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2023 Income Taxes: What You Need To Know

Spring is around the corner, and for most people, the deadline to file a personal tax return is April 15, 2024. Consumers' Checkbook details changes that might affect your filing and return.

Portrait of Herb Weisbaum

Herb Weisbaum (He, Him, His)
Consumers' Checkbook Contributing Editor
Published Feb 2, 2024 in: Taxes

Read time: 10 minutes

This tax filing season, there aren't any new credits or itemized deductions, but you might find yourself in a different tax bracket.

The IRS made some big adjustments to tax code provisions — including changing the income thresholds for the seven different tax brackets, and setting higher standard deduction amounts — to account for the effects of inflation in 2022.

Without these changes, cost-of-living pay raises could push taxpayers into higher tax brackets or reduce the value of their credits, deductions and exemptions.

"Rather than the typical small adjustments for inflation...things like the standard deduction, and where the different tax brackets kick in, are quite a bit higher than they were in 2022," said Erica York, senior economist at the Tax Foundation, a non-partisan tax policy nonprofit.

As a result of these adjustments, those who did not see their incomes increase in 2023 could find themselves in a lower tax bracket than when they filed their last returns.

New 2023 Tax Brackets

Tax rates stayed the same this year for the seven different tax brackets, but income ranges increased for each bracket compared with income ranges for the 2022 tax year.

Below are the seven tax brackets and income levels for single filers and married couples filing jointly in 2023.

Remember: You pay taxes for the portion of your adjusted gross income that falls within the bracket for each rate.

Single Taxpayer Tax Rates

Tax Rate Taxable Income Tax Equals
$1 - $11,000
10% of $1 - $11,000
$11,001 - $44,725
$1,100 +12% of $11,001 - $44,725
$44,726 - $95,375
$5,147 + 22% of $44,726 - $95,375
$95,376 - $182,100
$16,290 + 24% of $95,376 - $182,100
$182,101 - $231,250
$37,104 + 32% of $182,101 - $231,250
$231,251 - $578,125
$52,832 + 35% of $231,251 - $578,125
$174,238.25 + 37% of $578,126+

Source: 2023 tax rate schedules in IRS Publication 17 (2023), Your Federal Income Tax

Married Filing Jointly Tax Rates

Tax Rate Taxable Income Tax Equals
$1 - $22,000
10% of $1 - $22,000
$22,001 - $89,450
$2,200 + 12% of $22,001 - $89,450
$89,451 - $190,750
$10,294 + 22% of $89,451 - $190,750
$190,751 - $364,200
$32,580 + 24% of $190,751 - $364,200
$364,201 - $462,500
$74,208 + 32% of $364,201 - $462,500
$462,501 - $639,750
$105,664 + 35% of $462,501 - $639,750
$186,601.50 + 37% of $639,751+

Source: 2023 tax rate schedules in IRS Publication 17 (2023), Your Federal Income Tax 

Standard Deductions for 2023

The IRS also raised the standard deductions by about 7% from 2022 standard deductions for those who don't itemize.

  • Married couples filing jointly: The standard deduction is $27,700, up $1,800 from 2022.
  • Single taxpayers and married individuals who file separately: The standard deduction increases to $13,850, up $900.
  • Heads of households: The standard deduction is $20,800, up $1,400.

Taxpayers who are 65 and older or blind, and don't itemize, can get an additional standard deduction that's $100 more than last year. It's now $1,500 for married couples and $1,850 for single filers and heads of households.

Note: Those who take the standard deduction cannot deduct charitable contributions. This change was made in 2023.

Tax Credits Might Reduce Your Tax Burden 

A tax credit, the IRS explains, "is a dollar-for-dollar amount taxpayers claim on their tax return to reduce the income tax they owe."

Eligible taxpayers can use credits to reduce their tax bill, and potentially increase their refund.

Note: You must file a tax return to claim these tax credits.

  • Earned Income Tax Credit: The maximum amount for qualifying taxpayers who have three or more qualifying children is $7,430 for 2023, up from $6,935 for tax year 2022.
  • Child Tax Credit: This remains capped at $2,000 per qualifying dependent (under the age of 17), for those married taxpayers filing jointly with a modified adjusted gross income of $400,000 or less, or $200,000 or less for other filers.
  • Adoption Credit: The maximum credit allowed is the amount of qualified adoption expenses, up to $15,950.

Other Significant Changes for this Filing Season

The IRS made several other adjustments to account for inflation, including:

  • Alternative Minimum Tax: The new exemption is $81,300; it begins to phase out at $578,150. For married couples filing jointly, the exemption is $126,500; it begins to phase out at $1,156,300.
  • Foreign Earned Income Exclusion: $120,000, up from $112,000 for tax year 2022.
  • Estate Taxes: The basic exclusion from federal estate taxes is now $12,920,000 for someone who died during 2023, up $860,000 from 2022.
  • Gifts: The annual exclusion increases to $17,000 for calendar year 2023, up from $16,000 in 2022.

Visit the IRS website for detailed info on deductions and credits.

Clean Vehicle Credit

If you bought a new plug-in electric (EV) or fuel cell vehicle (FCV) in 2023, you might qualify for a Clean Vehicle Tax Credit of up to $7,500. The credit is limited to certain EV and FCV vehicles manufactured in North America and is based on MSRP, sourcing of battery components and delivery date. There are also income limits. Your modified adjusted gross income (AGI) cannot exceed $300,000 for married couples filing jointly, $225,000 for heads of households, and $150,000 for all other filers.

Important Dates

The 2024 filing season officially started on Jan. 29; that's when the IRS started accepting and processing 2023 tax returns.

For most taxpayers, the deadline to file their federal tax return, pay any tax owed or request an extension to file is April 15, 2024.

Taxpayers living in Maine or Massachusetts have until April 17, 2024, due to the Patriot's Day and Emancipation Day holidays. If a taxpayer resides in a federally declared disaster area, they also may have additional time to file.

Getting a Refund?

The quickest and best way to get your refund is to file your return electronically and use direct deposit.

In most cases, if there are no errors and the return is complete, you should have your money in less than 21 calendar days. Mail in your return, and it could take four weeks or more for the IRS to process it.

With direct deposit, you can have your refund sent to as many as three different accounts: A checking or savings account, a prepaid debit card or a mobile payment app.

The IRS says eight out of 10 taxpayers use direct deposit because it's "simple, safe, and secure." This is the same electronic transfer system used to deposit nearly 98% of all Social Security and Veterans Affairs benefits into millions of accounts.

By law, the IRS cannot issue refunds before mid-February to taxpayers who claim an Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) or Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC). The IRS said it expects most of the refunds for these returns to be available by Feb. 27 (possibly earlier) if the taxpayer chooses direct deposit and there are no other issues.

To check the status of your refund, use the "Where's My Refund?" tool on the IRS website.

If you owe money, you don't have to make any payment until the April 15 filing deadline, which gives you a little time to save up. If you can't afford to pay what you owe by April 15, check if you qualify for an IRS payment plan.

Free Help and Free Filing

IRS Free File is available to individuals or families with an adjusted gross income of $79,000 or less in 2023. This year, eight commercial tax preparation companies are taking part in the program. DO NOT search the internet for "file my taxes for free." You could end up on the website of a scammer. Instead, use the links provided by the IRS on its Free File page.

Each tax prep company participating in the program sets its own eligibility rules based on age, income and state residency. If you meet a company's requirements, the provider cannot charge for preparing and filing your federal tax return.

Note: Some IRS Free File providers charge a fee to prepare state income tax returns. Any state tax preparation or non-qualifying fees must be disclosed up front on the provider's IRS Free File landing page.

Unless they obtain your informed and voluntary consent, IRS Free File providers are prohibited from disclosing or using your information for purposes other than preparing your tax return.

The IRS also offers free basic tax return preparation to qualified individuals through its Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) and Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) programs. These programs are available to taxpayers with adjusted gross incomes of less than $64,000, who are 60 years and older, have disabilities or speak limited English. At selected sites, taxpayers can input and electronically file their own tax return with the assistance of an IRS-certified volunteer.

MilTax is a free resource from the U.S. Department of Defense. It includes tax preparation and electronic filing software, as well as personalized support from military tax experts. MilTax is designed to assist with issues involving deployments, combat and training pay, housing, and multi-state filings. Eligible service members (and some veterans) can use MilTax to electronically file a federal tax return and up to three state returns for free.

New Option for Some: Direct File

The IRS will test its new Direct File system is a pilot program that provides a new way for low- to moderate-income taxpayers to file their returns directly with the IRS online for free. To take part, taxpayers' incomes must be limited to W-2 wages, Social Security or unemployment benefits, and interest income of $1,500 or less. They must also take the standard deduction.

Direct File won't be available for gig economy workers, those with business income, or those who itemize deductions or claim credits, such as Child and Dependent Care Credit, Saver's Credit or Premium Tax Credit.

Eligible taxpayers aren't required to use this new IRS program; you can still use commercial tax-preparation software or file paper forms. Direct File was built by IRS designers, software engineers and tax experts. All the other options to prepare returns and e-file for free involve third-party companies.

Direct File is being rolled out in phases. It's expected to be widely available by mid-March in the following designated states: Arizona, California, Florida, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Hampshire, New York, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Washington and Wyoming.

IRS Promises Better Customer Service

In announcing the official start of the 2024 tax season, the IRS said it "continues to make improvements" to help taxpayers. The agency will provide more in-person service by opening or reopening Taxpayer Assistance Centers and extending hours at many locations. To decrease wait times on the phone, the IRS added staff and expanded the customer callback feature on its toll-free line, 800-829-1040.

The "Where's My Refund?" tool, the agency's most popular service, is being redesigned to provide more information and reduce the need to call the toll-free line. If all goes as planned, a generic message, such as "Your return is still being processed, check back later," will be replaced with "clear and more detailed updates" written in "plain language," according to the IRS.

Need Help?

You'll find a variety of online tools at, as well as information on how to get ready to prepare your tax return.

The Interactive Tax Assistant tool provides specific answers to many common tax questions based on your individual circumstances. It can determine if you should file a return, your filing status, if someone can be claimed as a dependent, which income is taxable, what expenses can be deducted and qualifications to claim tax credits.

Create an IRS Online Account and you can securely access personal tax account information, including balance, payments and tax records including adjusted gross income.

Choosing the wrong tax preparer can have serious financial consequences. The IRS Directory of Federal Tax Return Preparers with Credentials and Select Qualifications can help you find a preparer. The IRS also has tips for choosing a tax preparer and how to avoid illegal "ghost" return preparers.

Changes Ahead for 2024

The IRS has already announced inflation adjustments for tax year 2024 — the return that's due by April 2025. Income levels for the various tax brackets have been updated, and the standard deduction will also increase: $29,200 for married couples filing jointly, $14,600 for single taxpayer and married individuals filing separately and $21,900 for heads of households.

About Consumers' Checkbook

Puget Sound Consumers' Checkbook and are a nonprofit organization with a mission to educate and help consumers. Checkbook also evaluates local service providers — home improvement contractors, doctors, dentists, veterinarians, stores and more. It is supported by consumers and takes no money from the companies it evaluates. BECU members can try Consumers' Checkbook for 30 days for free and can get 50% off their annual subscription.

The above article is intended to provide generalized financial information designed to educate a broad segment of the public; it does not give personalized tax, investment, legal, or other business and professional advice. Before taking any action, you should always seek the assistance of a professional who knows your particular situation for advice on taxes, your investments, the law, or any other business and professional matters that affect you and/or your business.

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Portrait of Herb Weisbaum

Herb Weisbaum (He, Him, His)
Consumers' Checkbook Contributing Editor

One of America's top consumer reporters, Herb's covered the consumer beat for 40 years, reporting for "CBS News," "NBC News," and the "TODAY" show. His investigative reporting has been honored with five Emmys.