Stephen Wallick May 2, 2018 No Comments

What are “Payroll Taxes”?

Payroll taxes are taxes that an employer withholds and pays on behalf of his employees. They are based on the wage or salary of the employee. In most countries including the US, the federal authorities and many state governments collect some form of the payroll tax. The governments use revenues from the payroll taxes to fund the programs such as health care, social security, unemployment compensation and workers compensation.

Sometimes, the local governments will collect a small payroll tax to maintain and improve the local infrastructure and programs including:

  • Road maintenance
  • First reports
  • Parks and recreation.

What do the Payroll Taxes Include?

The US federal payroll taxes include the following:

Federal Income Tax Withholding

Taxes withheld from the employee pay for the federal income taxes (FIT) owed by the employees. The amount of FIT is determined by the information provided by the employees on Form W-4 at hire. This form can be changed by the employee at any time and as often as they wish.

Taxes Paid for Social Security and Medicare called FICA (Federal Insurance Contributions Act) Taxes

Employees and employers share these FICA taxes with the employer deducting the employee share which is one-half of the total due from the employee salaries/wages and the employer paying the other half. The payroll taxes also include the amounts payable by the businesses for FICA tax that are equal to the amounts paid by the employees.

The Payroll Tax Process

An employer calculates the gross pay for an employee and, based on the employee’s gross pay, will deduct a specific amount for:

  • Federal income tax based on the W-4 form the employee has completed most recently
  • FICA taxes

FICA Tax Withholding Rates

The employee tax rate for social security is 6.2%. Also, the employer tax rate for social security is 6.2%: 12.4% total. The social security share of the tax is covered each year at a maximum wage subject to social security. The employee tax rate for Medicare is 1.45% amount withheld while the employer tax rate for Medicare tax is also 1.45%: 2.9% total.

Starting from the 2013 tax year, an additional Medicare tax of 0.09% has been imposed on the higher-income individuals. This tax is applicable on income over $200,000 each year and is payable based on the individual’s income level and federal tax filing status. There is no wage limit for the Medicare tax and all covered salaries and wages are subject to the Medicare tax.

How do State Payroll Taxes Work?

The state payroll tax includes the state income tax withholding for those states which imposes the income taxes. Additionally, other state payroll taxes are:

  • State worker’s compensation funds
  • State disability funds (California is one of these states)
  • State unemployment tax funds

Depending on where your employees work the state payroll taxes apply to your business.

How do Employers Pay Payroll Taxes?

The payroll tax process includes several steps. After you have completed the calculation of the amounts for federal income tax withholding and FICA taxes and withheld these amounts from the employee paychecks:

  • After completion of the payroll process, you must calculate the amount you as a business must pay for FICA taxes and set aside those amounts
  • Finally, you must make payments to the IRS either monthly or semi-weekly depending on the size of your total employee payroll
  • You must report on payroll taxes quarterly using Form 941

Please note this information is only intended as the basics of payroll taxes, hence, it is not a tax or legal advice which you can rely upon for your business. Consult a tax or legal professional for proper guidance and specific advice related to your business.

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