Lower rates. The 27, 30, 35 and 38.6 percent individual federal rates that applied for 2002 are reduced to 25, 28, 33 and 35 percent, respectively, for 2003. The 10 and 15 percent federal rates are unchanged.
Higher standard deduction. In an effort to reduce the marriage penalty, the 2003 standard deduction for married joint filers is dramatically increased to $9,500 (versus only $7,850 for 2002). The 10 and 15 percent tax brackets for joint filers are widened to double the brackets for single filers.
If you file using married-filing-separate status, your 2003 standard deduction is significantly increased to $4,750 (up from only $3,925 in 2002). The 10 and 15 percent tax brackets are now the same as for singles.
Lower capital gains and dividend tax rate. The maximum tax rate on long-term capital gains dropped from 20 percent to 15 percent for investments sold after May 5, 2003. (For more advice, see page 2.)