TurboTax / Tax Calculators & Tips / All Tax Guides / Taxes 101 / What are Tax Codes?

What are Tax Codes?

Updated for Tax Year 2014


OVERVIEW

Internal Revenue Code consists of thousands of individual tax laws applied at the federal, state, county and city levels.


Get every deduction you deserve

TurboTax Deluxe searches more than 350 tax deductions and credits so you get your maximum refund, guaranteed.

For only $54.99*
Start for Free

The term “tax codes” can refer to a collection of tax laws, such as the Internal Revenue Code (IRC), and can also refer to specific tax laws within the IRC. For example, IRC section 162 is a tax code that defines when you can claim a business deduction. However, the IRC includes thousands of individual tax codes or laws that apply to an array of federal taxation issues.

How tax codes are created

Tax codes don’t just apply to the federal government. Every state, city or county government that imposes some type of taxation will initially authorize it with tax codes. Whether it’s the U.S. Congress or your local city council, tax codes are initially drafted by elected officials and then voted on.

Generally, if a majority of legislators vote to pass the tax code, then it becomes law. Once it becomes law, it is added to the government’s collection of tax laws. For purposes of the federal tax system, once passed, the tax law is assigned a number or code section and then added to the main collection of tax laws in the IRC.

Finding tax codes

When you prepare you federal income tax return, for example, it’s unlikely that you will ever find it necessary to read actual tax codes. In many cases, the tax codes don’t provide enough detail to offer any tax return preparation guidance. However, if you are interested in reading the tax codes, you can find many printed copies in your local library or online. If you need to research your state and local tax codes, the agency responsible for taxation in your jurisdiction usually makes them available on their website.

How tax codes affect your return

Tax codes are the ultimate authority on any tax you are required to pay and provide the basis for everything on your tax return. For example, when you prepare your tax return, the instructions to it generally provide you with all of the information you need.

These instructions are drafted by the IRS to help you understand how to report your income, deductions and credits. Everything you read in the instructions is based on the various tax codes that apply to federal income tax. When you complete your return and use the tax tables to determine how much you owe, the percentages and tax rates the IRS uses are taken from federal tax codes. Since the IRS explains the tax law in these publications in plain-English, it’s unnecessary for you to get any deeper into the tax law.

Of course, when you use TurboTax to prepare your taxes, you don’t need to know anything about tax codes. Our tax experts have already accounted for all of the latest tax codes and built them into the software. All you need to do is answer simple questions about your income, expenses, etc. and TurboTax applies the appropriate tax codes to your return.

Interpreting tax codes

Even though tax codes are the ultimate authority, there are many other documents that interpret them, which also have significant legal authority. For example, the U.S. Treasury issues regulations on most tax code sections that provide longer explanations and examples on how the law is used. The IRS also drafts its own materials that you must adhere to even though they are not actual tax codes.

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.

DAYS left
LAST DAY to file
1 DAY left
to file your taxes by April 15
2014 taxes due today
Start for Free
* Important Offer Details and Disclosures
  • Try for Free/Pay When You File: TurboTax online and mobile pricing is based on your tax situation and varies by product. Actual prices are determined at the time of print or efile and are subject to change without notice. Special discount offers may not be valid for mobile in-app purchases.
  • TurboTax CD/Download products: Price includes tax preparation and printing of federal tax returns and free federal efile of up to 5 federal tax returns. Additional fees apply for efiling state returns. E-file fees do not apply to New York state returns. Prices subject to change without notice.
  • TurboTax Mobile: Actual prices are determined at the time of print or efile and are subject to change without notice. Come back here before you file to confirm that the price has not changed, especially if it's been a while since you downloaded this app.
  • Anytime, anywhere: Internet access required; standard message and data rates apply to download and use mobile app features and content. TurboTax mobile app devices supported include Android 4.1 and above, iOS 8 on iPhone 4s and above, and iPad 2.
  • Fastest refund possible: Fastest tax refund with efile and direct deposit; tax refund timeframes will vary.
  • Pay for TurboTax out of your federal refund: A $34.99 Refund Processing Service fee applies to this payment method. Prices are subject to change without notice.
  • About our TurboTax Product Experts: Customer service and product support (phone or chat) vary by time of year. Phone support not included with Free Edition.
  • About our credentialed tax experts: Live tax advice service is available for your toughest tax questions; fees may apply. Service, experience levels, hours of operation and availability vary, and are subject to restriction and change without notice. Click here for full terms and conditions. Not available for TurboTax Business customers.
  • Get up to 10% on top of your federal refund: Amazon.com Gift Card offer is for federal refunds only. Limits apply ($2000 per e-card, maximum $10,000 per customer). Offer available only for TurboTax Online (except Federal Free Edition) or CD/download versions sold and shipped, or downloaded directly from Intuit or Amazon. Except as required by law, Amazon.com Gift Cards cannot be canceled, transferred for value or redeemed for cash.

    Amazon.com is not a sponsor of this promotion. Except as required by law, Amazon.com Gift Cards ('GCs') cannot be transferred for value or redeemed for cash. GCs may be used only for purchases of eligible goods at Amazon.com or certain of its affiliated websites. For complete terms and conditions, see www.amazon.com/gc-legal. GCs are issued by ACI Gift Cards, Inc., a Washington corporation. All Amazon ®, ™ & © are IP of Amazon.com or its affiliates. No expiration date or service fees.
  • #1 best-selling tax software: Based on aggregated sales data for all tax year 2013 TurboTax products.
  • 4.8 out of 5 stars: Average based on customer ratings on TurboTax.com for TurboTax Online and CD/download products tax year 2014, as of January 2015.
  • Most Popular: TurboTax Deluxe is our most popular product among TurboTax Online users with more complex tax situations.
  • TurboTax CD/Download priority phone support: Priority phone support for TurboTax CD/Download Premier and Home & Business is accessible exclusively via the TurboTax.com Help Center.
  • Benefit Assist: After you file, TurboTax automatically shows you a full list of government benefits you may qualify for, like Food Stamps or reduced phone & utilities. Plus, we help you apply, saving you time and making it easier than ever to get more money! Estimate based on calculation of Benefit Assist users from tax year 2013 and published reports of average benefit and savings amounts from federal and state programs. Actual amounts and qualifications based on your individual situation; some individuals will not qualify. Feature may not be available for all customers.
  • Simplified State Experience: New, simplified state tax preparation available for most filers.
  • Eligibility for $25 cash back for returning Deluxe customers: Customers who have completed their 2013 taxes in TurboTax Deluxe (CD or download), and have completed their 2014 taxes in either TurboTax Premier or TurboTax Home & Business (CD or download), and apply here before 11:59PM PDT April 20, 2015, are eligible for $25 back. 2014 TurboTax Advantage users are ineligible for this offer. Terms and conditions are subject to change without notice.
  • $0 Upgrade Offer: Valid for customers who filed their 2013 taxes with TurboTax Deluxe (CD or download), completed prior year data transfer this year, and encounter an upgrade to either 2014 TurboTax Premier or 2014 TurboTax Home & Business (CD or download). Valid February 6, 2015 through April 20, 2015. TurboTax Advantage users are ineligible for this offer. This offer may not be combined with our $25 cash back offer. Terms and conditions are subject to change without notice.