So you’re annoyed that big bonus knocked you into the 33% tax bracket? Well, if it's any consolation, you don't have to pay the 33% tax rate on allyour income. That's because you're only taxed at the 33% rate on income beyond a certain threshold — $178,650 for a single filer in 2012. Those who are married, filing jointly don't reach the 33% mark until $217,450. Income up to that point is taxed at the lower rates of 10%, 15%, 25% and 28%. So, your average tax rate is actually much lower than the highest rate you pay. Here's how it works.
For example, say, you're single and have taxable income of $185,000 in 2012. And let's say your gross income was $210,000. Well, your income up to $8,700 is taxed at 10%. From $8,701 to $35,350 is taxed at 15%. From $35,351 up to $85,650, it's taxed at 25%. From $85,651 to $178,650, the rate is 28%. And you'll pay 33% on the remaining $6,350. (The top rate, 35%, kicks in at $379,150 for singles.) In this case, your average tax rate (the proportion of gross income you'll pay in taxes) is “only” about 22%.
Plug your own numbers into our calculator to find your own average tax rate and see how it changes at different income levels.