The term tax brackets refer to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) tables, issued each year, that indicate the dollar amount owed in taxes by every taxpayer whose income falls within the minimum to maximum income numbers. Each tax bracket corresponds to a tax rate.

There are three components of a tax bracket: filing status, tax rate, and income range. Tax rates are shown on the Y-axis and filing statuses are shown on the X-axis. The amount of income taxed at a specific rate for a specific income amount is found in the body of the tax bracket.

Each of the seven tax rates applies to a specific level of income rather than applying to all of a taxpayer's taxable income. Taxpayers use a tax bracket to determine what their taxes due are.

Key Takeaways

  • A tax bracket is a tax rate for a range of incomes, as shown on a table created by the IRS to indicate the total amount of income tax due from each taxpayer.
  • There are three components of a tax bracket: filing status, tax rate, and income range. 
  • There are five filing statuses with different tax rates: single, married filing separately, married filing jointly, head of household, and qualifying widow/widower with dependent child. 

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) uses a progressive tax system, meaning that the more a taxpayer earns the higher the tax bracket.

Taxpayers pick which filing status is most appropriate to their situation, and calculate how much income is taxable after accounting for deductions and exemptions. There are five filing statuses: single, married filing separately, married filing jointly, head of household, and qualifying widow/widower with dependent child. There are also seven marginal income tax brackets, each assigned a different tax rate.


2021 Tax Brackets
Tax rate Single filers Married filing jointly or qualifying widow/widower Married filing separately Head of household
10% Up to $9,950 Up to $19,900 Up to $9,950 Up to $14,200
12% $9,951 to $40,525 $19,901 to $81,050 $9,950 to $40,525 $14,201 to $54,200
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 $329,856 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 $523,600 $209,401 to $523,600
37% $523,601 or more $628,301 or more $523,601 or more $523,601 or more

For example, a taxpayer who earns $50,000 in 2021 and files as single does not pay a tax rate of 22% on all taxable income, but only on income between $40,525 and $50,000. They will pay a tax rate of 10% on the first $9,950 of income, 12% on income between $9,951 and $40,525, and 22% on income from $40,525 and $50,000.