Overview of the Federal Tax System [January 23, 2014]   [open pdf - 551KB]

"The major sources of federal tax revenue are individual income taxes, Social Security and other payroll taxes, corporate income taxes, excise taxes, and estate and gift taxes. This report describes the federal tax structure, provides some statistics on the tax system as a whole, and presents analysis of selected tax concepts. The federal income tax is levied on an individual's taxable income, which is adjusted gross income (AGI) less deductions and exemptions. Tax rates, based on filing status (e.g., married filing jointly or single individual) determine the level of tax liability. Tax rates in the United States are progressive, such that higher levels of income are taxed at higher rates. Once tax liability is calculated, tax credits can be used to reduce tax liability. Tax deductions and tax credits are tools available to policymakers to increase or decrease the after-tax price of undertaking specific activities. Individuals with high levels of exemptions, deductions, and credits relative to income may be required to file under the alternative minimum tax (AMT). […] Marriage tax penalties and bonuses, while reduced following legislation enacted in 2001 and 2003, still pose an inequity in the tax system. Tax deferral, or the timing of taxes, poses problems related to the timing of taxation, specifically with respect to capital gains. Depreciation is important, as accelerated depreciation schemes or expensing can influence firm behavior. Tax liability also depends on form of business organization. Finally, the issue of whether taxes can influence firms' competitiveness is reviewed."

Report Number:
CRS Report for Congress, RL32808
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