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trump tax brackets

President Donald Trump signed a law that dramatically overhauled the U.S. tax code in December 2017. The law created new income tax brackets that changed what many Americans pay in taxes. Most changes went into effect on Jan. 1, 2018 and so they didn’t affect your tax return until the 2018 tax year, which you filed in 2019. Let’s take a look at the 2020 tax brackets, and compare them with 2019 and 2017 brackets to see how the Trump tax plan could have affected your tax return. And depending on these changes, you might want to work with a financial advisor to help maximize your tax strategy for your finances.

The Trump Tax Brackets 

Many workers noticed changes to their paychecks starting in 2018, when the new tax rates went into effect. The chart below shows the tax brackets from the Republican tax plan. If you know your yearly income, you can figure out your tax bracket and see what your rate is for your 2020 taxes.

Federal Income Tax Bracket for 2020 (filed by extended deadline of May 17, 2021)

 Tax Rate Single Married Filing Jointly Married Filing Separately Head of Household
10% $0 – $9,875 $0 – $19,750 $0 – $9,875 $0 – $14,100
12% $9,876 – $40,125 $19,751 – $80,250 $9,876 – $40,125 $14,101 – $53,700
22% $40,126 – $85,525 $80,251 – $171,050 $40,126 – $85,525 $53,701 – $85,500
24% $85,526 – $163,300 $171,051 – $326,600 $85,526 – $163,300 $85,501 – $163,300
32% $163,301 – $207,350 $326,601 – $414,700 $163,301 – $207,350 $163,301 – $207,350
35% $207,351 – $518,400 $414,701 – $622,050 $207,351 – $311,025 $207,351 – $518,400
37% $518,401+ $622,051+ $311,026+ $518,401+

Now, compare the 2020 tax brackets that you just reviewed with the 2019 brackets below. Note that the brackets were adjusted from year to year for inflation. And as a result, you might find yourself in a different tax bracket for 2020 than you did for 2019. This could also mean that you will pay a different tax rate on part of your income for your 2020 return.

Federal Income Tax Bracket for 2019 (filed by: July 15, 2020)

 Tax Rate Single Married Filing Jointly Married Filing Separately Head of Household
10% $0 – $9,700 $0 – 19,400 $0 – $9,700 $0 – $13,850
12% $9,701 – $39,475 $19,401 – $78,950 $9,701 – $39,475 $13,851 – $52,850
22% $39,476 – $84,200 $78,951 – $168,400 $39,476 – $84,200 $52,851 – $84,200
24% $84,201 – $160,725 $168,401 – $321,450 $84,201 – $160,725 $84,201 – $160,700
32% $160,726 – $204,100 $321,451 – $408,200 $160,726 – $204,100 $160,701 – $204,100
35% $204,101 – $510,300 $408,201 – $612,350 $204,101 – $306,175 $204,101 – $510,300
37% $510,301+ $612,351+ $306,176+ $510,301+

And for another comparison, the chart below shows the tax brackets for 2017. If you know your yearly income, you will be able to see how the new plan changed your tax rate.

Federal Income Tax Bracket for 2017 (filed by: April 17, 2018)

 Tax Rate Single Married Filing Jointly Married Filing Separately Head of Household
10% $0 – $9,325 $0 – 18,650 $0 – $9,325 $0 – $13,350
15% $9,326 – $37,950 $18,651 – $75,900 $9,326 – $37,950 $13,351 – $50,800
25% $37,951 – $91,900 $75,901 – $153,100 $37,951 – $76,550 $50,801 – $131,200
28% $91,901 – $191,650 $153,101 – $233,350 $76,551 – $116,675 $131,301 – $212,500
33% $191,651 – $416,700 $233,351 – $416,700 $116,676 – $208,350 $212,501 – $416,700
35% $416,701 – $418,400 $416,701 – $470,700 $208,351 – $235,350 $416,701 – $444,550
39.6% $418,401+ $470,701+ $235,351+ $444,551+

How Did the Tax Brackets Change?

trump tax brackets

The biggest changes under the new Trump tax plan came for those in the middle of the chart. A married couple whose total income minus deductions is $250,000, for instance, would have had a tax rate of up to 33% in 2017. For 2018, 2019 and beyond, their highest tax rate is just 24%. That led to a fairly significant difference in take-home pay.

Those who earn less may also see a bit of a break. A single person making $39,000 in taxable income in 2017 saw a rate of 25%. In 2018, 2019 and beyond, that rate drops to 12%.

You also got a tax cut if you were or are among the country’s highest earners. The highest tax bracket used to carry a 39.6% rate and apply to single people earning more than $418,401 and married couples, filing jointly, who earned more than $470,701 in taxable income. Now the highest rate, which is just 37%, kicks in at $518,401 for single people and $622,051 for married couples.

Other notable Trump tax overhaul changes include:

  • Doubled the standard deduction from $12,700 (2017) to $25,100 (2021) for married couples filing jointly, and from $6,350 (2017) to $12,550 (2021) for single taxpayers and married individuals filing separately, and from $9,350 (2017) to $18,800 (2021) for heads of households; while eliminating personal exemptions (in 2017 you could claim a $4,050 deduction for yourself and each qualifying dependent in your household).
  • Lowered the threshold for qualified medical expenses – those that exceed 7.5% of your adjusted gross income can be deducted (in 2017, taxpayers under 65 could only deduct expenses that exceeded 10% of their AGI). But, if your total itemized deductions don’t exceed Trump’s higher standard deduction, you won’t be able to take it.
  • Doubled the maximum child tax credit to $2,000 for each qualifying child younger than 17 years old, and made it available to higher income households – IRS says it now begins to “phase out at $200,000 of modified adjusted gross income, or $400,000 for married couples filing jointly.”
  • Doubled the estate and gift tax exemption from $5.49 million in 2017 to now $11.7 million in 2021, which refers to the maximum amount you can give in lifetime gifts and bequests at death without having to pay a 40% tax.

Individual tax provisions are set to expire after 2025, meaning that when you file your taxes in 2026, rates will go back to those before Trump’s 2018 changes.

How Tax Rates Work

Remember that the tax rates are marginal. The tax rate of your total income applies only to the income earned in that bracket. For instance, if your taxable income is $300,000 in 2020, only the income you earn past $207,351 will be taxed at the rate of 35% shown on the corresponding federal income tax chart above. The lower rates apply to income in the corresponding brackets.

This is important to consider when thinking about deductions and figuring out your taxable income. Just because your total income is pushing into a new tax bracket, that doesn’t mean all of your money is taxed at that rate – just anything above the threshold for the new bracket.

The Bottom Line

trump tax brackets

According to IRS statistics, 2020 refunds are averaging $2,535 as of November 20, 2020. This is an 11.4% decline since last year, which averaged $2,860. While Americans are getting tax cuts, depending on individual taxpayer circumstances, the Joint Committee on Taxation and the Congressional Budget Office said in 2017 that Trump’s tax plan could add over $1 trillion by 2027 to the national debt.

Trump’s tax plan was one of the largest tax code overhauls in decades – lowering individual tax rates, raising standard deductions, and lowering the threshold for medical expense deductions, among other changes. It didn’t affect taxpayers until the 2018 tax year, and many of the benefits are set to expire by the 2025 tax year.

Keep in mind that tax brackets are adjusted for inflation each year, and as a result, this could put you in a different tax bracket from one year to the next, which means that you might also have to pay a different tax rate for part of your income. If you’re wondering how the tax changes affect your specific tax situation, use SmartAsset’s income tax calculator to see what you can expect to pay under the new plan.

Tax Season Tips

  • Minimize your taxes by working with a financial advisor who offers tax planning. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with financial advisors in your area in 5 minutes. If you’re ready to be matched with local advisors who can help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
  • Figure out how to file your taxes early. If you’re a young adult paying taxes on your own for the first time this is especially important. It can’t hurt to brush up on the mechanics of getting through this yearly ritual either way, though. You can also expedite the process by using an electronic filing service. TurboTax is one of the most popular tax-filing services and it consistently gets high ratings on usability and customer support.
  • See if you’ll be getting a refund or if you’re likely to have to send a check to the government using SmartAsset’s tax return calculator. This can be useful for your household budget.  Plus, it helps you know what to expect when you go through with actually filing.

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/Kameleon007, ©iStock.com/Enterline Design Services LLC ©iStock.com/wutwhanfoto

Ben Geier, CEPF® Ben Geier is an experienced financial writer currently serving as a retirement and investing expert at SmartAsset. His work has appeared on Fortune, Mic.com and CNNMoney. Ben is a graduate of Northwestern University and a part-time student at the City University of New York Graduate Center. He is a member of the Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing and a Certified Educator in Personal Finance (CEPF®). When he isn’t helping people understand their finances, Ben likes watching hockey, listening to music and experimenting in the kitchen. Originally from Alexandria, VA, he now lives in Brooklyn with his wife.
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