – $84,200 $6,065 plus 22% of any income you made above $52,850
$84,201 – $160,700 $12,962 plus 24% of any income you made above $84,200
$160,701 – $204,100 $31,322 plus 32% of any income you made above $160,701
$204,101 – $510,300 $45,210 plus 35% of any income you made above $204,100
$510,301+ $152,380 plus 37% of any income you made above $510,300

Why do tax brackets change every year?

If you compare this year’s tax brackets to the ones from 2018, 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 tax bracket since 2017, there’s another bigger change 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. This year the standard deduction amounts are:

  • $12,200 for single taxpayers (up $200 from 2018)
  • $12,200 for married taxpayers who file their taxes separately (up $200 from 2018)
  • $18,350 for heads of households (up $350 from 2018)
  • $24,400 for married taxpayers who file jointly (up $400 from 2018)
  • $24,400 for qualifying widows or widowers (up $400 from 2018)

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 $6,557 for taxpayers filing jointly who have three or more qualifying children, up from $6,431 for 2018. (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 $58,000 in 2019 for single taxpayers, up from $57,000 in 2018. For married couples filing jointly, the credit starts to phase out when your 2019 AGI reaches $116,000, up from $114,000 in 2018.

The maximum amount of qualified adoption expenses you can use to determine your adoption credit increased to $14,080, up from $13,810 in 2018.

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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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