The 2013 tax year is finally over. That means it's time to turn your tax thoughts to moves you can make to reduce your 2014 tax bill.
A good starting point for any tax planning is with the basics, such as knowing what your tax bill likely will be.
While there are a lot of variables that come into play, you can get a general idea by checking out the annual tax brackets.
We're still waiting for Congress to finalize many 2014 tax laws, but the seven ordinary income tax rates are the same, starting at 10 percent and topping out at 39.6 percent.
And the Internal Revenue Service's inflation adjustments last fall told us what income ranges will be taxed at those various rates.
So you don't have to go searching, here they are in the table below.
|Tax Rate||Single||Head of Household||Married Filing Jointly
or Surviving Spouse
|Married Filing Separately|
|10%||Up to $9,075||Up to $12,950||Up to $18,150||Up to $9,075|
|39.6%||$406,751 or more||$432,201 or more||$457,601 or more||$228,801 or more|
Print this out or simply bookmark this page. It will come in handy as you start focusing more intently on your 2014 taxes.
Progressive taxes: Remember, even if your annual salary falls in the 39.6 percent bracket, you don't pay that rate on every dollar you earn.
The U.S. tax system is progressive. That means you pay the top rate, or whatever bracket your income tops out at, on the last dollar you earn. The rest of your money is taxed at the lesser rates leading up to your top tax bracket.
So every taxpayer pays 10 percent on the first $9,075 of taxable income that he or she receives. That's $907.50. Then we pay the 15 percent rate on our earnings that fall into that tax bracket and so on, until all our money is taxed at the proper rate.
These tax calculations mean that while your income may be in the 39.6 bracket, your effective tax rate will be less.
More money, more taxes: Of course, wealthier taxpayers also have to worry about some added taxes.
There's the 3.8 percent Net Investment Income Tax, or NIIT, as well as the additional 0.9 percent Medicare payroll tax on top of the 1.45 all of us already have withheld from our paychecks.
These added taxes on the rich kick in if you make more than $200,000 as a single filer or $250,000 as a married couple filing jointly.
All these considerations are why it's better to start thinking about your 2014 taxes now, instead of next April. There's still plenty of time to take the approviate tax actions that could lower the amount you'll owe Uncle Sam this year.
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