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The IRS has released the 2018 tax rates. Here they are by income and tax filing status. We also cover exemption amounts and standard deduction.

2018 tax rates

Ah, fall has arrived. You know, the time of year when the leaves change colors, the days get shorter . . . and the IRS releases next year’s tax brackets.

This year is no different. Last week, Uncle Sam let us know how much we can expect to pay in taxes next year, based on our income.

It’s important to remember that these numbers are not the ones you’ll be using to prepare your taxes this coming spring. (If you need a refresher, those numbers can be found on the 2017 bracket page.)

Instead, these 2018 brackets are for the taxes you can expect to pay on any income that you earn in 2018. This means that you’ll use these numbers for the taxes that you prepare in the spring of 2019. Let’s take a look and see what’s new.

Updated Tax Rates

The new brackets below outline the taxes that you can expect to pay from January through December of 2018, which you’ll then file in spring 2019. You can use them to adjust your withholdings and plan your finances next year (especially if you’re a contract employee or freelancer and need to pay quarterly taxes).

2018 Marginal Rates

As you can expect, bracket limits have been bumped for the year. The limits haven’t risen all that much, though, so your impact won’t be too significant.

Here’s a look at the chart:

2018 Tax Brackets

Here are the tax brackets in more detail.

Married Filing Jointly and Surviving Spouses

Taxable Income Taxes
Up to $19,050 10% of taxable income
Over $19,050 but not over $77,400 $1,905 plus 15% of excess over $19,050
Over $77,400 but not over $156,150 $10,657.50 plus 25% of the excess over $77,400
Over $156,150 but not over $237,950 $30,345 plus 28% of the excess over $156,150
Over $237,950 but not over $424,950 $53,249 plus 33% of the excess over $237,950
Over $424,950 but not over $480,050 $114,959 plus 35% of the excess over $424,950
Over $480,050 $134,244 plus 39.6% of the excess over $480,050

Heads of Households

Taxable Income Taxes
Up to $13,600 10% of taxable income
Over $13,600 but not over $51,850 $1,360 plus 15% of excess over $13,600
Over $51,850 but not over $133,850 $7,097.50 plus 25% of the excess over $51,850
Over $133,850 but not over $216,700 $27,597.50 plus 28% of the excess over $133,850
Over $216,700 but not over $424,950 $50,795.50 plus 33% of the excess over $216,700
Over $424,950 but not over $453,350 $119,518 plus 35% of the excess over $424,950
Over $453,350 $129,458 plus 39.6% of the excess over $453,350

Unmarried Individuals (other than Surviving Spouses and Heads of Households:

Taxable Income Taxes
Up to $9,525 10% of taxable income
Over $9,525 but not over $38,700 $952.50 plus 15% of excess over $9,525
Over $38,700 but not over $93,700 $5,328.75 plus 25% of the excess over $38,700
Over $93,700 but not over $195,450 $19,078.75 plus 28% of the excess over $93,700
Over $195,450 but not over $424,950 $47,568.75 plus 33% of the excess over $195,450
Over $424,950 but not over $426,700 $123,303.75 plus 35% of the excess over $424,950
Over $426,700 $123,916.25 plus 39.6% of the excess over $426,700

Married Individuals Filing Separately:

Taxable Income Taxes
Up to $9,525 10% of taxable income
Over $9,525 but not over $38,700 $952.50 plus 15% of excess over $9,525
Over $38,700 but not over $78,075 $5,328.75 plus 25% of the excess over $38,700
Over $78,075 but not over $118,975 $15,172.50 plus 28% of the excess over $78,075
Over $118,975 but not over $212,475 $26,624.50 plus 33% of the excess over $118,975
Over $212,475 but not over $240,025 $57,479.50 plus 35% of the excess over $212,475
Over $240,025 $67,122 plus 39.6% of the excess over $240,025

The most important thing to remember about these numbers is that they could still change if tax reform actually happens. If it doesn’t, however, you can count on the numbers above for 2018.

Standard Deduction

Another slight increase comes in the form of the standard deduction. But again, this isn’t a significant bump.

For 2018, single taxpayers and those who are married but filing separately can take a standard deduction of $6,500 (an increase from last year’s $6,350). Heads of household can take $9,550 (up from $9,350) and married couples filing jointly can take $13,000 (up from $12,700).

If you’re blind or older than 65, you can take an additional standard deduction of $1,300. If you’re unmarried, this additional deduction is $1,600.

This means that you can decrease the amount of income on which you pay taxes by this standard deduction. So, if you made $50,000 last year and are single, the standard deduction will decrease your taxable income down to $43,500.

Personal Exemption

After two years at $4,050, the personal exemption has increased to $4,150 for 2018. And just like the standard deduction above, the personal exemption means that you can earn even more money without owing income taxes on it.

However, the personal exemptions phase out beginning with a certain level of income. This means that if you make too much money, you won’t be able to take the full personal exemption on your earned income. This threshold begins at $266,700 for single filers, $160,000 for married filing separately, $320,000 for married filing jointly, and $293,550 for heads of household.

How to Calculate Your Taxes

While most of us simply plug our W-2 into TurboTax and let the computer do the thinking for us, it’s still important to at least know how tax brackets work.

For the sake of our example, let’s assume that you’re a single filer with an earned income of $110,650, and you don’t have any dependents. Take your income and subtract both your standard deduction and personal exemption, and you’re left with $100,000 in taxable income.

Now, apply your marginal tax rates.

Based on your first $9,525 of income, you’ll own 10% (for a total of $952.50 in taxes). For income dollars $9,526 through $38,700, you’ll owe 15% (for another $4,376.25). Then, for income dollars $38,701 through $93,700, you’ll pay 25% in taxes (adding up to another $13,750). This means that for your first $93,700 in income, you’ll pay a total of $19,078.75 in income taxes.

Now take the income left over ($6,300) and apply the next marginal tax rate of 28%. This will add another $1,764 to your tax bill. That means that for the year, you will pay a total of $20,842.75 in taxes on your total $110,650 earned.

For that level of income, your marginal tax rate ranged from 10% to 28%; however, your effective tax rate comes out to only 20.84% of your taxable income ($100,000). If you count it against your entire earned income ($110,650), though, you’re paying only 18.84% in taxes for the year.

You should also note that investment income can sometimes be taxed separately from, and at a lower interest rate than, earned income.

It’s interesting to look at these newly-released brackets, knowing that there’s a chance for tax reform. This would, of course, change everything shown here. If this happens, we will be sure to update you right away!

Next Steps

  • Get your tax returns filed quickly, easily and inexpensively with TurboTax.


Whether you’re an investment guru with billions to your name or a small business owner who has seen years of hard work finally result in success, you definitely don’t want to see even more of your money eaten away by estate taxes. To combat this, you may be looking to spread the wealth now. This could include gifting your children with the down payment on their new home, buying your mom a new car, or simply writing your nephew a generous check at Christmastime.

Could You Be In Luck? Trump’s Tax Reform Proposal

Making large disbursements such as these can be a simple and effective way to reduce your future taxable estate, benefiting your heirs considerably. Here’s why you should consider the annual gift exclusion and how your generosity can be utilized in the most tax-efficient way possible.

What is the annual gift exclusion and how does it work?

Each and every U.S. citizen is allowed to give anyone of their choosing up to $14,000 a year (as of 2017), without incurring either a gift tax liability or being required to report the gift. This means that if you’d like to spread the wealth to your children, you are able to give them as much as $14,000 each per year without any sort of tax implications. Married couples are allowed to compound this benefit, gifting as much as $28,000 to any individual of their choosing without any gift tax being applied.

Example: Let’s pretend that you and your wife have five kids, but are also very close to your best friend’s two children, as well. You have recently retired and sold your company and would like to give them all the gift of a vacation fund this summer. (What a generous fellow you are! By the way, I need a vacation, too…)

As a couple, you and your wife are allowed to give each of your children and each of your friend’s children as much as $28,000, effectively reducing your taxable estate by $196,000 this year. There is no limit to the number of people to whom you can give these annual gifts, and you can do it each and every year. If you were to write them all a comparable check every year for the next ten years, you could easily reduce your estate by $1.96 million… without it counting toward your lifetime gift exclusion or being taxed as part of your estate.

Related: How to Avoid Estate Taxes on Life Insurance Proceeds

Individuals or married couples who make gifts above the $14,000/$28,000 limits do have a reporting requirement, and must file IRS Form 709 on which they tell the IRS about the excess. This does not mean that either the donor or the donee needs to pay gift taxes on the amount over the annual exclusion limit. It simply means that anything above $14,000/$28,000 will count toward the donor’s lifetime gift exemption.

What is the Lifetime Exemption?

Essentially, every American is allowed to give away as much as $5.49 million of their estate (as of 2017), without it being subject to estate taxes. If you are to pass on an estate to your children that is worth more than $5.5 million, they will likely owe taxes on the excess.

So, where does the annual gift exclusion come into play? Well, if you were to give away bits and pieces of your estate on an annual basis, up to the exclusion limit, you would reduce the value of your estate while essentially giving your money away “early.” This means you can bypass some of these taxes and make the money available to others, like your children, right now… when they may need it most. If you give them more than the $14,000/$28,000 limit each year, though, the IRS will keep track of the surplus given, and it will count against your $5.49 million Lifetime Exemption.

Here are some examples, assuming that you have an estate worth $8 million.

Scenario 1: You have an estate that is still worth $8 million when you die, so your heirs will pay estate taxes on approximately $2.51 million of that.

Scenario 2: You and your spouse have been effectively reducing your estate each year, giving each of your children and siblings a $25,000 check at Christmastime. Over the final two decades of your life, you manage to disburse a total of $4 million (8 people, each getting an annual $25,000 check over 20 years).

This means that estate has been reduced to roughly $4 million by the time you pass, which is below the Lifetime Exemption limit… therefore, your heirs will not be subject to estate taxes on the remainder. You’ve just saved your heirs a ton of money.

Scenario 3: You (not you and your spouse) have given each of your four children a $114,000 check every December. The first $14,000 of each check counts toward your annual gift exclusion. The remaining $100,000 of each, though, needs to be reported on the IRS Form 709 and will be tracked as part of your Lifetime Exemption.

Let’s say that you pass away ten years later; you will have given away $4.56 million, reducing your estate to $3.44 million. However, since you went over your annual exclusion each year, you have already used up a whopping $4 million of your Lifetime Exemption. This means that your children will now be subject to estate taxes on $1.95 million of the remainder ($5.49 million Lifetime Exemption – $4 million already gifted = $1.49 million left of your exemption…. $3.44 million estate – $1.49 million Lifetime Exemption left = $1.95 million overage for which taxes are due).

Other benefits of using the gift exclusion

Aside from reducing your taxable estate and saving your heirs money, the other advantage of using the annual gift exemption is sheer simplicity. Using this method you get the perks of:

  • Not giving up control of a large portion of your assets.
  • No administrative costs i.e. trust tax returns/legal set up costs.
  • Only needing to file a gift tax report if making a gift in excess of the annual limit.
  • Control over how much to gift each year.
  • Control over who to gift to each year.
  • No requirement to a make gift every year.

What are the potential issues with an annual gifting strategy?

One possible drawback is that the person you are making a gift to is incapable of managing their financial affairs. In this case, you may want to use a trust to protect them from themselves or creditors. Also, this strategy does not make sense for anyone with a child with special needs. Gifting them money outright may jeopardize their governmental benefits. In that case, the correct way to give to them would be via a special needs trust.

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Finally, a potential issue is if the donor couple has a shorter-than-expected life expectancy, which would diminish the amount given. However, the couple’s untimely death would be somewhat offset by decreased growth in their investments.

The annual gift is a humble but effective solution to wealth transfer. For those of you with larger estates, it can still be an effective tool in your estate planning toolbox.


TAX ReformI’ve been fortunate enough to live on this wonderful earth for 32+ years. During that time, I’ve come to realize two things as certainties.  First, the New York Jets are never going to win a Superbowl in my lifetime and second, taxes are unbearably complicated.

One day, I hope to vote for a President who vows to take care of the former. For now, I’d like to discuss Donald Trump’s first attempt to take care of the latter.

Yesterday, Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin, and Director of the National Economic Council Gary Cohn, went to the WH briefing room podium and spent a good 20 minutes providing a brief outline of the new tax-cutting plan that they hope to pass through Congress. No timetable was provided (because it’s going to take a while), and specific details were not given (because they don’t know them yet). But the first draft of what Donald Trump hopes will be the new tax code was announced.

If you hate paying taxes, and by some small miracle this (or something close to it) is the plan that passes through the House and the Senate, you can start practicing your smiling now.

Donald Trump’s Tax Cut Policy

Here’s a basic rundown of what the new tax cut policy proposes:

  1. Tax brackets will be cut from seven tiers to three, and the top bracket will be 35%.
  2. The standard deduction for individual and married filers will double.
  3. The only deductions that can be added to a return are the home mortgage deduction and charitable donations.
  4. The AMT tax is phased out.
  5. The death tax (estate tax) will be repealed immediately.
  6. The capital gains rate will be lowered to 20%.
  7. The corporate tax rate will be lowered to 15%.

Let’s tackle these one at a time. We’ll explain how each of them will likely affect a middle class, tax-paying citizen of the United States.

Related: How to Pay Zero Capital Gains Tax When You Sell Your Home

(1) Tax Brackets Simplified

The Donald Trump tax cuts plan proposes to reduce the number of tax brackets from seven down to three. The three levels of taxes would become 10%, 25%, and 35%.  This is a notable simplification of the current tax code, with brackets of 10%, 15%, 25%, 28%, 33%, 35%, and 39.6%.

What is likely to happen is that the brackets will merge, meaning the first two income groups will now move into the new 10% bracket (currently 10% and 15%), the next three merge into the 25% tax bracket (currently 25%, 28%, and 33%), and the top two merge into the new 35% tax bracket (currently 35% and 39.6%).

For a married couple that earns $200,000 in taxable income in 2017, the federal taxes owed would be $42,884.50 with the current brackets. That same couple in the new tax brackets above would pay only $38,615.00, which is a savings of just over $4,000.

(2) Standard Deduction Bump

The standard deduction is one that most tax filers take. For 2017, it is currently set at $6,350 per person and $12,700 for individuals. This means that if you don’t have a lot of deductions to claim on your tax return after this year is done, you can simply take the “standard deduction” and reduce your taxable income by this amount. The newly-proposed standard deduction is $12,000 for individual filers and $24,000 for married filers, though, making it nearly double what we see right now.

Effectively, this means that the first $12,000 of every tax filer’s income is earned federal income tax free. So, for those earning less than $75,000 a year (who would likely fall in the new 10% income tax bracket), this is a savings of $565 per person. My mother and father, God bless ’em, have taken the standard deduction every single year, so this one feature of the tax cuts plan would add $1,100 to their wallets each and every year.

(3) No More Deductions

Now, the bad news. To offset the savings, Donald Trump and his economic team have decided to remove all deductions, except for the mortgage interest deduction and charitable donations.

Anyone who doesn’t routinely take the standard deduction could potentially suffer a bit on this front. Of course, it mostly makes sense to itemize if your eligible deductions are higher than the standard deduction. With the standard deduction being raised, however, this might be a moot point for a lot of people. If you were itemizing in years past because your deductions were a couple thousand dollars over the standard deduction, they should now be below that line… meaning that itemizing is no longer your best option anyway.

Some of the most common deductions that will disappear are:

  • Moving expenses to take a new job
  • State income tax
  • Student loan interest
  • Home office deduction
  • Property taxes
  • Self-employment tax

I can tell you that from the list above, my wife and I take FIVE of those deductions every year. The total of them is greater than the new, proposed standard deduction of $24,000 so, unfortunately, this means we could be paying a little bit more in taxes due to the removal of deductions.

Related: How to Calculate and Pay Quarterly Self-Employment Taxes

(4) Alternative Minimum Tax Phaseout

Essentially, the government says to every high-earning tax filer, “No matter how good you think you are at saving money on your taxes, we’ve got you.”

The Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) is a safeguard of sorts for the IRS, which makes higher income earners run their taxes twice. Once through the regular tax code and again through the AMT tax code. Whichever number is the highest is the amount of taxes they need to pay. This particular tax has generated tens of billions of dollars in revenue over the years from skilled tax loophole extraordinaires, who would have otherwise avoided a large(r) tax payment.

No specific details were discussed by the White House just yet, in terms of how the AMT would be phased out. However, simply using the term “phase out” would suggest that it will take a few years before the tax is repealed entirely.

(5) Bye Bye, Death Tax

While the death tax gets a lot of publicity, it affects only around 0.2% of Americans. When someone with less than $5.49 million in assets passes away, they can transfer their wealth to their loved ones, tax-free. However, for those with assets greater than that amount, a very heavy estate tax of between 18% and 40% is imposed on what their heirs inherit. Twelve different tax brackets were created for the estate tax (why they needed that many, I have no idea) but the new tax cuts proposal would axe the whole thing immediately.

My personal assumption? The annual gift tax limit— which allows people to give no more than $14,000 to anyone they want each year tax-free–would also be removed as a result of the removal of the estate tax.  Again, this is simply my assumption… there’s no fact-based evidence to back it up just yet.

(6) Capital Gains Rate Down

A capital gains tax (CGT) is a tax on capital gains, the profit realized on the sale of a non-inventory asset that was purchased at a cost amount that was lower than the amount realized on the sale. What was that?

I know it sounds complicated, but as an example: let’s imagine that you decided to buy $50,000 in either Apple stock or a fixer-upper home. When you go to sell either of those, you may be subject to capital gains taxes. The capital gains tax kicks in on any profit made from the sale of your Apple stock or home renovation project… so if either of them are worth more than $50,000 when you sell, you’re taxed on the growth (or gain).

Related: What I Learned from Flipping a House (and Why I’ll Never Do It Again)

The highest capital gains tax rate is currently 28%, but the Trump administration has said it wants to reduce that rate to 20%. This is a tax cut that is most likely to affect wealthy filers, as heavy profits made from investments would be taxed at a lower rate. However, this would also impact some small business owners and entrepreneurs, such as SPEC home builders.

(7) Corporate Tax Drop

The current corporate tax rate has a few brackets of its own, but any company that earns more than $335,000 falls into the 35% tax bracket. One of the biggest talking points of Donald Trump’s campaign was reducing the corporate tax rate to 15% to make companies in the United States more competitive. After a few months of ,”Well, maybe we’ll get it to 20%,” the decision was made to attempt a tax code overhaul where the corporate tax is 15%.

The immediate effect this has on the US taxpayer would not be found in their tax filing, but rather in the general overall health of the US economy. A lower corporate tax rate is likely to bring more overseas companies back to the United States, which means more jobs and higher-paying jobs for those already here. Small businesses would also see higher margins, allowing for an increased ability for growth, expansion, and hiring.

Related: How to Minimize Capital Gains Taxes on Investments


Doesn’t it all sound terrific? Well, the truth of the matter is that what you see above and what is to become legislation–if it becomes legislation at all–will probably be very different. Concessions are likely to be made, both to appease the House and Senate and to ensure the US doesn’t increase the deficit to the point of no return.

Three brackets may become four, the corporate tax rate may go from 15% to 25%, and the Alternative Minimum Tax may simply be reduced rather than phased out. No matter what, though, getting tax reform passed this year is something that most American would welcome with open arms.

We’re a long way away from the finished product. So, put your feet up, relax, and enjoy the show! It’ll be a while.


Though I’ve lived in the D.C. area for the past 5 years, I still haven’t bought a home here. It just hasn’t made sense yet, especially since I’m not sure how many more years I’ll choose to stay in this area. The properties I do own are located back in Texas and stay consistently rented out. The two of them combined cost less than one comparable home here in northern Virginia, and that’s only talking about the actual property value, so I’m quite content with the arrangement for now.

I’m not yet sure if I’ll ever move back to the land of affordable homes. Either way, one thing is for sure: it’s hard to discuss the cost of setting down roots in D.C. without talking about property taxes. The biggest surprise, though? While it’s exponentially more expensive to buy a home here versus Texas, the property taxes are actually quite a bit lower!

This is pretty fresh in my mind right now, too, as I received a tax assessment notice in the mail just yesterday. For the third year in a row, one of my properties’ values is climbing up again. Last year, for instance, it jumped $5,000; this year, it’s climbing another $8,000. While this might be good news if I were looking to sell sometime soon, it’s not good news for a long-term rental property. A higher assessment, of course, means higher property taxes. And higher property taxes mean less money in my pocket.

Don’t Blindly Pay, Especially With an Increase

With high or climbing property tax rates, it’s worth the effort to try to reduce those rates, if at all possible. After all, when filing personal income tax returns, taxpayers look for every deduction and credit, often saving hundreds or thousands of dollars. However, most homeowners simply accept their property tax bill without questions, even though it could easily be a bigger bill than their income taxes.

Related: 30 Things to Budget for When Buying a Home

With the stress of income taxes done and behind us, now is the perfect time to take a look at your property value and the accompanying tax bill. The amount of property tax you owe is based on an assessed value of your house, and local governments typically assess properties every 18 to 36 months. This means that, depending on where you live, your assessment could have been performed when the market was at a peak. Add to it that the average assessments lag behind current values by about three years, and there is plenty of room for real-time error.

What If You Don’t Agree With the Assessment?

Homeowners could save thousands of dollars with a successful appeal if they only set aside a little bit of time to dispute the bill.

Of course, we’d like to think that our home values continue to increase because we want to feel that the decision to buy a home will result in a good investment over time. When it comes to assessments for tax purposes, though, it’s better to have the lowest value possible. Review your recent assessment, and consider these factors for appeal:

  • Comparable home prices. Look at actual sales of houses in your area. Knowing the current market is a key to determining a fair assessment for your house.
  • Age of the assessment. If the assessment is from over a year ago, comparable homes in your area might have sold for less money more recently.
  • Room count and layout. Most assessments are accomplished without definite knowledge of your house’s layout. There could be mistakes in your assessment that result in a higher value on paper, like too many bedrooms. If your basement is unfinished, you could also argue for a lower assessment
  • Amenities. When assessments are based on comparable home prices, you could be unfairly taxed if your home doesn’t have the same amenities as your neighbors’ houses. Don’t have a pool like the houses surrounding yours? Then, you shouldn’t have the same property tax bill.

After you receive notice of your newest assessment, review it quickly and appeal right away. You’ll be filing what’s called a Notice of Protest with your county’s ARB, or appraisal review board. Even if you would prefer to resolve your concerns informally — many appraisal districts will work with you directly to review and resolve your objections — filing this notice in time is still important, as it retains your right to escalate your dispute to the ARB at a later date. You typically have 30 days from the date the appraisal district mailed your new assessment notice to file your dispute.

You’ll want to review the property record card and look for inaccurate details. You can also take photographs of relevant features of your house and look at documentation for comparable home sales in your neighborhood. Make notes of any improvements you have made, as well as anything that may have depreciated your home’s value (a foundation shift resulting in structural damage, for instance, or mold remediation).

The ARB will typically give you about 15 days’ advance notice of your hearing, though you can occasionally postpone this to a later date, if needed.

When you have your hearing, bring all this documentation to support your case, along with copies to pass along to the board members and district representative. When presenting your case, try to keep emotional pleas out of your argument, and just stick to the facts. Firmly but respectfully present your reasoning, and hope for the best.

If you are unhappy with the decision of the district or the appraisal board, you can take your case even higher. In many states, you have the option of appealing to the state district court in the county where your property is located. Be sure to check your individual appraisal district’s options, by looking online or calling the local tax assessor-collector’s office.

It Doesn’t Hurt to Try

Authorities are aware that most assessments are inaccurate, but they won’t do anything about it unless homeowners speak up. Some homeowners are unsuccessful with the first appeal and simply give up — however, I would suggest that pressing on is worth the fight, especially if you’re paying high (or markedly increasing) taxes.

The county certainly isn’t going to do you any favors; if you want to lower your tax bill, it’s going to take some effort. The savings from a successful appeal could be substantial, though, so don’t give up until your home’s value is accurately assessed.


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Last year, the city of Philadelphia decided to pass into law a “beverage tax,” which taxes the sugary drinks you consume at the rate of 1.5 cents per ounce.  At the time, there was some considerable outcry from residents of the city. Nevertheless, the government stuck to their guns. Well, at the turn of this new […]

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