The Real Wage Calculator is designed to calculate the purchasing power of wages, after federal income tax, state income tax, and social security taxes are withheld. Your after-tax wages are then adjusted by a specific city/region’s cost of living to determine your purchasing power. The calculator allows you to compare job offers to see which job really pays the best.
Most all of us work out of necessity; so that we can live and buy things for our family. The true measure of how well you’re paid is not your gross pay; rather it is how much you can buy with your wages after the government takes its share.
The US Bureau of Economic Analysis produces comprehensive regional price parities (RPP) for every metropolitan statistical area (MSA) in the United States. The RPP is a cost of living index computed by comparing millions of price points on goods and services. Purchasing Power is computed by dividing after tax wages by the RPP for a city/region.
The Real Wage Calculator is the only calculator that takes taxes into account when trying to compare real wages in different cities/states. Taxes can range from 7.65% to over 40% of your paycheck. Using a wage calculator that does not consider taxes will drastically overstate your purchasing power.
Both Federal Income Tax and FICA (Social Security and Medicare taxes) are calculated using 2022 federal tax laws.
The Real Wage Calculator uses 2022 state income tax laws and rates.
Taxes are computed for a single filer, standard deduction, who claims no additional dependents. This is the most common filing method.
There are hundreds of filing permutations that are possible. By using the base assumptions, we calculate a given wage’s maximum purchasing power. Any credit or deduction (child care credit, itemized deductions, etc.) requires you to pay more out of pocket than the tax benefit you receive.
To get an even more accurate number you can reduce the gross annual wage you input into the calculator by the amount withheld for medical insurance (pretax), medical flex accounts, and child care flex accounts. The amount deducted from your paycheck for these reasons is not subject to income tax or social security.
All other taxes, except income and social security, are included in the regional price parities. Every state has an average regional price parity.
If you do not reside in or close to a listed MSA, then use the state average regional price parity.
We recommend using the MSA you work in. Even though you live outside the borders of the MSA it is likely that your cost of living is closer to the MSA you work in than the state average cost of living.
Yes, the difference is solely the result of state income taxes. If you want to determine how much state income tax you will owe, enter the same gross wage in South Dakota (we have no income tax) and then compare the after-tax wages with the state that has an income tax; the difference is the state income tax.
All tax calculations should be correct, for a single filer, standard deduction, and no additional dependents. Eide Bailly LLP, a public accounting firm, was hired to build the spreadsheet that makes the tax calculations. If you find a discrepancy please contact us.