An income tax credit is a dollar-for-dollar reduction in your tax, based on money you spent or invested in an item the government has decided is a social good, and which therefore is to be encouraged by the credit. It is different than an income tax deduction, which is a dollar reduction in your taxable income, but only a partial dollar reduction in tax.
For example, let's say you spent $30,000 on solar panels for your home, for which your government will award a tax credit of 50% of the purchase price. In this case, your tax credit will amount to $15,000. If you owed $18,000 in tax in that tax period, $15,000 would be credited off, leaving you with only $3,000 in tax.
A tax deduction of 50% of the purchase price would likely result in you're having to pay much more tax, because the deduction
applies to your income, not directly to your tax. For example, suppose you made $100,000 in the year you bought the $30,000 in solar panels. The deduction would be $15,000, making your taxable income $85,000.
How much do you save with the deduction? It's the difference in tax owing against the $100,000 versus the tax owing against the $85,000.
If the marginal tax bracket is 30% starting at $50,000 income, you would pay 30% * ($100,000 - $50,000), or $15,000 in tax if you don't buy the solar panels. If you do buy the panels and take the deduction, your tax will be 30% * ($85,000-50,000), or $10,500 in tax. Thus your savings is $4,500.
So you see, in this case a tax credit of $15,000 is MUCH BETTER than a tax deduction of $15,000. The credit is worth $15,000, while the deduction is worth only $4,500!
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