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Do you have to pay the AMT? Find out

It's bad enough that you might get stuck paying the alternative minimum tax (AMT). That it takes a tedious calculation to know for sure is salt in the wound.

Indeed, IRS Form 6251, which is used to calculate taxable income under the AMT, requires 60 lines of mind-numbing computation using a different set of tax rates, income "addbacks" and rules. Ultimately, the parallel tax system, which was instituted to prevent the wealthy from sheltering too much of their income, eliminates many of the personal and standard deductions available under the ordinary tax system.

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Taxpayers who may be subject to the parallel tax must calculate their liability using both the standard method and the AMT and pay whichever is higher.

"It's very painful as far as filling out the form," said Melanie Lauridsen, a technical manager on the tax staff for the American Institute of CPAs. "The first time you fall into AMT is a little bit of a shock."

Generally speaking, taxpayers on either end of the income spectrum are immune from AMT, says Lauridsen.

High-income earners are already subject to the top 39.6 percent tax bracket and are ineligible for many deductions under the regular tax system. Thus, they pay more under their standard tax system than they would under the AMT.

"At the end of the day, the amount of money the super rich pay in taxes ends up higher under the ordinary tax system, so they're not generally subject to the AMT," says Lauridsen. "A lot of people think they're getting away with it because they're not paying the AMT, but that's not the case."

Lower-income taxpayers are also generally exempt.

(Read more: Are you a target for the alternative minimum tax?)

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