Understanding Tax Brackets: How to Calculate Your effective Tax Rate

Have you ever wondered if you’re paying more taxes than you should? Let’s find out!

In this video, we’ll talk about how you can calculate your  tax rate, ensuring you understand exactly what part of your income goes to taxes and why. By mastering this, you can make more informed financial decisions that might even save you money!

If you find this topic important, hit the like button, subscribe for more insightful content, and share this video to help others learn about their taxes too.

Let’s get started!

What are Tax Brackets?

Tax brackets are simply different ranges of income that are taxed at different rates. Imagine income as a ladder, where each rung is taxed a bit differently. The more money you make, the higher you climb on this ladder, and each section—or bracket—has its own tax rate.

As part of the progressive taxation system, we have the overall federal tax rates and then we have the effective tax rate. 

We currently have seven federal income tax rates of 10%, 12%, 22%, 24%, 32%, 35% and 37%

Let’s visualize this with a simplified example: Imagine three brackets. If you earn up to $10,000, you might pay 10% in taxes. Earn between $10,001 and $20,000, and you pay 15% on that portion. Earn over $20,000, and that excess might be taxed at 20%.

These brackets are designed to promote fairness. They ensure that those who have higher incomes contribute proportionally more to the public services we all use, reflecting their greater financial capability. This system aims to balance the tax burden among everyone.

What exactly is taxable income, and how does it differ from gross income?

Taxable income is the amount of money you earn that is actually subject to taxes, and it’s different from your gross income. Gross income is the total money you make, including wages, salaries, bonuses, and other earnings before any deductions are applied.

To find your taxable income, you subtract deductions from your gross income. Deductions are certain amounts the government allows you to remove from your gross income, so you end up paying less tax. There are two main types of deductions: the standard deduction and itemized deductions.

#1 is Standard Deduction: This is a fixed amount that reduces your income that’s subject to tax. It varies depending on your filing status, like if you’re single or married. For example, in 2024, the standard deduction for a single person is  $14,600

#2 is  Itemized Deductions: These are specific expenses you can deduct. They include things like mortgage interest, charitable donations, and medical expenses. You list these deductions separately and add them up. If they add up to more than the standard deduction, you can choose to use them instead to lower your taxable income even more.

#3 is Personal Exemptions: Previously, taxpayers could also claim a personal exemption for themselves and each dependent, further lowering taxable income, but recent tax laws have eliminated these exemptions.


Imagine your gross income is $50,000. You choose the standard deduction of $14,600 because it’s higher than your itemized deductions. Now, your taxable income becomes $35,400 ($50,000 – $14,600).

This system allows you to only pay taxes on what remains after deductions, making it fairer because it considers your actual ability to pay based on your expenses.

I mentioned that earlier that we have the federal tax rates and then we have the effective tax rate. We already discussed what those federal tax rates are, now we move onto what do we mean by effective tax rates. 

So How do we Calculate the  Effective Tax Rate?

To understand how much you really pay in taxes, you need to figure out your “Effective Tax Rate”  This rate shows the percentage of your total income that goes to taxes, considering all the different tax brackets.

Here’s how you can calculate it, step by step:

#1 Calculate the Total Tax: First, add up the tax from each income bracket that applies to you. For example, if you earn $50,000, you might pay 10% on the first $10,000, 15% on the next $20,000, and 20% on the remaining $20,000. That calculation would look like this:

$10,000 x 10% = $1,000

$20,000 x 15% = $3,000

$20,000 x 20% = $4,000

Total Tax  therefore comes to $1,000 + $3,000 + $4,000 = $8,000

The next step would be to  Divide the total tax calculated by the Gross Income:

Take the total tax you calculated ($8,000) and divide it by your total gross income ($50,000). So, $8,000 ÷ $50,000 = 0.16 or 16%.

Your effective tax rate therefore comes to  16%. This means that, on average, 16% of your total earnings go to taxes.

Here’s another example;

Let’s say Jamie earns $40,000 a year. Under the tax rules, Jamie pays:

10% on the first $10,000

15% on the next $20,000

20% on the last $10,000

Total tax would be:

$10,000 x 10% = $1,000

$20,000 x 15% = $3,000

$10,000 x 20% = $2,000

Total Tax = $1,000 + $3,000 + $2,000 = $6,000

Jamie’s effective tax rate would be:

$6,000 ÷ $40,000 = 0.15 or 15%

This calculation helps Jamie understand that 15% of their income is used to pay taxes.

What are the actors That Affect Your Tax Rate?

Several factors can influence your tax rate, determining how much tax you pay.

#1 is Filing Status: Your tax rate depends on your filing status. For example, if you file as single, married, or head of household, each has different tax brackets. Married couples often get different rates compared to singles.

#2 is Number of Dependents: If you have dependents, like children, you might qualify for lower tax rates. Having dependents can move you to a different tax bracket with potentially lower rates.

#3 is Additional Income: Income from investments, rental properties, or side jobs also affects your tax rate. This extra income can push you into a higher tax bracket, increasing the amount of tax you owe.

#4 is Tax Credits: Unlike deductions, which reduce your taxable income, tax credits reduce the actual amount of tax you owe. For instance, if you owe $2,000 in taxes but qualify for a $500 tax credit, you only owe $1,500. Tax credits are valuable because they directly lower your tax bill.

Here are some of the Common Misconceptions About Tax Brackets:

Does making more money put you in a higher tax bracket and decrease your net income?

Many people think if they earn more money, they’ll end up taking home less because they’ll move to a higher tax bracket. Is this true? No, it’s a myth. Moving to a higher bracket means only the extra income is taxed at the higher rate, not all your income.

How do progressive taxes really work?

In a progressive tax system, is all your income taxed at the higher rate if you move to a higher bracket? No, only the income within each bracket is taxed at that bracket’s rate. For example, if you earn enough to move into a higher tax bracket, only the amount above the previous bracket’s limit gets taxed at the higher rate.

Imagine you earn $50,000. If the first $10,000 is taxed at 10%, the next $20,000 at 15%, and the remaining $20,000 at 20%, you’re not paying 20% on the whole $50,000—just on the amount over the lower brackets.

Understanding this helps you see that earning more money is always beneficial, as higher taxes only apply to the additional income, not your total earnings.

What are some of the Tools or resources that can be used to calculate taxes?

To make calculating your taxable income and effective tax rate easier, there are several helpful software tools and resources that are available online

Many websites offer free tax calculators, such as those on the IRS website or financial planning sites like NerdWallet.

While these tools are useful, it’s important to consult with a tax professional for personalized advice. They can help you navigate complex tax situations and ensure you’re taking advantage of all possible deductions and credits.


I hope this video helped you understand how tax brackets work and how to calculate your true tax rate. Knowing this can empower you to make better financial decisions and potentially save money on your taxes.

If you found this information useful, please give this video a thumbs up, subscribe to our channel for more insightful content, and share it with friends who might find it helpful. If you have any questions or need further clarification, feel free to leave a comment below.

Thanks for watching, and until next time, happy tax planning!

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