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.

Employment Tax Rates:

FICA. The Social Security tax rate is 6.2% up to a taxable wage base of $118,500 for 2015, which is an increase from the 2014 wage base of $117,000. There is no limit on the amount of wages subject to Medicare tax withholding; the rate is currently 1.45%. 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% Medicare tax. High earners, therefore, pay the 1.45% Medicare tax rate plus the additional 0.9%, for a total Medicare tax rate of 2.35%. Employers do not pay the additional 0.9% tax.

FUTA. The base FUTA tax rate is 6% 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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    Date:
    27 August 2015
    Type:
    News

    The IRS has launched an Early Interaction Initiative, aimed at helping employers understand and meet their payroll tax responsibilities. The initiative may help reduce employment tax delinquencies, along with interest and penalties, which may accrue as a result of an employer missing required payments.

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    Type:
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    This section reviews tax deposit schedules, the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS) and other electronic filing requirements, potential penalties for noncompliance, and important tax forms (e.g., 941, W-2, W-3, 1099).

  • New IRS Rules Eliminate Automatic Form W-2 Filing Extension

    Date:
    19 August 2015
    Type:
    News

    The IRS has issued a set of final, temporary and proposed regulations that remove the automatic extension of time to file information returns on the W-2, Wage and Tax Statement, series of forms (except Form W-2G, Certain Gambling Winnings). The temporary regulations allow only a single 30-day nonautomatic extension of time to file Forms W-2. Comments are requested on the proposed rules.

  • IRS Issues Guidance on Tax Treatment of Identity Theft Protection Services

    Date:
    14 August 2015
    Type:
    News

    To help combat the growing problem of identity theft in the US, the IRS has issued guidance on the taxability of identity protection services provided by an employer at no cost to employees whose personal information may have been compromised in a data breach. The IRS is also requesting comments from employers on other related issues.

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    Type:
    Employment Law Manual

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  • Taxation of Employee Benefits: Hawaii

    Type:
    Employment Law Manual

    In-depth review of the spectrum of Hawaii employment law requirements HR must follow with respect to taxation of employee benefits.

  • IRS Proposed Rules Ease IRC § 83(b) Election Filing Procedure

    Date:
    04 August 2015
    Type:
    News

    The IRS has issued proposed regulations affecting employees (and other service providers) who wish to make an election under Internal Revenue Code (IRC) § 83(b) with respect to property that is transferred in connection with the performance of services (i.e., stock received from an employer as compensation). The proposed rules ease the current election filing procedure for electronic filers

  • IRS Revises Employee Plans Determination Letter Program

    Date:
    31 July 2015
    Type:
    News

    The IRS has announced important changes to its Employee Plans Determination Letter program for qualified retirement plans. The announcement also provides a transition rule with respect to the remedial amendment period for certain plans currently on the five-year cycle, and requests comments on specific issues relating to the implementation of the changes to the determination letter program.

  • Internal Revenue Code Conformity by State

    Type:
    Quick Reference

    Some states that require employers to withhold income taxes from employees' wages tie their definitions of "wages" to the federal Internal Revenue Code (IRC). However, many states update their IRC references to a specific date every year or so, while others roll their references into the current version of the IRC. Even with IRC conformity, some states have important exceptions. This Quick Reference chart summarizes each state's IRC conformity reference.

  • Date:
    13 July 2015
    Type:
    Legal Timetable