United States

The national currency is the dollar (USD). In 2023, the average worker earned USD 67 264 (Secretariat estimate).

Families are generally taxed in one of three ways:

  • As married couples filing jointly on the combined income of both spouses,

  • As married individuals filing separately and reporting actual income of each spouse; or

  • As heads of households (only unmarried or separated individuals with dependents).

All others, including dependent children with sufficient income, file as single individuals.

  • Basic reliefs: In 2023 a married couple filing a joint tax return is entitled to a standard deduction of USD 27 700. The standard deduction is USD 20 800 for heads of households and USD 13 850 for single individuals. This relief is indexed for inflation. More liberal standard deductions are available for taxpayers who are age 65 or older and taxpayers who are blind. Special rules apply to children who have sufficient income to pay tax and are also claimed as dependents by their parents.

  • Standard marital status reliefs: Married couples generally benefit from a more favourable schedule of tax rates for joint returns of spouses (see Section 1.1.3). There are no other general tax reliefs for marriage.

  • Relief for children: Low income workers with dependents are allowed a refundable (non-wastable) earned income credit. For taxpayers with one child, the credit is 34% of up to USD 11 750 of earned income in 2023. The credit phases down when income exceeds USD 21 560 (28 120 for married taxpayers) and phases out when it reaches USD 46 560 (53 120 for married taxpayers). The earned income threshold and the phase-out threshold are indexed for inflation. For taxpayers with two children, the credit is 40% of up to USD 16 510 of earned income in 2022. The credit phases down when income exceeds USD 21 560 (28 120 for married taxpayers) and phases out when it reaches USD 52 918 (59 478for married taxpayers). For taxpayers with three or more children the credit is 45% of up to USD 16 510 of earned income. The credit phases down when income exceeds USD 21 560 (28 120 for married taxpayers) and phases out when it reaches USD 56 838 (63 398 for married taxpayers).

  • Since 1998, taxpayers are permitted a tax credit for each qualifying child under the age of 17. The special rules for taxable year 2021 have expired, returning the credit to its pre-2021 rules and values (but for inflation). For 2023 the maximum credit per child is USD 2 000 for otherwise qualifying children under 17. The refundable (non-wastable) child credit for 2022 is 15 percent of earnings greater than 2 500 up to the lesser of the amount of any child credit unclaimed due to limited tax liability or 1 600 per child.

  • Other dependent tax credit: For qualifying dependents other than qualifying children for whom a child tax credit was claimed, there is a USD 500 non-refundable credit. The Taxing Wages calculations do not include the other dependent tax credit.

  • Phase out of child tax credit and other dependent tax credit: The maximum total credit is reduced for taxpayers with income in excess of certain thresholds. The total of the child tax credit plus the other dependent tax credit is reduced by USD 50 for each USD 1 000 by which modified aggregate gross income exceeds USD 400 000 for married taxpayers filing jointly (USD 200 000 for single and head of household taxpayers).

  • Relief for low-income workers without children: Since 1994, low-income workers without children have been eligible for the earned income tax credit. In 2022, low-income workers without children are permitted a non-wastable earned income credit of 7.65% of up to USD 7 840 of earned income. The credit phases down in 2023 when income exceeds USD 9 800 (16 370 for married taxpayers) and phases out completely when income reaches USD 17 640 (24 210 for married taxpayers). In 2023, this credit is available for taxpayers at least 25 years old and less than 65.

  • Relief for social security and other taxes: In 2023, the withholding rate for Social Security taxes and Medicare for employees is 7.65%. The earned income credits described above are sometimes considered an offset to Social Security and Medicare contributions made by eligible employees. Only a portion of Social Security benefits are subject to tax.

The basic non-standard relief is the deduction of certain expenses to the extent that, when itemised, they exceed in aggregate the standard deduction. For the purposes of this Report, it is assumed that workers claim the standard deduction. The principal itemised deductions claimed by individuals where the standard deduction is not being claimed are:

  • Medical and dental expenses that exceed 7.5% of income,

  • State and local income taxes, real property taxes, and personal property taxes are capped at USD 10 000 per return,

  • Home mortgage interest on up to USD 750 000 of qualified residence loans,

  • Investment interest expense up to investment income with an indefinite carry forward of disallowed investment interest expense,

  • Contributions to qualified charitable organisations (including religious and educational institutions),

  • Personal casualty and theft losses due to a disaster to the extent that each loss exceeds USD 100 and that all such losses combined exceed 10% of income,

  • Gambling losses up to the amount of gambling winnings, casualty and theft losses of income-producing property, and impairment related work expenses of disabled persons,

  • Contributions to pension and life insurance plans. No relief is provided for employee contributions to employer-sponsored pension plans or for life insurance premiums. However, tax relief is provided for certain retirement savings.

In 2021 based on preliminary statistics1, the most recent year for which such statistics are available, the 10% of taxpayers with income between USD 50 000 and USD 100 000 (the AW range) who itemised their deductions claimed average deductions as follows: taxes paid, USD  6 924; charitable contributions, USD 5 848; home mortgage interest expense, USD 9 035.

There is a 3.8% tax on the lesser of certain net investment income or income in excess of USD 200 000 (USD 250 000 for joint returns). Net investment income includes interest, dividends, capital gains, rental and royalty income, and income from businesses trading financial instruments.

Beginning in 2018, owners of sole proprietorships, partnerships, S corporations, and some trusts and estates are eligible to deduct up to 20 percent of qualified business income (QBI). QBI is subject to limitations, depending on the taxpayer’s taxable income, based on factors that may include the type of trade or business, the amount of wages paid by the business and the unadjusted basis of qualified property held by the trade or business.

The District of Columbia and 41 of the 50 States impose some form of a general individual income tax.2 In addition, some local governments (cities and counties) impose an individual income tax, although this is not generally the case. State individual income tax structures use definitions of taxable income that are broadly similar to their analogues in the federal tax system with some appropriate adjustments. This linkage is not a legal requirement but a practical convention that functions for the convenience of the taxpayer who must fill out both federal and State income tax returns.

The Taxing Wages calculations assume that the average worker lives in Detroit, Michigan. The state of Michigan permits a personal exemption of USD 5 400 for the taxpayer, the taxpayer’s spouse and each child, and taxes income at the rate of 4.05%. Michigan allows taxpayers who are eligible to claim the federal earned income tax credit to claim a Michigan earned income tax credit. The Michigan earned income tax credit is a refundable (non-wastable) credit equal to 6% of the federal earned income tax credit.

The city of Detroit permits a personal exemption of USD 600 and taxes income at the rate of 2.4%.

In 2023, the rate for employee contributions is 7.65% (6.2% for old age, survivors, and disability insurance, and 1.45% for old age hospital insurance). The 6.2% rate applies to earnings up to USD 160 200. Beginning in 1994, there is no limit on the amount of earnings subject to the 1.45% rate. There is an additional 0.9% tax on employee wages and salaries that exceed USD 200 000 (USD 250 000 for joint returns) as the additional hospital insurance tax on high-income taxpayers. The additional tax on wages and salaries is subject to withholding (but without regard to the earnings of the spouse) when wages from a particular job exceed USD 200 000 per year. These thresholds are not indexed for inflation.

There is no distinction by marital status or sex.

No compulsory employee contributions exist.

The rate for employers’ contributions is 6.2% on earnings up to USD 160 200 and 1.45% of all earnings (without limit).

Employers are required by the federal government to pay unemployment tax of 6% on earnings up to USD 7 000. Taxes are also paid to various state-sponsored unemployment plans which may generally be credited against the required federal percentage. In 2022 the estimated average unemployment insurance tax rate in Michigan was 2.94% of the first USD 9 500 of wages. The Taxing Wages model considers that the Federal government allows employers to take a credit for state unemployment taxes of up to 5.4%, resulting in a net Federal tax of 0.6% on earnings up to USD 7 000.


No general cash transfers exist, although low-income mothers qualifying for categorical welfare grants may receive cash transfers.

In December 2017, Congress passed and the President signed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act – the most significant change in U.S. tax law in a generation, incorporating change to the taxation of individuals and businesses. For individuals, the Act temporarily lowers income tax rates, increases the standard deduction, increases the child tax credit, and adds a credit for other dependents. The Act also temporarily eliminates some deductions, credits and exemptions for individuals. In addition, the individual alternative minimum tax (AMT) exemption and phase-out thresholds are temporarily increased so that fewer taxpayers are subject to the AMT. Pass-through entities that are generally taxed at the individual level only and may be eligible for a new temporary deduction. These temporary provisions expire at the end of 2025. In addition, inflation adjustments of amounts and thresholds are changed to be determined by the chained consumer price index. Finally, there are substantial changes in business taxation, many that are permanent, such as lowering the top corporate tax rate from 35 to 21 percent and moving the U.S. international tax system towards a territorial system.

See Section for a complete description of parameters and income thresholds.

The AW is identified from monthly data compiled from establishment questionnaires covering more than 40 million non-agricultural full- and part-time workers. Beginning in March 2006, data on average weekly hours and average hourly earnings cover all employees rather than solely production or non-supervisory workers. To obtain average annual wages, the product of average weekly hours (including overtime) and average hourly earnings (including overtime) is multiplied by 52 and is adjusted to reflect a full-time equivalent worker. The AW is estimated to be USD 64 845 for 2022.

Employers commonly contribute to private pension plans (both defined benefit and defined contribution), health insurance and life insurance. Data for these contributions are available only on a total workforce basis. It is not possible to state with accuracy the levels applicable to the AW. The following are estimates for 2023 for employees in private industry1:

The equations for the US system in 2023 are mostly calculated on a family basis. There is a special function EIC which is used to calculate the earned income credit. Variable names are defined in the table of parameters above, within the equations table, or are the standard variables “married” and “children”. A reference to a variable with the affix “_total” indicates the sum of the relevant variable values for the principal and spouse. And the affixes “_princ” and “_spouse” indicate the value for the principal and spouse, respectively. Equations for a single person are as shown for the principal, with “_spouse” values taken as 0.


← 1. Due to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, beginning in 2017 fewer individual taxpayers itemize deductions but instead use the standard deduction.

← 2. New Hampshire taxes only interest and dividend income received by individuals. Tennessee eliminated their interest and dividend income tax beginning in tax year 202.

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