HR Support on Employment / Payroll Taxes

Editor's Note: Avoid penalties by properly calculating and withholding employment taxes.

Rena PirsosOverview: Employers are required to withhold employment/ payroll taxes from employees' pay and remit and report the amounts withheld to the federal government. Employment taxes include Social Security and Medicare (FICA) taxes and federal unemployment insurance (FUTA) taxes. Employers that fail to fulfill these requirements are liable for serious penalties. HR managers that oversee payroll departments are responsible for avoiding such penalties by ensuring that employment tax laws are being complied with.

Both employers and employees are required to pay FICA taxes to fund the Social Security and Medicare programs. Employers withhold the employee share of FICA taxes from employees' wages, make a matching contribution in the same amount, and then pay both shares to the federal government.

FUTA taxes fund unemployment insurance benefit payments to employees who have lost their jobs through no fault of their own. Only employers pay FUTA taxes; they are not withheld from employees' wages.

Trends:

FICA. The Social Security tax rate is 6.2 percent up to a taxable wage base of $117,000 for 2014, which is an increase from the 2013 wage base of $113,700. There is no limit on the amount of wages subject to Medicare tax withholding; the rate is currently 1.45 percent. However, single employees earning more than $200,000, and married couples who file joint tax returns and earn more than $250,000, pay an additional 0.9 percent Medicare tax. High earners, therefore, pay the 1.45 percent Medicare tax rate plus the additional 0.9 percent, for a total Medicare tax rate of 2.35 percent. Employers do not pay the additional 0.9 percent tax.

FUTA. The base FUTA tax rate is 6 percent up to a taxable wage base of $7,000. Employers may be able to reduce their overall FUTA liability by taking credits against state unemployment insurance contributions paid. Beware that these credits may be reduced if the state where the employer is located is a credit reduction state - a state that has borrowed money from the federal government to pay regular benefits but has failed to pay back the loans by certain dates. The US Department of Labor certifies by each November 10 which states have taken steps toward financial solvency.

Author: Rena Pirsos, JD, Legal Editor

Latest items in Employment Taxes

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    Type:
    How To

    An employee who receives sick pay - long-term or short-term disability pay - from an employer or a third party, such as an employer's agent or an insurance company, is required to pay Social Security and Medicare (FICA) taxes on the amounts received. Federal income tax withholding is mandatory or voluntary, depending on the payer. Although sick pay is taxable to the employee, and the employer must pay its matching share of FICA taxes, the employer and the third party may transfer liability between themselves for withholding, depositing and reporting the taxes attributable to the sick pay. Third-party sick pay is reported on Form 8922, Third-Party Sick Pay Recap, under certain circumstances. This How To explains to employers how reporting of third-party sick pay to the IRS is handled.

  • How to Withhold on Supplemental Wages Using the Aggregate Method

    Type:
    How To

    Employees often receive supplemental wages, which are taxable and subject to income tax withholding, FICA, and FUTA. For employees who receive up to $1 million a year in supplemental wages, employers have several different withholding methods from which to choose. This How To shows employers how to withhold on supplemental wages under the aggregate method.

  • IRS Proposes Guidance on Employee Consents to FICA Refund Claims, Requests Comments

    Date:
    19 February 2015
    Type:
    News

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  • Tax Treatment of Same-Sex Couple Benefits by State

    Type:
    Quick Reference

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    Date:
    11 February 2015
    Type:
    News

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    Type:
    Worked Examples

    This Worked Example illustrates how employers can make corrections when an employee is paid wages that they are not ultimately due.

  • Calculation of Gross-Up - Worked Example

    Type:
    Worked Examples

    This Worked Example illustrates how employers can establish a desired net pay amount by making a payment of wages where they "gross up" the amount so that the employee is paid enough wages to achieve the desired net.

  • Calculation of FICA Withholding - Worked Example

    Type:
    Worked Examples

    This Worked Example illustrates how employers should calculate an employee's total FICA withholding for each pay period.

  • New Mexico Changes Method of Calculating SUI Contribution Rates: Employment Law Manual Updated

    Date:
    10 February 2015
    Type:
    Editor's Choice

    New Mexico employers' SUI contribution rates are now calculated using the benefit ratio method.

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    Type:
    Quick Reference

    Most states require employers to file annual reconciliation returns after the end of each calendar year. This Quick Reference chart summarizes each state's filing requirements.

About this topic

HR guidance on compliance with Social Security and Medicare (FICA) taxes, payroll taxes and federal unemployment insurance (FUTA) taxes.