How to Read Federal Tax Tables

Updated for Tax Year 2017


OVERVIEW

Understanding how to use the federal tax tables will make it easier for you to calculate the tax you owe.


To help individuals calculate their income taxes, the Internal Revenue Service publishes tax tables each year in the instructions to your tax return and in IRS Publication 17. Understanding how to use the tables will make it easier for you to calculate the tax you owe or can provide you with an estimate of your future tax bills in case you need to budget for it.

Step 1: Determine your filing status

The IRS allows you to choose any filing status that you are eligible for. This is important since the amount of your standard deduction will vary depending on which filing status you choose. In 2017 for example, single filers can claim a standard deduction of $6,350; however, if you also qualify to file as head of household, your deduction increases to $9,350.

Step 2: Calculate your taxable income

Your taxable income is generally equal to your gross income less the standard deduction for your filing status or the total of your itemized deductions. Reduce your income by the amounts of other deductions you are eligible to claim plus any exemptions you can take for yourself and your dependents to arrive at your taxable income.

Online calculators like our own TaxCaster calculator can help with this. Also, when you use TurboTax to prepare your taxes, we’ll calculate your taxable income for you.

Step 3: Determine your income bracket

Locate the tax table in the most recent version of IRS Publication 17. Find the income bracket that contains your taxable income in the left hand column of the table. For example, if you have $33,460, you would use the income bracket ranging from $33,450 to $33,500.

Step 4: Identify your tax filing status

Find your tax filing status in the top row of the table. Each filing status has a different column so be sure you use the one for your filing status or you will get the wrong amount of taxes due.

Step 5: Find the amount of tax you owe

Find where the row with your income and the column for your filing status intersect. This is the amount of tax that you owe. For this example, if you are single, you would find where the single column and $34,450 to $34,500 row intersect.

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The steps above are for calculating your taxes by hand. If you use TurboTax, we’ll just ask you simple questions about things like your income, home and family situation and do all the calculations for you. You don’t need to know anything about tax brackets or tax tables—we’ll determine the best filing status for you to get you the biggest tax refund you deserve.

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The above article is intended to provide generalized financial information designed to educate a broad segment of the public; it does not give personalized tax, investment, legal, or other business and professional advice. Before taking any action, you should always seek the assistance of a professional who knows your particular situation for advice on taxes, your investments, the law, or any other business and professional matters that affect you and/or your business.


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