As Americans across the country rang in the new year, many were unaware that, at midnight, more than 50 different tax breaks expired. According to the Tax Foundation, among them were credits for everything from building motorsports facilities, producing biofuels, conducting business research and development, and even training a mine rescue team.
Clearly, the U.S. tax system can be very complex. Understanding the basics, especially the different types of taxes you may face, can be a valuable tool in financial planning.
Not all taxes are paid at the same time. Some, for example, are deducted from your paycheck. “Generally, three types of taxes will show up on a worker’s pay stub: federal income taxes, payroll taxes (Social Security and Medicare), and state income taxes,” Andrew Lundeen, manager of federal projects at the Tax Foundation, told 24/7 Wall St.
Other taxes, however, are levied at the register. State and local governments collect sales taxes on individual goods and services. Similarly, governments charge excise taxes on specific items, including gasoline and cigarettes.
Not all authorities levy the same types of taxes. Income taxes serve as the largest source of revenue for the federal government, accounting for over 40% of yearly tax revenue. And according to projections from the Congressional Budget Office, income taxes, as well as social insurance taxes, should continue to account for the bulk of the U.S. government’s tax revenue going forward.
At the state level, the picture is a bit more mixed. Different states use different tax structures to raise money for the various services they provide. While some states rely heavily on income taxes, others depend primarily on sales or property taxes. A few states, including Florida and Texas, have no personal income tax. Others “follow a structure similar to the federal [tax] code, but with different brackets and much lower rates,” explained Lundeen.
Counties, cities, and other local areas often levy taxes to raise money as well. Property taxes, Lundeen noted, “are generally charged at the local level in order to pay for services such as schools, police and fire departments, and parks.” Similarly, localities often charge an additional sales tax.
Not all taxes apply to everyone. The federal estate tax, often the subject of controversy, applies only after death and only if the estate is worth $5.34 million or more. Also, you may be able to avoid paying a number of excise taxes if you do not smoke, drink, or gamble. However, some excise taxes may be harder to avoid, including those levied on cell phone services, hotel stays, and gasoline purchases, according to Lundeen.
Here are seven ways Americans pay taxes.