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Navigating the Impact: Inflation Adjustments to U.S. Tax Brackets

Bryan Strike, MS, MTx, CFA, CFP®, CPA, PFS, CIPM, RICP®

Director, Financial Planning Research & Education

Summary

The IRS has announced new tax brackets for 2024. We outline the impact this could have on taxpayers.

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As the cost of living rises, the U.S. tax system undergoes periodic adjustments to ensure that taxpayers are not unfairly burdened by inflation. Annual inflation adjustments have an impact on tax brackets, standard deductions, retirement contributions, and more. Let’s explore the significance and implications of the adjustments made for tax-year 2024.

 

2024 tax brackets

The tax system is progressive in design, meaning higher levels of income are subject to higher tax rates. Tax brackets are the income ranges used in determining the applicable tax rate for a taxpayer.

2024 Tax Rates

Tax rate

 

Income range ($):
Married filing jointly
Income range ($):
Single
10% 0 – 23,200 0 – 11,600
12% 23,201 – 94,300 11,601 – 47,150
22% 94,301 – 201,050 47,151 – 100,525
24% 201,051 – 383,900 100,526 – 191,950
32% 383,901 – 487,450 191,951 – 243,725
35% 487,451 – 731,200 243,726 – 609,350
37% 731,201 and higher 609,351 and higher

 

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) uses the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U) to calculate inflation. The IRS reviews the CPI-U data annually and adjusts tax brackets accordingly. This ensures that taxpayers are not inadvertently subject to higher tax rates in proportion to the rising cost of goods and services.

 

The purpose

Adjustments are made to preserve fairness in the tax system, by preventing taxpayers from facing higher tax liability in proportion to the effects of inflation. The goal is to allow them to keep more of their real income, fostering greater economic stability.

By preventing “bracket creep” (unintentional movement into a higher tax bracket), individuals are incentivized to pursue higher incomes and contribute to economic growth. This, in turn, supports a dynamic and thriving economy.

Inflation-adjusted tax brackets provide greater predictability for taxpayers and tax planners. Individuals can better anticipate their tax liability and plan accordingly to achieve financial stability and their long-term goals.

 

Challenges

While adjusting tax brackets for inflation is a positive step toward a fairer tax system, it’s essential to acknowledge the limitations. The CPI-U may not capture the specific inflation experience of all individuals or demographic groups, potentially leading to variations in the impact of these adjustments.

Additionally, tax policies and legislation play a significant role in the overall impact of inflation on taxpayers. Changes in tax laws, deductions, and credits can increase—or potentially limit—the effectiveness of inflation-adjusted tax brackets.

Inflation adjustment is a vital mechanism for ensuring that the tax system remains fair and equitable during periods of economic change. By preventing bracket creep and offering predictability, this adjustment supports economic growth and financial planning. As taxpayers navigate the complexities of the tax code, it’s crucial that they understand the implications of inflation adjustment so they can make sound financial decisions.