Tax Brackets 2020-2021 and Federal Income Tax Rates: What You Need to Know

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Updated on Wednesday, February 3, 2021

For 2020 and 2021, there are seven tax brackets you could fall into: 10%, 12%, 22%, 24%, 32%, 35% and 37%. Your tax bracket will depend on your filing status and your taxable income for that year. The higher your taxable income is, the higher your federal tax rate will be — but what you owe will ultimately come down to the brackets in which that taxable income appears.

It’s important to know which bracket your income falls into, as it’s a critical component of the tax bill you’ll face each year. This article covers everything you need to know about the federal income tax rates for 2020 and 2021.

2020 federal income tax brackets

The table below outlines the 2020 federal income tax brackets for taxes that are filed by April 2021. The taxable income dollar amounts represent income earned in 2020.

2020 Federal Income Tax Brackets for Single Filers, Married Couples Filing Jointly, Married Filing Separately and Head of Households
Tax Rate Single Married filing jointly (or surviving spouses) Married filing separately Head of household
10% Up to $9,875Up to $19,750Up to $9,875Up to $14,100
12%$9,876 to $40,125$19,751 to $80,250$9,876 to $40,125$14,101 to $53,700
22% $40,126 to $85,525$80,251 to $171,050$40,126 to $85,525$53,701 to $85,500
24%$85,526 to $163,300$171,051 to $326,600$85,526 to $163,300$85,501 to $163,300
32% $163,301 to $207,350$326,601 to $414,700$163,301 to $207,350$163,301 to $207,350
35%$207,351 to $518,400$414,701 to $622,050$207,351 to $311,025$207,351 to $518,400
37% Over $518,400Over $622,050Over $311,025Over $518,400

The deadline for filing taxes and making payments for the year 2020 is April 15, 2021. For those who have received an extension, the deadline is Oct. 15, 2021.

2021 federal income tax brackets

The table below outlines the 2021 federal income tax brackets for taxes that are filed by April 2022. The taxable income dollar amounts represent income earned in 2021.

2021 Federal Income Tax Brackets for Single Filers, Married Couples Filing Jointly, Married Filing Separately and Head of Households
Tax Rate Single Married filing jointly (or surviving spouses) Married filing separately Head of household
10% Up to $9,950Up to $19,900Up to $9,950Up to $14,200
12%$9,951 to $40,525$19,901 to $81,050$9,951 to $40,525$9,951 to $40,525
22%$40,526 to $86,375$81,051 to $172,750$40,526 to $86,375$54,201 to $86,350
24%$86,376 to $164,925$172,751 to $329,850$86,376 to $164,925$86,351 to $164,900
32%$164,926 to $209,425$329,851 to $418,850 $164,926 to $209,425$164,901 to $209,400
35%$209,426 to $523,600 $418,851 to $628,300$209,426 to $314,150$209,401 to $523,600
37%Over $523,600 Over $628,300 Over $314,150Over $523,600

What is the standard deduction for 2020-2021?

The chart below outlines the standard deductions (that apply in most cases) for taxable income made in 2020, for taxes due in April 2021. Standard deductions are set amounts that taxpayers can deduct from their taxable income every year, instead of itemizing their deductions. This, in turn, lowers their overall tax bill.

The amount of your standard deduction is dependent on your filing status, and it changes on an annual basis due to inflation.

Standard Deductions for 2020
Filing status Standard deduction
Single $12,400
Married filing jointly (or surviving spouses)$24,800
Married filing separately $12,400
Head of household $18,650

The chart below outlines the standard deductions (that apply in most cases) for taxable income made in 2021, for taxes due in April 2022.

Standard Deductions for 2021
Filing statusStandard deduction
Single $12,550
Married filing jointly (or surviving spouses)$25,100
Married filing separately $12,550
Head of household $18,800

How do tax brackets work?

The highest tax bracket that you fall into, known as your marginal tax rate, is dependent on your filing status and taxable income. The IRS adjusts tax brackets on an annual basis to account for inflation, and to prevent people from being pushed into higher-income brackets despite not actually having an increase in income earned.

The U.S. has a progressive tax system, with the intention that people with higher incomes pay more in taxes. Different amounts of your income are taxed at different rates, which is determined by the seven brackets outlined in the tables above.

For example, if you’re single and make $50,000, in 2021, you will pay 10% on your income up to $9,950, 12% on the chunk of your income that’s between $9,951 to $40,525, and then 22% on the rest of your income that’s between $40,526 to $50,000. So, while your marginal tax rate is 22% (the highest tax bracket your income qualifies for), your effective tax rate is really lower, as it is the actual percentage of your income that’s paid to the IRS.

How to lower your tax bracket

While there’s no getting around paying taxes, there are strategies you can use to lower your taxable income. An accountant or a financial advisor can also give advice to lower your tax burden.  Strategies to lower your taxable income include:

  • Contribute to tax-efficient accounts: There are an array of tax-efficient accounts that you can contribute to that will effectively lower your taxable income for the year, including retirement accounts like 401(k) plans, as well as certain savings accounts like health savings accounts (HSAs) and flexible spending accounts (FSAs). Lower your taxable income by contributing to these types of accounts.
  • Give to charity: One way to lower your tax bill is to give back, as charitable contributions are tax-deductible. This means that charitable contributions can lower your taxable income for the year. However, charitable contributions can only be deducted if you opt to itemize your taxes, so be sure to keep that in mind.
  • Utilize tax credits: Be sure to research the tax credits that are available to you — they can really make a difference in lowering the amount of tax you owe, instead of just lowering your taxable income. Common tax credits that could be applicable to you include credits for having children or other dependents.

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