Taxes you owe

However you make your money -- by working or by investing -- you can pretty much count on owing taxes to the federal government. In most places you will also owe taxes to your state government, too.

For now, though, let's just consider your federal tax bite on common forms of income.

Income taxes: Your "earned" income -- that which you make by working -- will be taxed on a graduated scale.

There are 7 income tax rates: 10%, 15%, 25%, 28%, 33%, 36% and 39.6%.

The first dollar you make will be taxed at the 10% rate while the last dollar you make likely will be taxed at a higher rate. The more you make, the higher your top rate will be.

For example, in 2015, if your taxable income is $65,000 and you're single, you'll be in the 25% bracket. You'll owe 10% on the first $9,225 of your income, 15% on the next $28,225 and 25% on the rest.

Remember, your taxable income is not your gross income. It generally reflects your gross income minus any deductions, credits and exemptions you may claim.

So if you gross $100,000, your taxable income might be closer to $80,000.

Social Security and Medicare taxes: Payroll taxes -- or FICA taxes as they're also called -- are intended to fund the two biggest U.S. safety net programs.

You will owe 12.4% in Social Security tax on the first $118,500 of your earned income. (That income threshold is for 2015; it's adjusted for inflation every year.)

If you're an employee, you'll pay 6.2% of that and your employer will pay the other 6.2%.

If you're self-employed, you'll pay the full 12.4% but may deduct half of it on your tax return as a business expense.

You'll owe another 2.9% in Medicare taxes on all of your earned income. Again, if you're employed, you'll pay half (1.45%) while your employer will pay the other half.

If you're a very high income earner, you'll owe an additional 0.9% on the amount over $200,000 ($250,000 if married). So you'd end up paying 1.45% on the first $200,000 and 2.35% on the rest.

The 0.9% Medicare surtax is a recent change and is intended to help pay for health reform.

Investment income taxes: Capital gains, dividends and interest represent "unearned income."

Generally speaking, interest -- say from a savings account -- is taxed at regular income tax rates.

But you'll pay a lower rate for capital gains and dividends on investments you've held at least a year. How much lower depends on your overall income.

For most people, the long-term capital gains and dividend tax rate is 15%.

But it goes up to 20% for households making more than $200,000.

Those same high-income households may also have to pay a 3.8% Medicare surtax on some of their capital gains and dividends, another measure intended to help pay for health reform.

Income from investment properties (e.g., a vacation rental you own) is also subject to ordinary income tax.

Getting started

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