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The Empuls Glossary

Glossary of Human Resources Management and Employee Benefit Terms

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Taxable income is the portion of an individual’s or a company’s income that is subject to income tax. It is calculated to determine how much tax an entity owes to the government in a specific tax year.

What is taxable income?

Taxable income refers to the portion of an individual or entity's income that is subject to taxation by the government. It is calculated by subtracting allowable deductions and exemptions from the total income earned during a specific tax period.

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What is the importance of taxable income?

Taxable income is important for several reasons:

  • Taxation: Taxable income is the basis for calculating how much tax an individual or entity owes to the government. It determines the amount of income tax that must be paid to federal, state, and local governments based on applicable tax rates and tax brackets.  
  • Revenue generation: Taxable income serves as a source of revenue for governments at all levels. Taxes collected on taxable income fund various government programs, services, and infrastructure projects, including education, healthcare, defense, transportation, and social welfare programs.
  • Fairness and equity: Taxable income helps ensure fairness and equity in the tax system by requiring individuals and entities to contribute to government revenue based on their ability to pay. Progressive tax systems, where tax rates increase with income, help redistribute wealth and reduce income inequality.
  • Compliance and enforcement: Taxable income provides a framework for tax compliance and enforcement. Taxpayers are required to accurately report their taxable income and pay the correct amount of tax owed. Tax authorities use taxable income information to assess tax liabilities, conduct audits, and enforce tax laws.
  • Budgeting and planning: Taxable income information helps individuals, businesses, and governments budget and plan for future financial obligations. Knowing how much taxable income is expected allows taxpayers to anticipate their tax liabilities and make informed decisions about spending, saving, investing, and tax planning strategies.

What are the consequences of not declaring taxable income?

The consequences of not declaring your taxable income are:

  • Civil penalties: Tax authorities may impose civil penalties for underreporting income or failing to declare taxable income. These penalties can include fines, interest charges on unpaid taxes, and additional fees for late filing or late payment.
  • Criminal charges: Tax evasion is a criminal offense punishable by fines, imprisonment, or both. The severity of the penalties depends on factors such as the amount of undeclared income, the length of time the evasion occurred, and the taxpayer's intent.
  • Back taxes and interest: Tax authorities may require the taxpayer to pay back taxes owed on undeclared income, along with interest charges for the non-payment period. These back taxes and interest charges can add up quickly and significantly increase the taxpayer's financial burden.
  • Asset seizure: In extreme cases of tax evasion, tax authorities may seize assets belonging to the taxpayer to satisfy unpaid tax debts. This can include bank accounts, real estate, vehicles, and other valuable assets.
  • Loss of benefits: Tax evasion can have non-financial consequences as well. For example, individuals convicted of tax evasion may lose eligibility for certain government benefits, professional licenses, or immigration status.
  • Reputation damage: Tax evasion can damage a taxpayer's reputation and credibility, both personally and professionally. Public disclosure of tax evasion charges or convictions can harm relationships with clients, business partners, and the community at large.

Who should we consult for advice on taxable income?

Here are some professionals you can consider consulting:

  • Certified public accountant (CPA): CPAs are licensed professionals who specialize in accounting, taxation, and financial planning. They can provide comprehensive tax advice, assist with tax planning, prepare tax returns, and represent taxpayers in dealings with tax authorities.
  • Tax attorney: Tax attorneys specialize in tax law and provide legal advice on complex tax issues, tax planning strategies, and tax controversies. They can assist with tax audits, tax litigation, tax compliance, and resolving disputes with tax authorities.
  • Enrolled agent (EA): Enrolled agents are tax professionals authorized by the IRS to represent taxpayers in tax matters. They specialize in tax preparation, tax planning, and representing taxpayers in IRS audits, appeals, and collections proceedings.
  • Financial advisor: Financial advisors can provide guidance on tax-efficient investment strategies, retirement planning, estate planning, and other financial matters that may impact taxable income. They can help individuals optimize their financial decisions to minimize taxes and achieve their financial goals.
  • Tax preparation services: Professional tax preparation services, such as tax preparation firms or online tax preparation platforms, can assist with preparing and filing tax returns, identifying deductions and credits, and ensuring compliance with tax laws and regulations.

How to calculate taxable income?

Here's a step-by-step guide to help you calculate taxable income:

1. Determine gross income:

Start by calculating your gross income, which includes all sources of income earned or received during the tax year. This may include wages, salaries, tips, interest, dividends, rental income, business income, capital gains, and any other taxable income. Add up all sources of income to arrive at your total gross income.

2. Subtract above-the-line deductions:

Next, subtract any above-the-line deductions from your total gross income. These deductions are also known as adjustments to income and include expenses such as contributions to retirement accounts (e.g., IRA, 401(k)), health savings accounts (HSA), self-employment taxes, alimony payments, student loan interest, and certain educational expenses. The resulting amount is your adjusted gross income (AGI).

3. Subtract standard or itemized deductions:

Determine whether you will claim the standard deduction or itemize deductions. The standard deduction is a fixed amount that varies depending on your filing status. Alternatively, you can choose to itemize deductions, which involves listing specific deductible expenses such as mortgage interest, property taxes, charitable contributions, and medical expenses. Subtract either the standard deduction or total itemized deductions from your AGI to arrive at your taxable income.

4. Apply exemptions:

If you qualify for personal exemptions, subtract them from your taxable income. Personal exemptions reduce your taxable income for yourself, your spouse (if filing jointly), and any dependents you claim.

5. Calculate taxable income:

After subtracting all deductions and exemptions, you will arrive at your taxable income. This is the amount of income that is subject to taxation at the applicable tax rates for your filing status and income level.

6. Determine tax liability:

Use the taxable income amount to calculate your federal income tax liability using the tax brackets and rates provided by the IRS for the tax year. Tax brackets specify the income ranges at which different tax rates apply.

7. Apply tax credits:

Finally, reduce your tax liability by any tax credits for which you qualify. Tax credits directly reduce the amount of tax you owe. Common tax credits include the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), Child Tax Credit, education credits, and energy-efficient home improvement credits.

8. Calculate net tax owed or refund:

Compare your total tax liability after credits to any tax payments already made through withholding or estimated tax payments. If your tax payments exceed your tax liability, you are entitled to a refund. If your tax liability exceeds your tax payments, you will owe the difference to the IRS.

How can I reduce my taxable income?

The ways you can reduce your taxable income are:

1. Contribute to retirement accounts

Contributions to tax-advantaged retirement accounts such as 401(k)s, traditional IRAs, and Roth IRAs can reduce taxable income. Contributions to these accounts are often tax-deductible, meaning they are subtracted from gross income before taxes are calculated.

2. Take advantage of health savings accounts (HSAs) or flexible spending accounts (FSAs)

Contributions to HSAs and FSAs can be made on a pre-tax basis, reducing taxable income. HSAs are available to individuals with high-deductible health plans and can be used to pay for qualified medical expenses tax-free. FSAs are offered through employers and can be used for medical expenses and dependent care.

3. Itemize deductions

If your itemized deductions exceed the standard deduction amount, you may be able to lower your taxable income by itemizing deductions. Common deductible expenses include mortgage interest, property taxes, state and local income taxes, charitable contributions, and certain medical expenses.

4. Claim above-the-line deductions

Certain deductions, known as above-the-line deductions or adjustments to income, can be taken regardless of whether you itemize deductions or claim the standard deduction. Examples include contributions to retirement accounts, student loan interest, educator expenses, and self-employment taxes.

5. Maximize tax credits

Tax credits directly reduce your tax liability, making them particularly valuable. Take advantage of credits such as the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), Child Tax Credit, education credits, and energy-efficient home improvement credits to lower your tax bill.

6. Employer benefits

Take advantage of employer-sponsored benefits such as health insurance, retirement plans, commuter benefits, and dependent care assistance programs to reduce taxable income.

Employee pulse surveys:

These are short surveys that can be sent frequently to check what your employees think about an issue quickly. The survey comprises fewer questions (not more than 10) to get the information quickly. These can be administered at regular intervals (monthly/weekly/quarterly).

One-on-one meetings:

Having periodic, hour-long meetings for an informal chat with every team member is an excellent way to get a true sense of what’s happening with them. Since it is a safe and private conversation, it helps you get better details about an issue.


eNPS (employee Net Promoter score) is one of the simplest yet effective ways to assess your employee's opinion of your company. It includes one intriguing question that gauges loyalty. An example of eNPS questions include: How likely are you to recommend our company to others? Employees respond to the eNPS survey on a scale of 1-10, where 10 denotes they are ‘highly likely’ to recommend the company and 1 signifies they are ‘highly unlikely’ to recommend it.

Based on the responses, employees can be placed in three different categories:

  • Promoters
    Employees who have responded positively or agreed.
  • Detractors
    Employees who have reacted negatively or disagreed.
  • Passives
    Employees who have stayed neutral with their responses.

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