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Image source: Author.

This article was updated on May 17, 2016.

To paraphrase Ben Franklin, death and taxes are certainties. But while death tends to happen only once, taxes happen relentlessly. Every. Single. Year. 

Dealing with taxes is a recurring pain, no doubt. But we can lessen the pain by taking steps to be in a better position to deal with them early. (Still working on 2015 taxes? Go here).

And this isn't only for people who've been stuck writing the IRS a check on April 15, but also anyone who gets a big refund every year. Instead of giving the government an interest-free loan, why not take more money home each payday? Understanding the tax brackets can help you do that, too. 

Without further ado, here's a breakdown of the IRS tax brackets for 2016. 

Marginal tax rates for 2016

There are seven tax brackets and four filing statuses. Here are each of the income tax brackets by filing status for 2016:

Single filing status:

OverBut not over   of the amount over 
$0 $9,275 na + 10%   $0
$9,275 $37,650 $927.50 + 15%   $9,275
$37,650 $91,150 $5,183.75 + 25%   $37,650
$91,150 $190,150 $18,558.75 + 28%   $91,150
$190,150 $413,350 $46,278.75 + 33%   $190,150
$413,350 $415,050 $119,934.75 + 35%   $413,350
$415,050   $120,529.75 + 39.6%   $415,050

Table by author: Data source: IRS. 

Head of household: 

OverBut not over   of the amount over 
$0 $13,250 na + 10%   $0
$13,250 $50,400 $1,325 + 15%   $13,250
$50,400 $130,150 $6,897.50 + 25%   $50,400
$130,150 $210,800 $26,835.00 + 28%   $130,150
$210,800 $413,350 $49,417.00 + 33%   $210,800
$413,350 $441,000 $116,258.50 + 35%   $413,350
$441,000   $125,936.00 + 39.6%   $441,000

Table by author. Data source: IRS.

Married filing jointly or qualifying widow(er): 

OverBut not over   of the amount over 
$0 $18,550 na + 10%   $0
$18,550 $75,300 $1,855 + 15%   $18,550
$75,300 $151,900 $10,367.50 + 25%   $75,300
$151,900 $231,450 $29,517.50 + 28%   $151,900
$231,450 $413,350 $51,791.50 + 33%   $231,450
$413,350 $466,950 $111,818.50 + 35%   $413,350
$466,950   $130,578.50 + 39.6%   $466,950

Table by author. Data source: IRS.

Married filing separately: 

OverBut not over   of the amount over 
$0 $9,275 na + 10%   $0
$9,275 $37,650 $927.50 + 15%   $9,275
$37,650 $75,950 $5,183.75 + 25%   $37,650
$75,950 $115,725 $14,758.75 + 28%   $75,950
$115,725 $206,675 $25,895.75 + 33%   $115,725
$206,675 $233,475 $55,909.25 + 35%   $206,675
$233,475   $65,289.25 + 39.6%   $233,475

Table by author. Data source: IRS.

Don't forget deductions

It's important to note that the tax brackets above are based on your taxable income, not your gross income. In other words, if you have common deductions such as mortgage interest, charitable donations, and make pre-tax contributions to a retirement plan, you'll need to factor those out of your total income before the rate schedules above do you any good. 

Food for thought: Marginal versus effective tax rates

The American federal income tax system uses a progressive marginal tax rate, which increases the tax rate with income, as you can see in the tables above. This may mean paying a different "effective" tax rate than someone else in the same bracket. 

For example, a married joint filer earning $75,300 would pay $10,367.50, which works out to a 13.8% tax rate. A filer in that same bracket with $100,000 taxable income would pay $16,542.50, for a 16.5% effective tax rate, since they are paying the same 13.8% on their first $75,300, and 25% on the $24,700 above that amount.

Tax brackets only the start to making sure you don't pay too much

One of the best ways to use the information above is to figure out how much tax you'll owe for next year and make sure your employer deducts the correct amount and not a penny more. You may not get a refund come tax season, but that's just the government giving you back money you didn't owe. 

I'm sure most people can think of uses today for that cash, whether it's paying off debt, saving for a rainy day, or increasing retirement savings, just to name a few. Most importantly, by taking steps today to set yourself up for a tax-neutral 2016, you'll avoid the stress of finding out you owe Uncle Sam a pile of cash come April 2017. 

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