What is a Tax Code? U.S. Tax Code System Explained

Tax code documents

The purpose of a tax code is to help employers or individuals responsible for preparing taxes assess how much should be deducted from employee salaries for their taxes.

The tax code is a law that encompasses not only the federal government but is also used in implementing state-wide and local regulations on taxation.

Understandably, learning the fundamentals of the tax code can be quite complicated and nerve-wracking. Luckily, this article explains all about the U.S. tax code system.

With that said, let’s dive right in!

Key Takeaways

  • A tax code is a combination of regulations and rules that concentrate on the tax rights and obligations of individuals, businesses, and entities.
  • The Internal Revenue Code (IRC) is the U.S. federal tax code. More specifically, it refers to Title 26 of the U.S. Tax Code.
  • Congress writes the tax codes, while the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) oversees the execution of these codes once they’re passed into law.
  • Tax codes differ in each country, from how they are called to how each code is assigned to individual and corporate taxpayers.

What is a Tax Code?

Tax code is a set of laws and directives underscoring the responsibilities and rights of taxpayers in fulfilling their federal, state, and local tax obligations. It serves as a guide, informing corporate and regular taxpayers on how to file and pay their taxes accordingly.

Every elected official governing a city, state, or nation casts their votes to pass a tax code. Once it is approved and becomes a law, it is then included in the existing array of tax laws and designated with a specific code section.

The U.S. tax code is enacted at the federal, state, and local levels of government. On a federal level, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is responsible for implementing all constitutional tax regulations, which go hand-in-hand with the rules prescribed by the Treasury Department.

How Does the Tax Code Work?

A woman holding a calculator, demonstrating it to her workmate

For starters, let’s say Congress creates a policy and passes it into law. From there, the IRS takes charge and formulates all the rules and perimeters to help ensure the said tax policy is established appropriately.

The U.S. federal tax code is referred to as the Internal Revenue Code (IRC). The IRC pertains to Title 26 of the U.S. Tax Code (also called the IRS tax code), and it covers all essential laws and rules tackling income taxes, tax deadlines and deductions, tax brackets, penalties, and fees, income thresholds, and filing statuses.

It is subdivided into different numbers and code sections, carefully organized based on the specific tax concern addressed by each rule.

Also included in the IRC’s long list of tax regulations are the imposition of taxes on gifts and estates, the structure governing benefits, unemployment taxes, and retirement plans. Lastly, there’s a set of guidelines on how to properly form institutional, withholding, and penalty rulings.

Title 26 of the Internal Revenue Code Explained

The table below lists the different sections under Title 26 of the Internal Revenue Code:


Rules and Regulations Governed

Subtitle A

Income Taxes

Subtitle B

Estate and Gift Taxes (Sections 2001—2704)

Subtitle C

Employment Taxes (Sections 3101—3512

Subtitle D

Miscellaneous Excise Taxes (Sections 4041—4982)

Subtitle E

Alcohol, Tobacco, & Certain Other Excise Taxes (Sections 5001—2872)

Subtitle F

Procedure and Administration (Sections 6012—7874)

Subtitle G

The Joint Committee on Taxation (Sections 8001—8023)

Subtitle H

Financing of Presidential Election Campaigns (Sections 9001—9042)

Subtitle I

Trust Fund Code (Sections 9500—9602)

Subtitle J

Coal Industry Health Benefits (Sections 9702—9722)

Subtitle K

Group Health Plan Requirements (Sections 9801—9834)

Tax Code Important Forms

The table below lists the different sections under Title 26 of the Internal Revenue Code:

Tax Code Important Forms

While the rules about taxes are quite intricate and exhaustive, the IRS provides all the income tax forms taxpayers need to file and pay their taxes. They also have a highly informative website that details all the crucial facts they need to file their tax returns and check their taxes owed correctly.

Aside from making essential tax forms accessible to the public, the IRS also has multiple publications designed to simplify the complicated tax regulations, income, investment, expense, and property lingos into layman’s terms for everyone’s benefit.

All these resources highlight convenience and practicality since taxpayers do not need to head to the IRS office to secure their forms or inquire about their taxes. Most of the information they need is laid out for them on the website.

Tax Codes in Other Countries

Tax codes differ in other countries.

For example, in 2022, Estonia was deemed by the OECD as the country with the best tax code. Among the deciding factors that brought Estonia’s tax code to the spotlight are the flat 20% tax rate imposed on individual income and the 20% tax rate on corporate income.

In Australia, individuals and entities use a Tax File Number (TFN) to report or relay inquiries to the Australian Taxation Office (ATO). The ATO also directs and executes all Australian tax rates, laws, and codes.

Canada’s tax laws are enforced by both the federal and provincial governments, while collecting taxes is overseen by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). The tax code of Canada is called the Income Tax Act.

India’s Tax Code is referred to as the Income-tax Act of 1961. Its longer title is ‘An Act to consolidate and amend the law relating to income-tax and super-tax.’

In the UK, most taxpayers with a pension or a single job typically use the 1257L tax code. The UK’s tax codes are quite distinct in that they use a combination of numbers and letters, where the numbers indicate the individual’s employer and pension provider and the letters pertain to the taxpayer’s tax situation and personal allowance.

Tax Code FAQ

#1. What code is tax code?

A tax code is a set of directives for the tax responsibilities and rights of every taxpayer, individual, or entity. Note that the tax codes differ in each country.

#2. What does tax code 1257L mean?

The tax code 1257L is a UK tax code that is used for individuals with a single job and no taxable benefits, non-taxable income, or unpaid taxes.

#3. Does the IRS write tax code?

No, Congress writes the tax code, while the IRS enforces the tax regulations in the U.S. and guides taxpayers on how to properly manage their tax obligations.

#4. What is the current tax code in the United States?

Title 26 of the U.S. Code (International Revenue Code) is the current tax code in the United States.

#5. What is the basic tax code?

The basic tax code refers to a set of mandates that specifies the scope and structure of the clauses covering taxes levied on individuals, businesses, property sales, and other types of transactions.

Final Thoughts

Enriching your background on tax codes is useful for distinguishing tax codes that apply to individuals from those that apply to entities and businesses. All taxpayers must abide by the laws and codes prescribed for regulating all undertakings that involve taxation.

It will also help you gauge the coverage and extent of your obligations when it comes to the type of taxes you owe and the benefits you may be entitled to.


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