Individuals’ 10%, 25%, 28%, 33%, and 35% tax brackets are made permanent; high-income taxpayers taxed at 39.6% rate after 2012

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To compute regular tax liability, an individual uses the appropriate tax rate schedule (or IRS-issued income tax tables for taxable income of less than $100,000). The Code provides four (statutory) tax rate schedules based on filing status, i.e., single, married filing jointly/surviving spouse, married filing separately, and head of household. Each schedule is divided into income ranges (“tax brackets”), which are taxed at progressively higher marginal tax rates as income increases. The same marginal tax rates apply to all individual taxpayers, but the bracket amounts (income ranges) to which the rates apply differ based on the taxpayer’s filing status.

The statutory rate schedules are divided into five tax brackets—15%, 28%, 31%, 36%, and 39.6%. But, as described below, other Code provisions modify these statutory rate schedules. Each year IRS adjusts the bracket amounts for each rate schedule for inflation (with certain exceptions, for inflation since 1992), and IRS’s inflation-adjusted rate schedules are the ones used to compute tax (not the statutory rate schedules).

EGTRRA/JGTRRA/WFTRA changes. Under the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001 (“EGTRRA,” Sec. 101, PL 107-16, 6/7/2001 ), the Jobs and Growth Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2003 (“JGTRRA,” Sec. 104, PL 108-27, 5/28/2003 , and Sec. 105, PL 108-27, 5/28/2003 ), and the Working Families Tax Relief Act of 2004 (“WFTRA,” Sec. 101, PL 108-311, 10/4/2004 ), the statutory rate schedules were modified to:

  • add a new 10% tax bracket for individuals carved out of the existing 15% tax bracket (resulting in six tax brackets for individuals instead of five);
  • phase-in a reduction of the top four marginal tax rates to 25%, 28%, 33%, and 35%; and
  • provide a special inflation adjustment for the 10% bracket (computing inflation since 2002).

IRS also was required to adjust its income tax tables (which are based on the rate schedules) to reflect these EGTRRA changes. FTC 2d/Fin ¶A-1100; FTC 2d/Fin ¶A-1101; FTC 2d/Fin ¶A-1102; FTC 2d/Fin ¶A-1103; FTC 2d/Fin ¶A-1104; FTC 2d/Fin ¶A-1113; USTR ¶14; USTR ¶14.08; TaxDesk ¶568,201; TaxDesk ¶568,202; TaxDesk ¶568,203; TaxDesk ¶568,213;

Sunset. Under Sec. 901 of title IX of EGTRRA (Sec. 901, PL 107-16, 6/7/2001 ), to which the applicable JGTRRA (Sec. 107, PL 108-27, 5/28/2003 ) and WFTRA provisions (Sec. 105, PL 108-311, 10/4/2004 ) were made subject, all of the EGTRRA/JGTRRA/WFTRA changes described above were scheduled to expire (sunset) for tax years beginning after Dec. 31, 2010, and the tax rates in effect before the passage of EGTRRA were scheduled to come back into effect, i.e., individuals’ taxable income was to be subject again to five tax brackets, taxed at 15%, 28%, 31%, 36%, and 39.6% marginal tax rates.

But Sec. 101(a) of the 2010 Tax Relief Act (Sec. 101(a), PL 111-312, 12/17/2010 ) modified this EGTRRA sunset provision to make it first apply after Dec. 31, 2012 (instead of after Dec. 31, 2010), i.e., the 10% tax bracket and related special inflation adjustment rules, and the reduced 25%, 28%, 33%, and 35% rates for taxing individuals’ taxable income, were extended for two years, through 2012. FTC 2d/Fin ¶T-11051; FTC 2d/Fin ¶T-11061; FTC 2d/Fin ¶T-11071; USTR ¶79,006.86; TaxDesk ¶880,011;

New Law. The 2012 Taxpayer Relief Act repeals title IX of EGTRRA (i.e., the title that includes the above-described EGTRRA sunset). EGTRRA § 901 (Sec. 901, PL 107-16, 6/7/2001 ) repealed by (2012 Taxpayer Relief Act §101(a)(1))

                        RIA observation: The effect of the EGTRRA sunset repeal (with the additional changes described below) is to make permanent the 10%, 25%, 28%, 33%, and 35% marginal tax rates, and the special inflation adjustment rules for the 10% tax bracket.

The 2012 Taxpayer Relief Act specifically provides that the statutory rate schedules for each tax filing status are to be applied (Code Sec. 1(i)(2) as amended by 2012 Taxpayer Relief Act §101(b)(1)(A)) by substituting a 25% (Code Sec. 1(i)(2)(A) ) , 28% (Code Sec. 1(i)(2)(B) ) , and 33% rate (Code Sec. 1(i)(2)(C) ) for the 28%, 31%, and 36% rates, respectively, listed in those schedules.

In addition, for tax years beginning after Dec. 31, 2012 (Code Sec. 1(i)(3)(A) as amended by 2012 Taxpayer Relief Act §101(b)(1)(B)) , the tax rate under the married filing joint/surviving spouse, head-of-household, single, and married filing-separately tax schedules on a taxpayer’s taxable income in the highest rate bracket will be:

(1) 35%, to the extent it doesn’t exceed an amount equal to the excess of (Code Sec. 1(i)(3)(A)(i) ) :

(a) the applicable threshold (see below), over (Code Sec. 1(i)(3)(A)(i)(I) )

(b) the dollar amount at which that highest bracket begins (Code Sec. 1(i)(3)(A)(i)(II) ) , and

(2) 39.6% on the taxpayer’s taxable income that’s in excess of the amount to which the 35% rate (described above) applies. (Code Sec. 1(i)(3)(A)(ii) )

The applicable threshold for (1)(a) above is (Code Sec. 1(i)(3)(B) ) :

(i) $450,000 for marrieds-filing-jointly and surviving spouses (Code Sec. 1(i)(3)(B)(i) ) ;

(ii) $425,000 for head-of-households (Code Sec. 1(i)(3)(B)(ii) ) ;

(iii) $400,000 for singles; and (Code Sec. 1(i)(3)(B)(iii) )

(iv) 1/2 of the marrieds-filing-jointly/surviving spouse threshold amount (after any inflation adjustment of that amount) (Code Sec. 1(i)(3)(B)(iv) ) (i.e., for 2013, $225,000).

For tax years beginning after 2013, each of the dollar amounts in (i) through (iii) above will be adjusted for inflation in the same manner as provided under Code Sec. 1(i)(C)(i) (the inflation adjustment for the 10% tax bracket threshold), except that 2012 is substituted for 1992 under Code Sec. 1(f)(3)(B) (Code Sec. 1(i)(3)(C) ) , i.e., the cost-of-living adjustment will equal the percentage (if any) by which the consumer price index (CPI) for the preceding calendar year exceeds the CPI for 2012, see FTC 2d/Fin ¶A-1103; TaxDesk ¶568,203; .

RIA observation: Thus, as a result of all of the 2012 Taxpayer Relief Act changes above, after Dec. 31, 2012 individual taxpayers are subject to seven marginal tax brackets, taxed at 10%, 15%, 25%, 28%, 33%, 35% and 39.6% rates.

And the 39.6% highest tax rate applies only to the amount of taxable income (for 2013) that exceeds $400,000 for singles, $425,000 for heads-of-household, $450,000 for marrieds-filing-jointly, and $225,000 for marrieds filing separately. (For tax years after 2013, these highest bracket threshold amounts are adjusted for inflation, as described above.)

RIA observation: The following 2013 rate schedules were projected by RIA and confirmed by the Joint Committee on Taxation in JCX-2-13 : Overview Of The Federal Tax System As In Effect For 2013. The schedules take into account the rate changes above, the permanent expansion of the 15% bracket for married joint filers (see ¶102 ), and all applicable inflation adjustments.

   PROJECTED 2013 RATE SCHEDULES
 
               FOR SINGLE INDIVIDUALS 
(OTHER THAN HEADS OF HOUSEHOLDS AND SURVIVING SPOUSES)
 
If taxable income is:                 The tax would be:
--------------------                  ----------
Not over $8,925                       10% of taxable income
Over $8,925 but not                   $892.50 plus 15% of the
  over $36,250                           excess over $8,925
Over $36,250 but not                  $4,991.25 plus 25% of the
  over $87,850                           excess over $36,250
Over $87,850 but not                  $17,891.25 plus 28% of the
  over $183,250                          excess over $87,850
Over $183,250 but not                 $44,603.25 plus 33% of the
  over $398,350                          excess over $183,250
Over $398,350 but not                 $115,586.25 plus 35% of the
  over $400,000                          excess over $398,350
Over $400,000                         $116,163.75 plus 39.6% of the
                                         excess over $400,000
                  FOR HEADS OF HOUSEHOLDS
 
If taxable income is:                 The tax would be:
--------------------                  -----------
Not over $12,750                      10% of taxable income
Over $12,750 but not                  $1,275.00 plus 15% of the
  over $48,600                           excess over $12,750
Over $48,600 but not                  $6,652.50 plus 25% of the
  over $125,450                          excess over $48,600
Over $125,450 but not                 $25,865.00 plus 28% of the
  over $203,150                          excess over $125,450
Over $203,150 but not                 $47,621.00 plus 33% of the
  over $398,350                          excess over $203,150
Over $398,350 but not                 $112,037.00 plus 35% of the
  over $425,000                          excess over $398,350
Over $425,000                         $121,364.50 plus 39.6% of the
                                         excess over $425,000
FOR MARRIED INDIVIDUALS FILING JOINT RETURNS AND SURVIVING SPOUSES
 
If taxable income is:                 The tax would be:
--------------------                  -----------
Not over $17,850                      10% of taxable income
Over $17,850 but not                  $1,785.00 plus 15% of the
  over $72,500                         excess over $17,850
Over $72,500 but not                  $9,982.50 plus 25% of the
  over $146,400                         excess over $72,500
Over $146,400 but not                 $28,457.50 plus 28% of the
  over $223,050                         excess over $146,400
Over $223,050 but not                 $49,919.50 plus 33% of the
  over $398,350                         excess over $223,050
Over $398,350 but not                 $107,768.50 plus 35% of the
  over $450,000                         excess over $398,350
Over $450,000                         $125,846.00 plus 39.6% of the
                                        excess over $450,000
              FOR MARRIEDS FILING SEPARATE RETURNS
 
If taxable income is:                 The tax would be:
--------------------                  -----------
Not over $8,925                       10% of taxable income
Over $8,925 but not                   $892.50 plus 15% of the
  over $36,250                           excess over $8,925
Over $36,250 but not                  $4,991.25 plus 25% of the
  over $73,200                           excess over $36,250
Over $73,200 but not                  $14,228.75 plus 28% of the
  over $111,525                           excess over $73,200
Over $111,525 but not                 $24,959.75 plus 33% of the
  over $199,175                          excess over $111,525
Over $199,175 but not                 $53,884.25 plus 35% of the
  over $225,000                          excess over $199,175
Over $225,000                         $62,923.00 plus 39.6% of the
                                         excess over $225,000

RIA observation: As described above, for tax year 2013 (as calculated by RIA), the 35% tax rate bracket for singles applies when taxable income exceeds $398,350. And as described above, the 2012 Taxpayer Relief Act imposes a 39.6% rate (for 2013) on a single individual’s taxable income over $400,000. Thus, this change virtually eliminates the 35% bracket for 2013 for single taxpayers, as no more than $1,650 of their taxable income could be taxed at the 35% rate.

For the 2012 Taxpayer Relief Act’s permanent extension of the expanded 15% rate bracket for married joint filers (providing some relief from the “marriage penalty” within the rate structure), see ¶102 .

For the 2012 Taxpayer Relief Act’s permanent extension of reduced rates for kiddie tax and certain withholding (rates tied to the individual rates above), see ¶103 .

For the 2012 Taxpayer Relief Act changes to the trusts’ and estates’ income tax rates, see ¶104 .

For the 2012 Taxpayer Relief Act changes to the capital gains and qualified dividends rates, see ¶201 and ¶202 , respectively.

Effective: For tax years beginning after Dec. 31, 2012. ( 2012 Taxpayer Relief Act §101(a)(3); 2012 Taxpayer Relief Act §101(b)(3))

© 2013 Thomson Reuters/RIA. All rights reserved.

 

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