Overview: 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.
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
Despite the DOMA decision handed down by the Supreme Court in Windsor, state laws still vary greatly regarding both the recognition of same-sex marriage and the taxation of benefits provided to an employee's same-sex spouse by an employer. This Quick Reference Chart summarizes federal and state law regarding whether same-sex marriages, civil unions and/or domestic partnerships are recognized, and whether the value of benefits provided by an employer to an employee's same-sex spouse or civil union or domestic partner is taxable. This chart will be updated when any changes in these laws occur.
The General Services Administration has released its annually updated list of federal maximum per diem rates that employers may use to reimburse expenses incurred by employees who travel on business to locations within the Continental United States (CONUS). The rates are effective for travel undertaken on or after October 1, 2014.
The US Department of Transportation has released the aircraft terminal charge and standard industry fare level (SIFL) mileage rates for the second half of 2014. The rates are used by the Internal Revenue Service to determine the value of noncommercial flights on employer-provided aircraft under the aircraft valuation method for withholding tax purposes.
Effective January 1, 2015, combined filing of Maine Withholding Tax and Unemployment contributions will be eliminated. The electronic filing threshold will also decrease for certain employers.
In Information Letter 2014-0012, the Internal Revenue Service has outlined two procedures that a same-sex married employee may use to claim an income tax refund if an employer included the value of his or her spouse's health insurance on the 2013 Form W-2.
Maine Form 941/C1-ME, Combined Filing for Income Tax Withholding and Unemployment Contributions, will be divided into separate forms effective for tax years beginning after January 1, 2014.
Independent contractors may present Social Security cards to employers to avoid backup withholding under revised IRS procedures.
To prevent identity theft, the IRS has issued final regulations permitting the use of Truncated Taxpayer Identification Numbers (TTINs) on certain federal tax-related payee statements, but not on Form W-2.
HR guidance on compliance with Social Security and Medicare (FICA) taxes, payroll taxes and federal unemployment insurance (FUTA) taxes.