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What is an 'Income Tax'

An income tax is a tax that governments impose on income generated by businesses and individuals within their jurisdiction. By law, taxpayers must file an income tax return annually to determine their tax obligations. Income taxes are a source of revenue for governments.  They are used to fund public services, pay government obligations, and provide goods for citizens.

BREAKING DOWN 'Income Tax'

Most countries employ a progressive income tax system in which higher-income earners pay a higher tax rate compared to their lower-income counterparts. The United States imposed the first income tax during the War of 1812. Its original purpose was to fund the repayment of a $100 million debt incurred from war-related expenses. After the war, the tax was repealed and then reinstated during the early 20th century.

In the United States, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) collects taxes and enforces tax law. The IRS employs a complex set of rules and regulations regarding reportable and taxable income, deductions, credits, ET al. The agency collects taxes on all forms of income, such as wages, salaries, commissions, investments, and business earnings.

Individual Income Tax

Because of exemptions, deductions, and credits, most individuals do not pay taxes on all of their income. The IRS offers a series of deductions (e.g. deductions for health care, investments, and education expenses) which taxpayers use to reduce their taxable income. For example, if a taxpayer earns $100,000 in income and qualifies for $20,000 in deductions, the taxable income reduces to $80,000 ($100,000 - $20,000). Tax credits are used to reduce the taxpayer's tax obligation or amount owed. To illustrate, if an individual owes $20,000 in taxes but qualifies for $4,500 in credits, his tax obligation reduces to $15,500 ($20,000 - $4,500).

Business Income Taxes

Businesses pay income taxes on their earnings; the IRS considers corporations, partnerships, self-employed contractors, and small businesses as taxable entities. These entities report their business income and then deduct their operating and capital expenses.  The difference is their taxable business income.

State and Local Income Tax

Most US states also levy income taxes. As of 2018, there are seven states with no income tax: Alaska, Florida, Nevada, South Dakota, Texas, Washington, and Wyoming. Alike these seven, New Hampshire and Tennessee do not tax earned income; however, they do tax interest and dividend income.

Property Tax and Sales Tax

Property tax is an ad valorem tax applied against the value of a property. The property owner must remit this tax to the governing authority. In the United States, municipal or county governments typically levy property taxes. Sales taxes are applied to purchased consumer goods by federal, state, and local authorities.

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