Sales Tax

A tax on retail products, goods, and services. It is based on a certain percentage (generally set by the state) of the price.


Money awarded for educational purposes. Scholarship funds used to pay for qualified expenses such as tuition, required fees, books, and supplies are generally considered nontaxable income.

Self-Employment Tax

The tax paid by self-employed taxpayers to support Social Security and Medicare. The self-employment tax rate in 2010 is 15.3% of self-employment profit.

SEP (Simplified Employee Pension)

A retirement plan designed for self-employed taxpayers. Contributions are generally tax deductible.

Severance Pay

Also called Separation Pay. Money and/or benefits given to a laid-off or retiring employee upon termination of employment. Severance is generally considered taxable income.

Short Sale (Real Estate)

When a home is sold for an amount that falls short of the amount still owed on the home's mortgage.

Short Sale (Stocks)

When someone borrows shares of stock and sells them in the hopes that the stock's price will fall before the original loan must be repaid.

SIMPLE (Savings Incentive Match Plan for Employees)

An employer-sponsored retirement plan designed for employees of small businesses (but also available to self-employed taxpayers). Contributions are generally tax deductible and up to 3% of contribution amounts are generally matched by the employer.

"Sin Tax"

An excise tax attached to certain goods, collected at the point of sale, intended to discourage their use (such as cigarettes and alcohol).


A filing status claimed by those who are unmarried, divorced, or legally separated and who do not qualify for Head of Household status.

Standard Deduction

A specific amount that differs by filing status. You may deduct this amount from your taxable income if you do not itemize deductions.

Standard Mileage Rate

A specific amount per mile driven for business, charitable, or medical purposes, which may be deducted form your taxable income.