Your Paycheck – Tying it all Together

This will be my last post in the Mini Series “Your Paycheck” it will be a large example incorporating all aspects of the previous posts in this series, Gross Income vs. Net Income, Taxable Income, Federal Allowances, Federal Income Tax Withholding, State Income Tax Withholding, Before Tax Deductions, and After Tax Deductions, Enjoy!

One quick note before I start: the goal of this post is to give you a template for calculating your own net income. You may have more or less of the pre-tax deductions, allowances, etc than stated in the example below. Following this methodology and substituting your information should yield correct results and give you a detailed understanding of how your paycheck goes from gross to net income.

Jackie is married and lives in the state of Illinois, her husband currently does not work; therefore his gross income is $0, for tax purposes they plan to file jointly. Jackie’s gross income is $65,000/year, she claims two federal allowances, makes an annual contribution of $2,600 (4%) to her 401(k), has a total benefits cost of $900/year (health, vision, dental, etc), and has no post tax deductions. What is Jackie’s take home pay?

Our 1st step is to determine Jackie’s taxable income

We first need to subtract her pre-tax deductions (401(k) contribution and benefits cost) from her gross income.

Total income after pre-tax deductions is $61,500, but the example also states she claims two federal allowances, in 2011 each federal allowance claimed lowers taxable income by $3,700. We must adjust taxable income for those two allowances as seen below.

Jackie’s total taxable income is $54,100 this is the number we will use to compute federal tax withholding, reference the federal tax withholding table below. We will also use $54,100 to calculate state income tax withholding.

Since Jackie is filing jointly we will use the second column of the above withholding table. See a breakout of the calculation below. (If you need more detail on how to use this table please reference the post on Federal Income Tax Withholding).

Total Federal Withholding is $6,080, but we can’t forget to compute social security and medicare tax as well, which if you remember are based upon gross income, not taxable income.

Now that taxes on the federal level have been computed we need to figure out state income tax withholding. Illinois has a flat state income tax rate of 5% so calculating withholding is pretty straight forward, taxable income x 5%.

Jackie has no post-tax deductions, so we are now ready to add all of the components above together and compute net income.

*Semi monthly values are simply the annual amount divided by 24.

There we have it! Jackie’s net income is roughly $49,000 per year. That is drastically different from her gross income of $65,000; $16,000 lower drastic! Granted she does keep the amount contributed to her 401(K)…but this large gap emphasizes the importance of knowing what happens to your money before it hits your pocket-book. Armed with this knowledge you can better pre-pare for taxes, retirement, health benefits, and monthly budgeting.

Here is a link to the tax calculator which will yield the same results as above using the sample data. Use it with your information as a double-check to your own calculations, or to take a quick look at your paycheck without having to perform all the calculations above. (Tip, “457 plan withholding” is where you input retirement plan withholding)

Hopefully you’ve enjoyed this mini series and you learned something new and informative.

What is – Taxable Income?

Taxable Income – The monetary base from which you are imposed a tax. Taxable income for the federal government is usually any income received over the course of the year (gross income) less deductions (such as a federal allowance or 401k contribution) and expenses as deemed allowable by the IRS. Taxable income at the state level is determined by the state’s taxing authority and can differ from the federal government and from state to state.

Simple example: John has a gross income of $50,000/year he contributes $5,000/year to his 401(k) retirement account and has claimed one federal allowance on his W4. In this case John’s taxable income would be $41,300.

Gross Income: $50,000

Less 401(k): $5,000

Less Allowance: $3,700

Taxable Income: $41,300 (this is the number you would use when referencing the IRS withholding tables to determine withholding)

Bottom line, taxable income is the number used to calculate the taxes you owe, whether it is to the federal, state, or local government.

Your Paycheck – Gross Income vs. Net Income

Why this topic should interest you?

Many people know what their gross income is, but that is rarely the amount of money they take home. Knowing your salary, take home pay, and the reasons why the two differ can prove helpful in successfully managing your personal finances.

Gross Income

This is the number you knew when you had your first part-time job at insert name of first job here making $5.50 an hour, and the number you will know when you land that big full-time job with a $45,000/year salary. In other words it is what you make before any deductions, like taxes and benefits.

Net Income

When you start a new job and get the first paycheck this is the number that usually makes you go WTF?! I thought I was making more than that! It is your gross income less any deductions, like taxes and benefits. It is the final number you see on your paycheck or the number that is directly deposited into your bank account, it can be referred to as your take home pay.

It is important to note that this number can differ significantly from person to person even if their gross income is the same; this is due to differences in deductions.


These are items like federal and state taxes and are subtracted from your gross income.


Below is an example of a monthly paycheck, as you can see gross income is $1,875.00 but take home pay is only $1,445.07, this is because of the deductions that occur before the check even reaches your bank account (+ denotes income, – denotes deduction)

+ Monthly Salary (Gross Income)           + 1,875.00

+ Flex Benefits Credits                 + 188.24

– Federal Taxes                             – 308.60

– State and Local Taxes                – 0.00

– Before Tax Deductions               – 309.57

– After Tax Deductions                  – 0.00

= Net Income (Take Home Pay)             = 1,445.07

Now that you are familiar with the difference between gross and net income my next few posts will dig into the different types of deductions above and explain what they are and how they affect your paycheck.