HR Support on Tax and Payroll Withholding Rules

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

Rena PirsosOverview: The most important payroll process for all employers is undoubtedly withholding for federal, state and local income and employment taxes and timely remitting the amounts collected to the appropriate government agencies. In turn, proper withholding leads to correct employee paychecks, and timely remitting of withheld taxes avoids serious employer penalties.

The income and employment tax withholding process requires an employer to understand: the importance of obtaining and correctly recording employee Social Security Numbers; how to determine the amount of federal income and Social Security and Medicare (FICA) tax to withhold; the various federal income tax withholding and payment methods; federal recordkeeping requirements; and the penalties that are imposed for noncompliance.

Trends: The following important information affects withholding in 2014!

Additional Medicare Tax Rate. An additional 0.9 percent Medicare tax (AMT) rate applies to single employees who earn more than $200,000 and to married couples who file joint tax returns and earn more than $250,000. For high earners, the total Medicare tax rate is 2.35 percent. For all other employees, the rate is 1.45 percent. The AMT took effect January 1, 2013 under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA).

Final IRS Regulations. The IRS issued final regulations, which apply starting January 1, 2014, governing the implementation of the AMT. The final regulations detail an employer's withholding obligation, and how it should treat repayment by an employee of wage payments received in a prior year for AMT purposes (e.g., sign-on bonuses paid to employees that are subject to repayment if certain conditions are not satisfied).

Author: Rena Pirsos, JD, Legal Editor

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