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For 2010, 2011 and 2012, the individual tax rates are 10, 15, 25, 28, 33, and 35 percent. Each succeeding rate applies to a tier of your income. For example, a certain amount of your income is taxed at 10 percent, then a certain amount of income above that is taxed at the 15 percent rate, and so on.
Your filing status is the first item you need to complete on your tax return, after your name, address, and Social Security number. This is appropriate, because your filing status is the starting point for determining whether you need to file a tax return at all, and, if you must file a return, the tax rates that will apply to your income.
Although the six rates are the same for everyone, the dollar levels at which the different tax rates kick in depend on your "filing status" - that is, whether you file your tax return as a single individual, as a head of household, as married filing jointly or as married filing separately.
Your status also has a wide-ranging effect in determining how numerous other tax rules will apply to you, including the standard deduction, IRA contribution limits, credits for children or for education expenses, taxation of Social Security benefits, credits for the elderly or disabled, the adoption credit, and the earned income credit.
Once you've determined your filing status, you need to know how many personal exemptions you can claim, since the law allows you a tax exemption of $3,800 for each member of your family in 2011.
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