Taxable Income: How is it Determined?

How to determine your taxable income
How to determine your taxable income

One of the most common questions I'm asked as a tax attorney is, "What's taxable?" Believe it or not, that's a pretty difficult question to answer, because the list is so lengthy. A much easier question would be, "What isn't taxable?" This is because our tax system is considered inclusive. In other words, all income is considered taxable unless otherwise excluded.

To figure your taxable income, you must first calculate total income. To do this, include everything you receive in payment for services. That means wages, salaries, commissions, fees, tips, as well as fringe benefits and stock options. Income that is available to you, such as an uncashed check, can still be included under the doctrine of constructive receipt. The same theory applies to deferred compensation: If you could take the income without incurring a significant penalty, it's considered yours when made available -- not when you take it.

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