2008 Federal Tax Brackets Explained
January 18, 2009
Federal tax brackets, tax deductions, tax credits… why does it have to be so complex? Wouldn’t it be eaiser to just have a flat tax or a higher sales tax to wipe out the complicated tax code?
Yes, a bunch of accountants would be out of business, but February and March would be much more enjoyable for us! Of course, we have to live with the system in place for so today we take a look at the 2008 federal tax brackets.
2008 Federal Tax Bracket
- Married Filing Separately – Tax Rate Schedule Y-2
- Married Filing Jointly – Tax Rate Schedule Y-1
- Single Filing Status – Tax Rate Schedule X
Understanding Adjusted Gross Income
The tax brackets can be easy to follow, except some people make the mistake of thinking that the income level is based on their gross base salary for the year. This is not true.
The tax bracket that you fall into is based on your adjusted gross income. To calculate your adjusted gross income, simply take your gross income for the year and subtract all eligible tax code deductions from it to come up with your adjusted gross income.
Let’s say that my wife and I made $50,000 in gross income during 2008, and we elect to take the standard marrried, filing jointly deduction of $10,900 and personal exemptioos of $3,500 each.
Assuming we did not qualify for any other deductions, (which is highly unlikely because there are so many in the tax code nowadays) our adjusted gross income would be $32,100:
- $8,025 would be taxed at 10%
- $24,075 ($32,100-$8,025) would be taxed at 15%
Taxes owed would be $4,436.25 for an effective tax rate of 13.82%
In that example, whether I based it on $50,000 or $32,100, my tax bracket would not have changed, but if I simply computed my tax liability based on $50,000, it would have been higher, rather than the accurate tax liability of $4,436.25. It’s important to remember adjusted gross income and how to compute it, because that is the income you will pay taxes on, not your gross income.
What Happens When the Bush Tax Cuts Expire?
You better get the phone number to the office of your local congressman or congresswoman, because you many want to call them after I describe this scenario. Before 2002, the tax bracket for a married couple filing jointly was as follows:
- 15% for AGI up to $45,000
- 27.5% for AGI up to $109,250
- 30.5% for AGI up to $166,500
- 35.5% for AGI up to $297,350
- 39.1% for AGI above $297,350
compare that to the current bracket for a married couple filing jointly:
- 10% for AGI up to $16,050
- 15% for AGI up to $65,100
- 25% for AGI up to $131,450
- 28% for AGI up to $200,300
- 33% for AGI up to $357,700
- 38% for AGI above $357,700
As you can see, the Bush Tax Cuts of 2002, greatly affected middle and upper middle income earners between $45,000 and $131,450. Before 2002, they were paying 27.5% and 30.5% in taxes, but after 2002, they were paying 15 percent. These tax cuts are set to expire in 2010, and Congress has not extended them at this point.
This expiration of the tax cuts will greatly affect my family, because my tax liability will go from 15% to 27.5% unless Barack Obama passes his own tax bracket plan before 2010. How will it affect your tax bracket if the 2001 tax bracket is put back into affect in 2010?
I mentioned the part about the tax brackets changing in 2010 unless Obama and Congress change it, because it wiil greatly affect millions of Americans. A lot of people think our tax system needs simplification and reform, and I hope that the new administration realizes that the current tax code is too complicated for most Americans to understand.
Preparing Your Taxes
Of course in the meantime, this tax system is what we have to live with, and the best way to reduce your adjusted gross income, and your tax liability, is to take advantage of every tax deduction and tax credit you qualify for.
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