During tax season, trying to figure out how much you owe in taxes based on marginal tax brackets and marginal tax rates may seem a bit complicated. Luckily, you’ve come to the right place, as we’ve simplified the tax terminology for you. Here’s an easy lesson on what the marginal tax rate is, how it works, and how to calculate it.

(Oh, yeah—and how your average tax rate fits into the picture. Not that complicated, promise!)

Key Takeaways
  1. To figure out how much you’ll pay in taxes, you first need to calculate your marginal tax rate.
  2. There are two marginal tax rates in Canada: federal and provincial/territorial.
  3. Understanding your marginal tax rate can help you set aside the amount you may owe and prioritize your financial goals.

What is the marginal tax rate in Canada?

Your marginal tax rate is the amount of tax you will pay on the dollars earned in the highest range of income, or tax bracket, you reach. The progressive tax system is a tiered system that applies a higher tax rate on higher ranges of income. As you earn more, you pay more tax per dollar. 

Knowing what your marginal tax rate is can help you understand:

  • How much tax you may owe on additional income (so you can set the money aside in advance)
  • How much you would like to allocate toward your investments, such as the Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP)
  • Saving for other financial goals (e.g., down payment on a car or home)

How does the marginal tax rate work in Canada?

There are two tax bracket systems in Canada: federal and provincial/territorial. Each province and territory has its own tax brackets; so the total amount of taxes you’ll pay depends on how much income you earn, where you live, and the combined marginal tax rate.

Federal tax brackets

No matter if you live in a big city or small town in Canada, the 2023 federal tax rates and income thresholds will apply to everyone. Here are the rates for 2023:

2023 Federal Income Tax Rate

2023 Federal Income Tax Bracket


Up to $53,359, plus


Over $53,359 up to $106,717, plus


Over $106,717 up to $165,430, plus


Over $165,430 up to $235,675, plus


Over $235,675

Provincial and territorial tax brackets

The Canadian government collects these taxes and returns them to the provincial and territorial jurisdictions through different programs (with the exception of Quebec, which collects and manages its own income taxes).

To give you an idea of the tax brackets across the country, we’ve listed a few examples.

Here are the marginal tax rates in British Columbia:

2023 Tax Rates

2023 Taxable Income


Up to $45,654, plus


Over $45,654 up to $91,310, plus


Over $91,310 up to $104,835, plus


Over $104,835 up to $127,299, plus


Over $127,299 up to $172,602, plus


Over $172,602 up to $240,716, plus


Over $240,716

Here are the marginal tax rates in Ontario:

2023 Tax Rates

2023 Taxable Income


Up to $49,231, plus


Over $49,231 up to $98,463, plus


Over $98,463 up to $150,000, plus


Over $150,000 up to $220,000, plus


Over $220,000

Here are the marginal tax rates in Quebec:

2023 Tax Rates

2023 Taxable Income


Up to $49,275, plus


Over $49,275 up to $98,540, plus


Over $98,540 up to $119,910, plus


Over $119,910

For details on the tax brackets for other provinces and territories, visit the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) website.

How do you calculate the marginal tax rate?

To show how you can calculate your marginal tax rate, let’s meet our awesome friend Maja! Maja is a hard-working business analyst and lives in Ontario. She has contributed to her RRSP to reduce her taxable income (a smart strategy!). After factoring in tax deductions, she has a taxable income of $63,500.

Step 1: Calculate your federal income tax.

The initial $53,359 is taxed at 15%, which equals $8,003.85 ($53,359 x 0.15 = $8,003.85).

In Maja’s case, her balance of $10,141 ($63,500 – $53,359) will be taxed at the rate of 20.5% (the next income bracket), which comes to $2,078.90. Her total federal income tax owing is $8,003.85 + $2,078.90 = $10,082.75.

Step 2:  Calculate your provincial income tax.

For Maja, the initial $49,231 is taxed at 5.05% (since she lives in Ontario), which equals $2,486.16 ($49,231 x 0.0505 = $2,486.16).

She has a balance of $14,269 ($63,500 – $49,231) that will be taxed at the rate of 9.15% (the next income bracket), which comes to $1,305.61 ($14,269 x 0.0915 = $1,305.61). Her total provincial income tax owing is $2,486.16 + $1,305.61 = $3,791.77.

Step 3: Add up your federal and provincial taxes owing.

Lastly, all Maja has to do is to add up her federal and provincial taxes owing ($10,082.75 + $3,791.77) to get her total tax bill of $13,874.52. (Don’t worry if this figure seems a bit high. You can reduce the amount of taxes you owe by taking advantage of tax credits).

What is the difference between the average tax rate and the marginal tax rate?

The average tax rate is your overall taxes payable divided by your total income. It tells you your actual tax burden and can be calculated after you know what you fully owe in taxes.

Using the example above, Maja owes $13,874.52 based on her taxable income of $63,500. Therefore, her average tax rate is 22.0% ($13,874.52/$63,500).

Meanwhile, Maja’s federal marginal tax rate is 20.5% and her provincial marginal tax rate is 9.15%. This is because the last dollars she earned fall into the second tax bracket for both tax systems. 

Comparing your average tax rate versus your marginal tax rate is a quick and easy exercise to do. It will give you a full picture of how much you’re actually paying in taxes compared to your overall income and where you land in the marginal tax system.

Use tools to calculate your marginal tax rate

Hopefully, this guide has been helpful in providing you with the information necessary to calculate the taxes you’ll pay. If crunching the numbers isn’t your thing (it’s OK, we won’t tell!), you can use our handy Income Tax Calculator, which will do the math for you.

File with confidence

Get advice and answers as you go, with a final tax expert review before you file.