What Are the Income Tax Brackets for 2019 vs. 2018?

Rocky Mengle, Tax Editor

It's never too early to start thinking about your next income tax return. For most taxpayers, that'll be your return for the 2019 tax year--which, by the way, will be due on April 15, 2020. The 2019 tax rates themselves are the same as the tax rates in effect for the 2018 tax year: 10%, 12%, 22%, 24%, 32%, 35% and 37%. (Most of these rates were lowered by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017.) However, as they are every year, the 2019 tax bracket ranges are updated, or "indexed," to account for inflation.

See Also: 18 IRS Audit Red Flags Every Taxpayer Needs to Know

One other thing that has changed is the indexing method used to adjust the tax brackets for inflation. Previously, the tax brackets were adjusted based on the standard Consumer Price Index. However, some economists believe that formula doesn't fully account for changes in spending as prices rise. As a result, lawmakers adopted a "chained" CPI formula for post-2018 adjustments.

2019 Tax Brackets for Single/Married Filing Jointly

Tax Rate Taxable Income
(Single) Taxable Income
(Married Filing Jointly)

10% Up to $9,700 Up to $19,400
12% $9,701 to $39,475 $19,401 to $78,950
22% $39,476 to $84,200 $78,951 to $168,400
24% $84,201 to $160,725 $168,401 to $321,450
32% $160,726 to $204,100 $321,451 to $408,200
35% $204,101 to $510,300 $408,201 to $612,350
37% Over $510,300 Over $612,350

Chained indexing will generally result in lower inflation adjustments to the tax brackets each year, which in turn means you could find yourself in a higher tax bracket on your next return. Why? If your income increases faster than the rate of inflation, you eventually move up to a higher bracket. Since the IRS is using lower inflation adjustments, then the chances that your income will grow faster than the IRS's rate of inflation rise.

2019 Tax Brackets for Married Filing Separately/Head of Household

Tax Rate Taxable Income
(Married Filing Separately) Taxable Income
(Head of Household)

10% Up to $9,700 Up to $13,850
12% $9,701 to $39,475 $13,851 to $52,850
22% $39,476 to $84,200 $52,851 to $84,200
24% $84,201 to $160,725 $84,201 to $160,700
32% $160,726 to $204,100 $160,701 to $204,100
35% $204,101 to $306,175 $204,101 to $510,300
37% Over $306,175 Over $510,300

The "marriage penalty" also still exists. This tax-law twist makes certain couples--typically, those whose incomes are similar--filing a joint return pay more tax than they would if they were single. It's triggered when, for any given rate, the minimum taxable income for joint filers is less than twice the amount for single filers. Before the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, this happened in the four highest tax brackets. However, after tax reform, only the top bracket contains the marriage penalty trap. As a result, only couples with a combined taxable income over $612,350 are at risk when filing their 2019 federal tax return.

See Also: 6 Things Your Tax Preparer Doesn't Want You to Know

Standard Deduction and Personal Exemptions

The standard deduction amounts are adjusted for inflation, too. For joint filers, the 2019 standard deduction is $400 higher than it was for 2018. It jumps $200 for single filers and $350 for heads of households for 2019.

2019 Standard Deduction Amounts

Filing Status Standard Deduction
Single $12,200
Married Filing Jointly $24,400
Head of Household $18,350

As in 2018, personal exemption deductions aren't allowed for 2019. They were eliminated by the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

By the way, it's always a good idea to check your income tax withholding each year--especially, if you're moving into a different tax bracket or experience some other significant shift in your financial situation. Look for changes to how withholding amounts are computed starting in 2020, but in the meantime we have a handy tax withholding calculator that can help you nail down your withholding for 2019. Use it to figure out how claiming more or fewer withholding allowances can affect next year's tax return and this year's paychecks.

Finally, for comparison's sake, here are the tax brackets for the 2018 tax year (click here for the 2020 tax brackets):

2018 Tax Brackets for Single/Married Filing Jointly

Tax Rate Taxable Income
(Single) Taxable Income
(Married Filing Jointly)

10% Up to $9,525 Up to $19,050
12% $9,526 to $38,700 $19,051 to $77,400
22% $38,701 to $82,500 $77,401 to $165,000
24% $82,501 to $157,500 $165,001 to $315,000
32% $157,501 to $200,000 $315,001 to $400,000
35% $200,001 to $500,000 $400,001 to $600,000
37% Over $500,000 Over $600,000

2018 Tax Brackets for Married Filing Separately/Head of Household

Tax Rate Taxable Income
(Married Filing Separately) Taxable Income
(Head of Household)

10% Up to $9,525 Up to $13,600
12% $9,526 to $38,700 $13,601 to $51,800
22% $38,701 to $82,500 $51,801 to $82,500
24% $82,501 to $157,500 $82,501 to $157,500
32% $157,501 to $200,000 $157,501 to $200,000
35% $200,001 to $300,000 $200,001 to $500,000
37% Over $300,000 Over $500,000

See Also: 8 Ways You Might Be Cheating on Your Taxes

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