Where to Find and How to Read Tax Tables

Using the U.S. Federal Income Tax Tables

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Tax tables or charts are used to calculate the tax you owe based on a number of variables. Tax tables are published by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and by each individual state that collects income tax. A typical tax table will show breakpoint income levels, above and below which different tax rates will apply.

Individuals and companies that prepare their own taxes make extensive use of tax tables.

 Tax tables are also used to calculate capital gains taxes. 

Tax tables will change from year to year, and will vary from state to state. Individuals and companies should always be sure that they are using the correct tax tables based on year,  their income and sources and area of residence.

U.S. Federal Income Tax Tables

This article will focus on U.S. Federal Income Tax Tables as issued yearly by the IRS.

The federal income tax you owe is based on a number of variables, factors such as your filing status (e.g., single), your deductions (e.g., medical and dental expenses), your exemptions (e.g., dependents), and the amount of taxable income you earned in the taxable year. These tax tables will show you the applicable tax rates and the specific dollar amount you owe based on all variables. 

The federal tax tables are embedded in many popular tax preparation software packages, which may make your tax preparation job much easier.

Where to Find the Federal Tax Tables

If you are filling out the Federal Form 1040-EZ, you will find the tax tables located towards the back of the Instructions for Form 1040-EZ.

If you are filling out the Federal Form 1040-A (the "short form"), you will find the tax tables located towards the back of the Instructions for Form 1040-A.

If you are filling out the Federal Form 1040 (the "long form"), you can find the tax tables located in the Instructions for Form 1040.

You can also find the tax tables located in its own separate file called i1040tt. This file contains the same tax tables as the instruction booklets, but in its own separate file.

How to Read the Tax Tables

First, you'll need to know what your "taxable income" is.

You will then scroll down through the columns for taxable income. You will see taxable income group in ranges of $50. Find the range that includes your taxable income. Then scroll to the row to the right of your taxable income. Your federal income tax will be shown by filing status. Use the tax figure that corresponds to your filing status in that row.

If You Need Help

If you need help preparing your tax return, or have questions about a tax issue, the IRS provides free resources such as publications, forms or instructions. 

Preparing and filing your tax return. Go to IRS.gov and click on the Filing tab to see your options.

  • Enter “Free File” in the search box to see whether you can use brand-name software to prepare and e-file your federal tax return for free.

  • Enter “VITA” in the search box, download the free IRS2Go app, or call 1-800-906-9887 to find the nearest Volunteer Income Tax Assistance or Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) location for free tax preparation.

  • Enter “TCE” in the search box, download the free IRS2Go app, or call 1-888-227-7669 to find the nearest Tax Counseling for the Elderly location for free tax preparation.

The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program offers free tax help to people who generally make $54,000 or less, persons with disabilities, the elderly, and limited-English-speaking taxpayers who need help preparing their own tax returns. The Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) program offers free tax help for all taxpayers, particularly those who are 60 years of age and older. TCE volunteers specialize in answering questions about pensions and retirement-related issues unique to seniors.