Have you ever been asked for your approximate tax bracket by an advisor, attorney, financial provider, or even a Fidelity representative? Knowing your tax bracket can be useful in many scenarios, including when you open new accounts.
While your tax bracket won't tell you exactly how much you'll pay in taxes, it can help you assess the tax impact of financial decisions. For instance, if you're in the 35% tax bracket, you could save 35 cents in federal tax for every dollar spent on a tax-deductible expense, such as mortgage interest or charity.
Marginal tax rate: Your tax bracket explained
A common misconception is that your marginal tax rate is the rate at which your entire income is taxed. So someone in the 35% tax bracket pays 35% in taxes.
In actuality, income is taxed in tiers. When your income reaches a different tier, that portion of your income is taxed at a new rate. Your marginal tax rate or tax bracket refers only to your highest tax rate—the last tax rate your income is subject to.
Consider this hypothetical scenario: You have a taxable income of $100,000 and you're married, filing jointly.
- The first $18,450 of your income will be taxed in the 10% tax bracket, resulting in $1,845 in taxes.
- The next tier of your income—$56,449 ($74,900 minus $18,451)—will be taxed in the 15% tax bracket, resulting in $8,467.35 in taxes.
- The remainder of your income—$25,099 ($100,000 minus $74,901) —will be taxed at 25%, resulting in $6,274.75 in taxes.
While your total tax bill came out to $16,587.10 (roughly 16% of your income), your marginal tax rate is 25%—the highest tax rate your income was subject to.
Estimating taxable income
Since your tax bracket is based on taxable income, it's important to have an estimate of your income.
Start with your last filing. You can then adjust your income based on any anticipated changes.
You can find your taxable income on:
- Line 43, if you filed Form 1040.
- Line 27, if you filed Form 1040A.
- Line 6, if you filed Form 1040EZ.