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
Employers will be required to file new Form 8922, Third-Party Sick Pay Recap, for sick pay paid to employees by a third-party agent or insurer in 2014 in order to reconcile Forms 941, Employer's Quarterly Federal Tax Return, and Forms W-2, Wage and Tax Statement. Previously, a third-party payer of sick pay filed recap Form W-2, and Form W-3, Transmittal of Wage and Tax Statements, with the Social Security Administration.
As provided by the Internal Revenue service, IRS Publication 15-A, Supplement to Circular E, Employer's Tax Guide, Publication 15, Employer's Supplemental Tax Guide is a tax information guide for every employer.
Final regulations adopt without changes proposed and temporary regulations issued in 2013 that allow the Internal Revenue Service to designate payments for which the payer and payee may agree will be subject to a voluntary income tax withholding agreement. The final regulations are applicable on or after September 16, 2014.
The IRS has issued Notice 2014-57 announcing the 2014-2015 list of "optional high-low" federal per diem rates that employers may choose to use instead of the standard federal rates issued by the General Services Administration to reimburse expenses incurred by employees who travel on business to locations within the Continental US. The IRS also has issued the special federal meals and incidental expenses per diem rates that apply to the transportation industry and the incidental-expenses-only rate.
At the end of each calendar year all employers are responsible for closing out the year's payroll in compliance with all federal, state and local income and employment tax laws and regulations. Using XpertHR's various tools and resources will help employers establish and follow good payroll practices and procedures all through the year to ensure a successful year-end that is free of noncompliance penalties and fines.
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.
HR guidance on compliance with Social Security and Medicare (FICA) taxes, payroll taxes and federal unemployment insurance (FUTA) taxes.