What Are Tax Tables?

Updated for Tax Year 2020


When you file your federal taxes, the amount of tax you owe is based on a number of different factors such as your filing status, your deductions and credits and the amount of income you earn. Tax tables show the specific dollar amount of tax you owe based on these variables and the applicable tax rates for the year. Each of the 43 states that assess personal income tax use tables that are based on similar factors.

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Using the right tax table

Your filing status determines which tax table you must use to compute your income tax. According to the IRS, your filing status should reflect your marital status on December 31, regardless of your status throughout the rest of the year.

The federal government divides filing status for tax purposes into four categories: single, married filing separately, married filing jointly or head of household. If you are a qualifying widow or widower, you can use the married filing jointly category.

Typically, you should choose the category that gives you the lowest overall tax liability if you qualify for more than one. For example, if you are eligible to file as head of household, then you are also eligible to file as single. However, choosing to file as head of household will save you a significant amount of income tax in most cases.

Tables use taxable income

Tax tables are based on taxable income, not your gross income. The IRS allows you to take certain deductions from your gross income to calculate your taxable income. Essentially, this results in a portion of your income not being subject to income tax. For example, in 2020 the lowest tax bracket for a single filer was 10 percent on the first $9,875 of taxable income. However, a single taxpayer is typically able to reduce their taxable income by claiming the standard deduction of $12,400. This results in only the amount over $12,400 being taxable for 2020. This amount over the deductions is what is used in the tax tables to determine your tax.

Determining your tax bill

When you prepare your taxes, one of the last steps is referencing the tax tables to determine the amount of tax you owe for your level of taxable income. Tax tables are set up with different columns for each filing status and rows of various taxable income amounts on the left. You will find your tax liability for the year where your taxable income and filing status meet on the table. You must then transfer this amount to your personal income tax form.

Remember, when you use TurboTax, we’ll ask you simple questions about your income and deductions, and do all the math for you. You won’t need to know a thing about tax tables.

State tax tables

The seven states that do not assess personal income tax are Nevada, Texas, Washington, Alaska, Florida, South Dakota and Wyoming. Two additional states, Tennessee and New Hampshire, only assess tax on dividend and interest income. The remaining states have their own tax tables that you can use in a similar fashion, but will incorporate the state-specific income tax rates.

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