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Federal Tax Brackets 2011

Published 6/24/10 (Modified 6/17/11)
By MoneyBlueBook

Federal Tax Brackets 2011

Although it seems like we already cut a pretty good share of income from our paychecks to satisfy federal income tax demands, most of us had better brace ourselves for a rise in our 2011 federal tax returns as the federal deficit is on track to hit new highs.

Many tax cuts enacted by President Bush in 2001 and 2003 are set to expire in 2010. These cuts were designed to help all income levels: America's low-, middle-, and higher-income workers. The Tax Foundation summarized some of the major changes to the tax code during the last decade:

  • lowered key federal tax brackets (28% to 25%, 31% to 28%, 36% to 33%, 39.6% to 35%) and created the 10% federal tax bracket
  • doubled the child tax credit to $1,000 per child
  • made more married couples eligible for the earned income tax credit (EITC) and raised the standard deduction for joint filers

More Uncertainty Than in Years Past

As the United States budget deficit hits astronomical levels, we have good cause to worry about what "paying our fair share" means. Usually, a number of tax provisions are legally tied to inflation--and as there's not been too much of that lately, you might think the projected tax provisions won't move much.

That was the case for the 2010 income tax bracket projections. But for 2011, the triple whammy of the deficit, the recession, and scheduled expirations to previous tax code changes makes for some uncertainty. As of this writing, how Congress is going to address the expiration of those significant tax cuts and credits has not yet been resolved.

What's the 2011 tax year outlook? Let's take a closer look at what to expect in 2011 for federal tax bracket income ranges and other changes.

2011 Projected Federal Income Tax Brackets

Tax experts feel that the brackets we've grown accustomed to are going to increase to pre-Bush administration levels or at least begin adjusting in that direction, though the recession has put a dent in President Obama's ability to simply let the tax cuts of the last decade lapse. Among the major changes proposed, is raising the top two federal tax brackets back to 36% and 39.6%.

Policy experts at groups like the Tax Foundation have come up with projections for 2011 federal income tax brackets for various filers. Here are their estimates for 2011 tax bracket income thresholds for married and single filers, assuming that the tax code supports what has been laid out in President Obama's budget.

Federal Income Tax Brackets For 2011--Based On Taxable Income Ranges

Tax Rate
Married Couples Filing Jointly
Most Single Filers
10%Not over $17,050Not over $8,525
15%$17,050 - $69,300$8,525 - $34,650
25%$69,300 - $139,850$34,650 - $83,900
28%$139,850 - $235,550$83,900 - $194,150
36%$235,550 - $380,500$194,150 - $380,500
39.6%Over $380,500Over $380,500

Again, this assumes that the highest two federal tax brackets move back to their pre-Bush tax cut levels of 33% and 35%, respectively. We'll make updates if the IRS comes out with different official numbers.

Other Federal Income Tax Projections for 2011

Other 2011 tax year predictions from experts, mostly based on scheduled changes, include:

  • Standard deduction increase: The standard deduction should increase from $5,700 to $5,800 for single filers and from $11,400 to $11,600 for those married filing jointly.
  • Revival of the estate tax: For people who die after 2010, the federal estate tax will be revived with an exemption of $1,000,000 and a maximum rate of 50%. But Congress is widely expected to take action on the estate tax issue in 2010--too late to catch some estates that have, by pure luck of timing (for their tax burden, anyway), escaped estate taxes entirely.
  • Increase in long-term capital gains rate: The long-term capital gains rate had temporarily been decreased to 15%; it's meant to go back up to 20%, though filers in the 10% and 15% federal tax bracket will likely be subject to a 5% capital gains rate.
  • Qualified dividends: In 2011, dividends may be taxed as ordinary income based on your highest marginal tax rate; another likely scenario is that they will follow the long-term capital gains rate of 20% for federal tax brackets of the 25% marginal rate and higher.
  • Child tax credit: The $1,000 credit per child may go back to $500 for 2011 unless the higher credit is extended.

How to Prepare for Your 2011 Federal Income Tax Return

Now is a good time to revisit your tax deductions. Planning ahead with more information means we won't be left in a lurch come Tax Day, or the opposite pitfall, withholding too much.

The appropriate versions of tax prep software for the 2011 tax year won't be out for a while, of course, but doing some research on the best tax preparation software can make it . Most software will automatically load in previous years' worth of tax information, so if you can commit to one side in the H&R Block vs TurboTax debate (or have another favorite entirely), using that software for 2010 is one way to stay ahead of the game for 2011.

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