I made a bet with my wife the other day that there was at least 30 tax brackets for 2013. Now my wife really does not care how many tax brackets there are and she knew I was teasing her about this, but for 2013, there is probably at least 60 or more tax brackets for the year depending on how many personal exemptions you have.
Under 2012 law, there were essentially 6 tax brackets, 10%, 15%, 25%, 28%, 33% and 35%. Now, for 2013, we have these same brackets plus the 39.6% new top bracket. In addition, if your income exceeds a certain level ($300,000 for married couples) 3% of your itemized deductions will now be phased out. This now adds another 7 tax brackets.
The phase-out of your personal exemptions is what really adds more tax brackets. Each exemption is phased-out by 2.5% for each dollar in excess of these same thresholds. Therefore, as you add kids, your marginal ordinary tax rate goes up. I worked up this handy little table based upon a married couple with a family of four:
As you can see, based on a married couple with four children, there are now actually at least 44 different tax brackets. The Itemized Deduction phase-out bracket and the phase-out for one personal exemption are actually not the same %. The itemized deduction is phased out by 3% for 2013 while the exemption is phased-out by 3.12%, but when this is rounded in the table, they both show as 3%. If we combine the 3% itemized deduction phase-out plus each exemption phase-out, we would probably have another 40 or so tax brackets.
Another unique feature of the exemption phase-out is the 33% tax bracket will be higher than the 39.6% tax bracket when you have 4 or more children. As you can see from the table, with 4 kids (6 exemptions), your marginal tax rate is 40%, whereas, the 39.6% tax bracket remains constant. This is due to all personal exemptions being phased-out before the top bracket kicks in. Also, I am not even counting all the different capital gains tax brackets.
So, as we always say when someone asks us a tax question "It Depends!". This year, the answer will be even more relevent when someone asks us what their tax bracket is.