How Inflation Will Cut Your Taxes in 2014
Most of the time, inflation is one of the most serious financial threats people face, propelling slow but steady price increases that erode the purchasing power of your savings and make it harder to make ends meet.
But when it comes to your taxes, inflation's bite need not be too painful: The government makes annual adjustments to the tax code to reflect the higher cost of living, which should help you save on your taxes in 2014.
1. Higher Standard Deductions
The standard deduction allows taxpayers to earn income up to a certain amount without paying any taxes -- and without going to the trouble of itemizing deductions. For 2014, the figure for single filers will rise by $100 to $6,200, with joint filers getting a $200 increase to $12,400. Those who qualify as heads of household split the difference, with their standard deduction jumping $150 to $9,100. Depending on your filing status and tax bracket, these increases could save you anywhere from $10 to $80 on your 2014 tax return.
2. Higher Personal Exemptions
Most taxpayers get to take a personal exemption for each member of their families, including dependents. The personal exemption amount will climb by $50 to $3,950 in 2014. The increase could boost tax savings anywhere from $5 to $20 per person depending on your tax bracket, although high-income taxpayers begin to have personal exemptions phased out once their income goes above certain levels.
3. Higher Tax Brackets
The boundaries of the various tax brackets get an inflation adjustment in 2014, allowing taxpayers to earn more money while getting taxed at a lower rate. For instance, single filers will see the upper end of the 10 percent tax bracket rise from $8,925 to $9,075, while the top of the 15 percent tax bracket will rise from $36,250 to $36,900. By taxing more of your income at lower rates, these shifts will produce tax savings of $72.50 for a single filer earning $40,000 in taxable income. Higher-end earners will reap more substantial savings: Joint filers with taxable income of $250,000 will see a drop of more than $400 in their taxes.
4. Higher Earned Income Tax Credits
Millions of working low-income taxpayers are eligible to receive the Earned Income Tax Credit. The maximum credit amount rises $99 in 2014 for joint filers with three or more qualifying children, with an $88 increase for those with two children, $54 for one-child families, and $9 for eligible individuals with no children.
5. Higher Exclusions for Foreign Workers
If you work abroad, you're entitled to exclude money you earn in wages or salaries from your foreign job. The amount of money you're able to exclude will rise in 2014 by $1,600 to $99,200, producing savings of $160 to $640 depending on your tax bracket. The exclusion is designed to offset the taxes that foreign workers typically pay in the countries in which they work.
6. Higher Exemptions for Alternative Minimum Tax
The Alternative Minimum Tax was originally designed to apply only to the richest taxpayers -- its purpose being to prevent the wealthy from gaming the system and paying no taxes at all. But over time, thanks to inflation, the tax gradually started capturing more upper-middle-class taxpayers, especially in states that have high taxes that aren't deductible for AMT purposes. In 2014, the exemption amount of AMT will rise by $900 to $52,800 for single filers and by $1,300 to $82,100 for joint filers. With AMT rates at 26 percent and 28 percent, those increases can save between $234 and $364 in potential AMT liability.
These are just a sampling of the many ways that cost-of-living inflation adjustments will lower taxes for millions of Americans. For more information, be sure to visit the IRS website and get the comprehensive list of inflation adjustments for 2014.
You can follow Motley Fool contributor Dan Caplinger on Twitter @DanCaplinger or on Google+.