Understanding how our tax system works can be tricky for anyone. Whether you’re an adult who never paid much attention to the taxes being withheld from your paycheck or a kid who just got his or her first job, the starting point to reducing your tax is knowing when to ask a question. But that means having a basic understanding of what might be taxed.
Here are some pointers to help you or someone you know navigate our tax maze.
There are many types of taxes
When you think of taxes, the income tax usually comes to mind. This is a tax on personal and business income you earn from performing a job, or providing a product or service. But there are also other types of taxes besides income taxes. Here are some of the most common.
- Payroll taxes. While income taxes can be used to pay for pretty much anything the government needs money for, payroll taxes are earmarked to pay for Social Security and Medicare benefits. This is 15.3% of most employee’s paycheck, but half of it is paid by your employer.
- Property taxes. These are taxes levied on property you own. The most common example is the property tax on a home or vacation property.
- Sales tax. These are taxes on goods and services you purchase. While most of this tax is applied at the state and local levels, there are also federal sales taxes on items like gasoline.
- Capital gains taxes. If you sell an investment or an asset for a profit, you may owe capital gains taxes. The most common example of this is when you sell stock for a gain. Capital gains taxes could also come into play with other assets, such as selling your home or a rental property you sell for a profit.
- Estate taxes. This tax is applied to assets in your estate after you pass away.
Not all income is subject to tax
Most, but not all, of your income is subject to tax.
- While your paycheck is subject to taxes, interest earned from certain municipal bonds is not. And the government often excludes things like certain life insurance benefits.
- Capital gains taxes have exclusions for gains on the sale of your home and donated stock.
- Estate taxes have an exclusion, so only estates in excess of this exclusion amount are taxed.
- Many employee benefits such as health care, Health Savings Account contributions, commuting benefits and small gifts from your employer are tax free.
The rules around these different types of taxes is complex. Having someone in your corner to help you navigate your tax obligation is often an essential element in minimizing how much tax you do have to pay. It is also helpful, though, for you to understand the basics so you know when to ask a question.
As always, should you have any questions or concerns regarding your tax situation please feel free to call.