tax brackets

What Are the Income Tax Brackets for 2021 vs. 2022?

For both years, you can end up in one of seven different federal income tax brackets – each with its own marginal tax rate – depending on your taxable income.

This is a unique time of the year for taxpayers. On the one hand, you're getting ready to file your 2021 tax return (which is due April 18, 2022, for most taxpayers). But, on the other hand, you're also looking ahead (or should be) and starting to think about how to handle your 2022 finances in a tax-efficient way. In either case, you need to be familiar with the federal income tax rates and tax brackets that apply (or will apply) to you.

The tax rates themselves didn't change from 2021 to 2022. There are still seven tax rates in effect for the 2022 tax year: 10%, 12%, 22%, 24%, 32%, 35% and 37%. However, as they are every year, the 2022 tax brackets were adjusted to account for inflation. That means you could wind up in a different tax bracket when you file your 2022 return than the bracket you were in for 2021 – which also means you could be subject to a different tax rate on some of your 2022 income, too.

Both the 2021 and 2022 tax bracket ranges also differ depending on your filing status. For example, the 22% tax bracket for the 2021 tax year goes from $40,526 to $86,375 for single taxpayers, but it starts at $54,201 and ends at $86,350 for head-of-household filers. (For 2022, the 22% tax bracket for singles goes from $41,776 to $89,075, while the same rate applied to head-of-household filers with taxable income from $55,901 to $89,050.)

When you're working on your 2021 tax return, here are the tax brackets you'll need:

2021 Tax Brackets for Single Filers and Married Couples Filing Jointly

Tax Rate

Taxable Income
(Single)

Taxable Income
(Married Filing Jointly)

10%

Up to $9,950

Up to $19,900

12%

$9,951 to $40,525

$19,901 to $81,050

22%

$40,526 to $86,375

$81,051 to $172,750

24%

$86,376 to $164,925

$172,751 to $329,850

32%

$164,926 to $209,425

$329,851 to $418,850

35%

$209,426 to $523,600

$418,851 to $628,300

37%

Over $523,600

Over $628,300

--

2021 Tax Brackets for Married Couples Filing Separately and Head-of-Household Filers

Tax Rate

Taxable Income
(Married Filing Separately)

Taxable Income
(Head of Household)

10%

Up to $9,950

Up to $14,200

12%

$9,951 to $40,525

$14,201 to $54,200

22%

$40,526 to $86,375

$54,201 to $86,350

24%

$86,376 to $164,925

$86,351 to $164,900

32%

$164,926 to $209,425

$164,901 to $209,400

35%

$209,426 to $314,150

$209,401 to $523,600

37%

Over $314,150

Over $523,600

When you're ready to focus on your 2022 taxes, you'll want to use the following tax brackets:

2022 Tax Brackets for Single Filers and Married Couples Filing Jointly

Tax Rate

Taxable Income
(Single)

Taxable Income
(Married Filing Jointly)

10%

Up to $10,275

Up to $20,550

12%

$10,276 to $41,775

$20,551 to $83,550

22%

$41,776 to $89,075

$83,551 to $178,150

24%

$89,076 to $170,050

$178,151 to $340,100

32%

$170,051 to $215,950

$340,101 to $431,900

35%

$215,951 to $539,900

$431,901 to $647,850

37%

Over $539,900

Over $647,850

--

2022 Tax Brackets for Married Couples Filing Separately and Head-of-Household Filers

Tax Rate

Taxable Income
(Married Filing Separately)

Taxable Income
(Head of Household)

10%

Up to $10,275

Up to $14,650

12%

$10,276 to $41,775

$14,651 to $55,900

22%

$41,776 to $89,075

$55,901 to $89,050

24%

$89,076 to $170,050

$89,051 to $170,050

32%

$170,051 to $215,950

$170,051 to $215,950

35%

$215,951 to $323,925

$215,951 to $539,900

37%

Over $332,925

Over $539,900

--

How the Tax Brackets Work

Suppose you're single and had $90,000 of taxable income in 2021. Since $90,000 is in the 24% bracket for singles, is your 2021 tax bill simply a flat 24% of $90,000 – or $21,600? No! Your tax is actually less than that amount. That's because, using marginal tax rates, only a portion of your income is taxed at the 24% rate. The rest of it is taxed at the 10%, 12%, and 22% rates.

Here's how it works. Again, assuming you're single with $90,000 taxable income in 2021, the first $9,950 of your income is taxed at the 10% rate for $995 of tax. The next $30,575 of income (the amount from $9,951 to $40,525) is taxed at the 12% rate for an additional $3,669 of tax. After that, the next $45,850 of your income (from $40,526 to $86,375) is taxed at the 22% rate for $10,087 of tax. That leaves only $3,625 of your taxable income (the amount over $86,375) that is taxed at the 24% rate, which comes to an additional $870 of tax. When you add it all up, your total 2021 tax is only $15,621. (That's $5,979 less than if a flat 24% rate was applied to the entire $90,000.)

Now, suppose you're a millionaire (we can all dream, right?). If you're single, only your 2021 income over $523,600 is taxed at the top rate (37%). The rest is taxed at lower rates as described above. So, for example, the tax on $1 million for a single person in 2021 is $334,072. That's a lot of money, but it's still $35,928 less than if the 37% rate were applied as a flat rate on the entire $1 million (which would result in a $370,000 tax bill).

The Marriage Penalty

The difference between bracket ranges sometimes creates a "marriage penalty." This tax-law twist makes certain married couples filing a joint return pay more tax than they would if they were single (typically, where the spouses' incomes are similar). The penalty is triggered when, for any given rate, the minimum taxable income for the joint filers' tax bracket is less than twice the minimum amount for the single filers' bracket.

Before the 2017 tax reform law, this happened in the four highest tax brackets. But now, as you can see in the tables above, only the top tax bracket contains the marriage penalty trap. As a result, only couples with a combined taxable income over $628,300 are at risk when filing their 2021 federal tax return. For 2022 returns, the marriage penalty is possible only for married couples with a combined taxable income above $647,850. (Note that the tax brackets for your state's income tax could contain a marriage penalty.)

Most Popular

Your Guide to Roth Conversions
Special Report
Tax Breaks

Your Guide to Roth Conversions

A Kiplinger Special Report
February 25, 2021
How to Know When You Can Retire
retirement

How to Know When You Can Retire

You’ve scrimped and saved, but are you really ready to retire? Here are some helpful calculations that could help you decide whether you can actually …
January 5, 2022
The 12 Best Tech Stocks to Buy for 2022
tech stocks

The 12 Best Tech Stocks to Buy for 2022

The best tech-sector picks for the year to come include plays on some of the most exciting emergent technologies, as well as several old-guard mega-ca…
January 3, 2022

Recommended

Final Estimated Tax Payment For 2021 Is Due Today
tax deadline

Final Estimated Tax Payment For 2021 Is Due Today

The deadline for submitting your fourth and final estimated tax payment for 2021 is here, so get your payments in now.
January 18, 2022
What Are the Capital Gains Tax Rates for 2021 vs. 2022?
capital gains tax

What Are the Capital Gains Tax Rates for 2021 vs. 2022?

Which tax rate applies to your long-term capital gains depends on your taxable income. Rates for short-term capital gains are higher.
January 14, 2022
What's the Standard Deduction for 2021 vs. 2022?
Tax Breaks

What's the Standard Deduction for 2021 vs. 2022?

If you're like most Americans, taking the standard deduction on your tax return is better than claiming itemized deductions.
January 14, 2022
Will Monthly Child Tax Credit Payments Be Renewed in 2022?
Tax Breaks

Will Monthly Child Tax Credit Payments Be Renewed in 2022?

There will be more child tax credit payments this year if the Build Back Better Act is signed into law. But will the bill get through Congress?
January 14, 2022