What Is Income Tax?
The term income tax refers to a type of tax that governments impose on income generated by businesses and individuals within their jurisdiction. By law, taxpayers must file an income tax return annually to determine their tax obligations.
Income taxes are a source of revenue for governments. They are used to fund public services, pay government obligations, and provide goods for citizens.
- Income tax is a type of tax that governments impose on income generated by businesses and individuals within their jurisdiction.
- Income tax is used to fund public services, pay government obligations, and provide goods for citizens.
- Personal income tax is a type of income tax that is levied on an individual’s wages, salaries, and other types of income.
- Business income taxes apply to corporations, partnerships, small businesses, and people who are self-employed.
How Income Tax Works
Most countries employ a progressive income tax system in which higher-income earners pay a higher tax rate compared to their lower-income counterparts.2 The U.S. imposed the nation’s first income tax in 1862 to help finance the Civil War. After the war, the tax was repealed; it was reinstated during the early 20th century.3
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) collects taxes and enforces tax law in the United States.4 The IRS employs a complex set of rules and regulations regarding reportable and taxable income, deductions, credits, et al.5 The agency collects taxes on all forms of income, such as wages, salaries, commissions, investments, and business earnings.6
The personal income tax the government collects can help fund government programs and services, such as Social Security, national security, schools, and roads.7
Types of Income Tax
Individual Income Tax
Individual income tax is also referred to as personal income tax. This type of income tax is levied on an individual’s wages, salaries, and other types of income. This tax is usually a tax the state imposes. Because of exemptions, deductions, and credits, most individuals do not pay taxes on all of their income.
The IRS offers a series of income tax deductions and tax credits that taxpayers can make use of to reduce their taxable income. While a deduction can lower your taxable income and the tax rate that is used to calculate your tax, a tax credit reduces your income tax by giving you a larger refund of your withholding.8
The IRS offers tax deductions for healthcare expenses, investments, and certain education expenses. For example, if a taxpayer earns $100,000 in income and qualifies for $20,000 in deductions, the taxable income reduces to $80,000 ($100,000 – $20,000 = $80,000).8
Tax credits exist to help reduce the taxpayer’s tax obligation or amount owed. They were created primarily for those in middle-income and low-income households. To illustrate, if an individual owes $20,000 in taxes but qualifies for $4,500 in credits, their tax obligation reduces to $15,500 ($20,000 – $4,500 = $15,500).8
Business Income Taxes
Businesses also pay income taxes on their earnings; the IRS taxes income from corporations, partnerships, self-employed contractors, and small businesses.9 Depending on the business structure, either the corporation, its owners, or shareholders report their business income and then deduct their operating and capital expenses. Generally, the difference between their business income and their operating and capital expenses is considered their taxable business income.1011
State and Local Income Tax
Most U.S. states also levy personal income taxes. But there are eight states that don’t impose personal income taxes on residents: Alaska, Florida, Nevada, South Dakota, Texas, Tennessee, Washington, and Wyoming. Tennessee repealed its Hall tax on Jan. 1, 2021, which taxed dividends and interest.12
New Hampshire also has no state tax on income. But residents must pay a 5% tax on any dividends and interest they earn.13 The state passed a bill in 2018 which would phase out the state 5% tax on interest and dividends on Jan. 1, 2024.14 This will bring the number of states with no income tax to nine by 2024.
Keep in mind, though, that it may not necessarily be cheaper to live in a state that does not levy income taxes. This is because states often make up the lost revenue with other taxes or reduced services. In addition, there are other factors that determine the affordability of living in a state, including health care, cost of living, and job opportunities. For instance, Florida residents pay a 6% sales tax on goods and services while the state sales tax in Tennessee is 7%.