Effective Tax Rate

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DEFINITION of 'Effective Tax Rate'

The average rate at which an individual or corporation is taxed. The effective tax rate for individuals is the average rate at which their earned income is taxed. The effective tax rate for a corporation is the average rate at which its pre-tax profits are taxed. An individual's effective tax rate is calculated by dividing total tax expense by taxable income. For corporations, the effective tax rate is computed by dividing total tax expenses by the firm's earnings before taxes. The effective tax rate is the net rate a taxpayer pays if all forms of taxes are included and divided by taxable income.

INVESTOPEDIA EXPLAINS 'Effective Tax Rate'

The effective tax rate is often a more accurate representation of a taxpayer's tax liability than its marginal tax rate. Two companies that are in the same marginal tax bracket, for example, may end up with different effective tax rates depending on their earnings. This occurs particularly with a progressive, or tiered, tax system, where different levels of income are taxed at different rates. For example, the first $100,000 of income may be taxed at 10%, and income between $100,001 and $500,000 might be taxed at a rate of 15%. The corporation's income is taxed at the various levels, and to determine the effective (or average) tax rate, the total tax is divided by the total taxable income.

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